Devils, NJ Devils

Devils desperately need to select Juraj Slafkovski with No. 2 overall pick

It's been a month and a half since the NHL Draft Lottery, where we saw the New Jersey Devils end up with the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft on July 7. The Devils were projected to end up with the 5th pick of the draft, but they jumped three spots over the Seattle Kraken, Arizona Coyotes, and the hated Philadelphia Flyers.

Due to this occurrence, the Devils have several things they could do with that pick on or before Thursday's draft night.

One of the recent suggestions that have been floated around hockey circles is that New Jersey should trade their top pick for an immediate impact player like Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, or Kevin Fiala.

Fiala is coming off a career year where it's the first time he played eighty-two games. As of this moment, the Los Angeles Kings traded for him, so the Devils dodged that bullet. Plus, Jesper Bratt is the same type of player, so they can just re-sign Bratt and call it a day there.

With Tkachuk and Gaudreau, however, those are more realistic options. Gaudreau has yet to re-sign with Calgary and is an unrestricted free agent; therefore, the Devils wouldn't need to acquire him via trade. They could just sign him with all the cap room they have. However, just stay away from that and SIGN JESPER BRATT. Now, in the case of Matthew Tkachuk, he's a restricted free agent, so any move would have to be along the lines of a sign and trade.

Tkachuk's contract becomes a huge question mark and gamble as rumor has it that the winger is looking for a deal in the ballpark of eight years and just over eleven million per year. Though there haven't been serious discussions yet, it's anticipated that he'll get the years he wants but will likely have to settle for somewhere between nine and ten million. If New Jersey was to trade for him, that's the type of contract you would have to be willing to pay him.

Once you go and make a deal for a guy like that, you're stuck with the player and that cap situation. What if it doesn't pan out? Devils fans remember how Ilya Kovalchuk was a big-time trade acquisition that paid off in the short term. Yet, they were so non-competitive when he upped and left for Russia until New Jersey eventually dealt him. Not to mention how former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall is in Boston after the Devils traded Adam Larsson to get him.

Why Devils Need To Select Slavkovski

Look, I'm just a Devils fan who has seen this bad movie play out one too many times over the last eight years, and I just don't want to see it play out like that again. That's why New Jersey needs to take Juraj Slavkovski with their top pick this year. Clearly, New Jersey has talent and depth at the center position, so they don't need Shane Wright (#1 projected pick) or Logan Cooley (#3 ranked prospect), but Slafkovski has drawn a lot recently of interest from teams.

In that case, New Jersey's hand might be forced there if they're backed into a corner and Montreal makes a shocking move. Yet if lady luck works in their favor, here's why they should take Juraj Slafkovski.

Juraj plays left wing, so that would immediately take care of a significant need for the Devils. He's 6'4" and 218 pounds, so naturally, he would give the Devils the size they need at the forward position, as they have guys like Jack Hughes, the smaller, faster player.

Another thing to remember about Slavkovski is how he carried his home country of Slovakia to its first Olympic hockey medal by beating Sweden 4-0 in the bronze-medal game. Slafkovski scored two goals in 17:17 of ice time in that game, proving just how important he was to his team's offense. While his season in Liiga (The Finnish Elite League) was less than stellar, his play during the entirety of the Olympics is more what he projects to be.

Whether or not the Devils have the opportunity is becoming the major question mark since every Devil's fan's worst nightmare in Bob McKenzie came out and named Juraj his number one prospect. The problem is that since 2008, every time McKenzie ranked someone to be picked number one, he's been right. Since I feel the Devils are closer to being competitive than people give them credit for, should they trade up?

I think New Jersey can get away with trading a future pick or two and swapping picks with Montreal. Now it would probably take at least two picks, maybe three, since Montreal needs help EVERYWHERE, so moving up is going to be highly unlikely. All the Devils fan base can hope for tomorrow night is that Montreal takes the Canadian-born Shane Wright, leaving Juraj Slafkovski as the perfect fit for New Jersey.

Slafkovski is arguably the most NHL-ready prospect in this year's draft, which is why he's jumping up the draft board. New Jersey has a ton of depth at the center position but is primarily undersized. Wouldn't this be perfect to match Slafkovksi's size, strength, and skill at wing with all the talent that the Devils have? As well as having three years of control on an entry-level contract while he's only eighteen seems like the perfect fit for a long time to come.