If you speak to the many New Jersey Devils fans, the one gripe they all have in common is the way the organization has handled their prospects. People see that it has been a long time since the homegrown legends of Scott Niedermayer and Ken Daneyko were bringing Stanley Cups to the Continental Airlines Arena parking lot. They also see that the drafts that brought the likes of Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias, who will most likely end up lifelong Devils, are from very long ago.
Fans see now that the past decade of drafts have not brought on those types of players. The current roster has five players that the Devils have drafted in the past ten years. Since 2000, their first-round picks are David Hale, Adrian Foster, Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Niclas Bergfors, Matt Corrente, Mattias Tedenby, Jacob Josefson, Adam Larsson and Stefan Matteau. The best by far of that entire bunch is currently playing for the Minnesota Wild.
The point here is that the Devils’ current status of drafts is not very good. That could all change with how well the defensemen crop they currently have work out. They have Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas on the roster right now. They have Alexander Urbom, Larsson, Seth Helgeson and Reece Scarlett who have a lot of hype on the Albany Devils. If they handle things correctly, they could have a great defensive core for the next decade.
That means they have to deal with these young guys correctly now. Merrill is not playing well on the NHL team. He is making rookie mistakes, which is expected, but it could end up hurting his confidence. He needs to be sent down to the minors to work on his craft and regain his confidence.
Beyond that, there is a rule that says if a player plays 15 of the 20 games prior to the Olympic break he cannot play in the minors during the break. Merrill is currently at 11 with eight games remaining. He was taken out of the lineup tonight against the St. Louis Blues to allow the return of Damien Brunner.
Merrill has all the potential to be a great offensive defenseman, and he could be a great Devil when it is all said and done. Hopefully Lou Lamiorello has learned from past mistakes. The way the Merrill saga plays out will tell us.
Nick Villano is the New Jersey Devils writer for Rant Sports. He also adds to their NFL, NBA and MLB content. You can follow him on Twitter here.