Hockey’s future ranks the New Jersey Devils as having the 29th best prospect pool. That’s even lower than the Wild who love to trade prospects and picks for small and temporary gains. Worse than that for fans of the Devils, New Jersey only scored 184 goals last year. That’s absolute bottom of the NHL. So the Devils should probably draft more than a few forwards when it’s their turn at the draft podium this summer.
The Devils prospect pool is pretty decently stocked at the center position. They picked John Quenneville (2014) and Pavel Zacha (2015) with their first round picks in consecutive years. But on the wing, particularly right wing, they need to make some picks this summer. In their prospect system, the Devils only have one right wing worth mentioning, Connor Chatham, who was a third round pick for them in 2014. They would be well served by drafting a right wing with elite offensive skills, which is one reason they could draft phenomenal point producer, Alex Debrincat.
What are scouts saying about Alex DeBrincat?
The main criticism of DeBrincat is that while he has scored a lot of goals in his junior career, he has played with some pretty fabulous players. During the 2014-15 season, he played on a line with Connor McDavid. Of course, he was going to score some goals! But last season, without McDavid to feed him pucks, he still notched 51 goals and 50 assists. To be fair, he’s still playing with Dylan Strome, who isn’t Connor McDavid, but he’s still more than an okay hockey player. The main argument to counter this point is that DeBrincat is clearly doing something to continue to be placed on the same lines as other really talented players.
Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News cites the reason he feels DeBrincat plays well with other elite players:
"At some point, you have to stop believing that DeBrincat has "lucked out" with his linemates and accept that there’s a reason coaches always stick him with top guys. The 5-foot-7 sniper has played with Connor McDavid, Dylan Strome and Auston Matthews and it’s because he can find space, wire the puck and thrive with elite players – not everyone can. "
The other main criticism of DeBrincat is that he’s too small. At 5’7" and 160 lbs., many teams could pass up this incredibly skilled player, one who scored the seventh most goals of any player in the OHL last season.
Tyler Parchem on Elite Prospects highlights his offensive skills in spite of his size:
"DeBrincat is a small player with a dynamic skill set. He is a pure sniper, scoring over 50 goals in two straight years in the OHL. He is very undersized, but can be very nasty to play against and shies away from no one. [...] He skates well and is very effective around the net. He is hard to contain for such a small player, and has great chemistry with anyone he plays with."
His tenacity not only makes him effective, it makes him fun to watch.
ESPN’s Corey Pronman also values DeBrincat’s offensive abilities in spite of his small stature:
"He's a highly-skilled winger who shows above average to high-end speed, puck skills, vision and finishing skill. [...]His elite hockey sense allows him to be in the right place and control the puck with confidence."
DeBrincat is also an incredibly consistent scorer. Last year, in the regular season, he didn’t have more than two games in a row where he was held goalless.
Should the Wild Draft Him?
It was perhaps a reach to take the skilled but tiny DeBrincat this early in the Hockey Wilderness Mock Draft, so it’s more than possible that he would still be available when the Wild pick. However, I doubt they would pick him, even if he is still available. In past years, they’ve left explosive and highly skilled (but small) players on the draft board when it was their turn to pick, in favor of big and dependable players who show flashes of offensive talents. I don’t see them changing that draft strategy now even for the phenomenal Alex DeBrincat.