The New Jersey Devils sure scouted the 67’s this year as they picked up Nikita Okhutyuk and Graeme Clarke with their second and fourth-round picks respectively, and have picked up two high-potential players from a league-leading team in the OHL. These two players although may take a few years to develop, definitely have NHL potential and with them drowned by the depth of the Ottawa roster, could become steals from this year’s draft in years to come.
Ranked #56 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)
Potential: Low Top-4, Solid Top-6 D.
Drafted: #61, New Jersey Devils.
Pronunciation: ( Ne-kee-ta Aw-hot-yuk)
A genuine surprise to be picked in the second-round but due to a league-wide shortage in steady defenceman and Okhotyuk’s impressive defensive play, this pick makes a lot of sense for the New Jersey Devils. New Jersey fans should expect a solid defensive player and a heavy hitter who is anything but reluctant to throw the body down. What Okhotyuk lacks on offence, his active defensive play makes him the best OHL defensive d-man eligible in the 2019 draft.
Okhotyuk will benefit from at least one more season in the OHL, but with an increase in his offensive play, he could be in the pro’s come 2020. Okhotyuk needs to break out of his overly-defensive mould and develop offensively if he wants to become a feature at the NHL level.
Ranked #45 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)
Potential: Bottom-6 Offensive forward, Low Top-6.
Drafted: #80, New Jersey Devils.
— Hockey Posts™ (@HockeyPosts) March 9, 2019
The biggest mystery of the draft, Clarke was always at risk of falling in the draft-order due to his lack of ice-time, and the unknown of how he would play if he were given more special-teams minutes. What scouts do know about Clarke is that he is a smart and athletic forward capable of pulling out highlight-reel plays at any level. The Devils picked up a player with incredible upside and with the departure of many veteran players in Ottawa could become the steal of the draft from the late 4th round.
Many scouts noticed Clarke’s impressive combine, and his great vitals and physical capabilities bode well for an increased role with the 67’s in seasons to come. Clarke’s value could exponentially increase if he has a strong showing this year in an expanded role, and playing with stars like Marco Rossi is likely to do so.
Ranked #158 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)
Potential: AHL Top-4.
A true journeyman of the OHL and another victim of the 67’s elite depth, Rippon has yet to show his true potential in Junior Hockey. Like Okhotyuk, Merrick Rippon is strong defensively and has the potential to be a solid AHL defenceman. Rippon’s weaknesses were lack of offensive production and inconsistency through his time in the OHL. Although he was passed on in the 2019 draft, look for him to have a strong season going into the 2020 draft in Montreal.