The New Jersey Devils tied the 1999 Chicago Blackhawks for the biggest jump for draft position when Lou Lamoriello and Co. drew the golden ticket that moved them from eighth to fourth overall by winning the NHL's draft lottery Tuesday night.
You have to hand it to the Devils, who looked dead in the water in late December and cruising for the top overall pick, but then pulled a Lazarus act and made a serious run for the playoffs before running out of steam in late March/early April. Their fans were undoubtedly pleased that they made the valiant effort, but a little bummed that the top-three draft position turned into eight.
Well, the Devils pulled one out, making the 2.7 percent chance of winning play out in their favor and are now primed to come away with one heck of a nice player at fourth overall. Because of this draft's depth, you could make the case that by picking four spots higher, they still would have had a heck of a player, but David Conte can now work his magic and chances are, come away with a player Jersey seriously covets, as opposed to being in the position of hoping the guy they want falls to them.
That's the situation the Bruins will find themselves in unless they make a move up to ensure they get their target player.
The long and short of it for Boston is that their draft position is not affected. They still pick ninth, and perhaps the Devils moving into the top-four means that the B's might have a better shot at a player like Ryan Murphy who, given Jersey's back end offensive and puck-moving woes, might have been a guy Lamoriello and Conte plucked in front of the Bruins. This of course, assumes that Murphy is Boston's target at nine, but he does make sense for Boston in many ways, and it is entirely possible that by jumping up and potentially having a shot at Adam Larsson (not likely) or Dougie Hamilton, the Devils might go that route. If Murphy is Jersey's guy, however, they'll take him at four and not even blink an eye about it. Conte is infamous for taking players where he wants them and not worrying about value. That's worked for him and against him in the draft, but the point being- if the Devils really liked Murphy at eight, they'll take him at four if he's the one they feel is the best for their team.
All of this makes things extremely interesting as we get set for the final two months of playoffs and pre-draft drama.
Ladies and gentlemen- here is your official non-playoff draft order for 2011:
4- New Jersey
5- New York Islanders
9- Boston (from Toronto)
11- Colorado (from St. Louis)