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Devils 'win' NHL draft lotto, Isles pick fifth

4/12/2011

Well, it turns out the Devils’ late-season tear up the standings didn’t hurt their draft position much at all. New Jersey “won” the NHL’s draft lottery Tuesday night, moving up from the No. 8 pick to the No. 4 pick, leapfrogging the New York Islanders in the process.

Under the league’s rules teams can only move up a maximum up five draft spots and fall just one slot. Thus, the Islanders, the odds-on favorite to pick fourth, will fall back to the No. 5 spot. And, depending on who you ask, that could end up being a very big difference.

To this point in the talent evaluation process, NHL scouts have consistently ear marked four prospects as the cream of the crop: C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, LW Gabriel Landeskog, D Adam Larsson and C Sean Couturier. Those four have been thought of very highly and often fall into the can’t-miss category with few-to-no questions about their future development. After those four, there are still a number of highly talented players, but also a number of question marks.

For example, Saint John C Jonathan Huberdeau has been gaining momentum throughout the season and in fact blew past Sean Couturier and up to No. 3 in the most recent prospect rankings of North American skaters issued by the NHL Central Scouting Service. However, Huberdeau’s team is utterly and completely stacked with talent while Couturier’s squad is far from flush. So is Huberdeau a standalone talent or a product of the players around him?

While Huberdeau could certainly be the real deal, some scouts aren’t buying the Couturier falloff, so if he were to fall to No. 4 or 5, the Devils or Islanders could have a very nice steal.

Here's another positive for both clubs. Both the Devils and the Islanders could use a boost to their blueline. And there should be a number of top D prospects available by the time both teams pick. Ds Dougie Hamilton and Nathan Beaulieu rank No. 4 and 5 in the CSS North American rankings, though some scouts polled by the NHL Draft Blog have some reservations (Insider) and earlier this season Draft Blog writer Alvin Chang questioned the wisdom (Insider) of taking a top defenseman high in the draft.

Just some food for thought before the June 24 draft date in St. Paul, Minnesota.