The New Jersey Devils have a few issues that need to be addressed before the start of the 2011-12 season and the biggest one may be the need for a puck-moving defenseman.
The Devils’ roller-coaster season, which saw them get off to one of the worst starts in franchise history, then go on a winning streak that put them back into playoff contention before finally falling short of the playoffs, took another turn upwards when they beat the odds and won the 2011 NHL Draft lottery and were awarded the fourth overall pick.
Many experts are predicting that, if he’s there at number four, Adam Larsson, the 6’3″, 200 lb. defenseman from Sweden will likely be the Devils’ choice.
There are others that are suggesting the Devils will address another need and draft a center, perhaps a player like Jonathan Huberdeau.
I’ve been watching the Devils, and their drafts, for many years now. The team loves to make trades, move up to get a guy they want, or move down when they think they can grab a guy later on. ..and that is the feeling I get once again this year.
There is one player that I feel would fit in perfectly with the Devils and he would certainly be available at number four. I haven’t seen many mock drafts that have suggested the Devils would select him. Most have him going in the 9-12 range. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team traded down a few spots and grabbed him a bit later.
The player I am talking about is the ninth ranked skater in North America. He’s a 5’10″, 166 lb. defenseman from Kitchner of the OHL. His name is Ryan Murphy.
Murphy has been describes as possibly having “the most pure skill in the draft after projected top pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.” That’s quite a compliment, especially for a defenseman.
His scouting reports, from NHL.com, speak just as highly about him:
NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards
“Ryan’s work on the power play is outstanding, He sees the ice very well and is creative, [has] excellent passing ability and a great shot that he gets through to the net. (He’s) also an excellent all-round skater. He’s got real good mobility. He’s a bit of a gambler. He does move the puck well, but he’s going to have to concentrate on making good plays.”
Kitchener Rangers head coach Steve Spott
“He’s like no one else in this league. You can’t get to him, you can’t hit him. He’s a kid that’s slippery, his vision is second to none, his hockey sense is second to none. He can skate and he’s got a rocket. He’s got all the intangibles to be an all-star not only in this league, but the National Hockey League.”
A few things stand out there. First, his ability on the power play, something the Devils desperately need. Secondly, he’s a scoring threat from the blue line, another skill the team is in need of.
Murphy’s numbers last season with the Kitchner Rangers were impressive: 63 GP – 26g – 53a – 79pts 36PIM
Here is his NHLN Online video profile:
Will Murphy turn out to be a better player than Larsson? Probably not. But the Devils need players and/or picks. Moving down a few spots to grab either of those, plus get a player of Murphy’s ability, is something the Devils would certainly be willing to do.
While I, like most others, would like to see Larsson pulling the red and black over his head tomorrow night, I might enjoy seeing Murphy do it just a little bit more.