Heading into this year's NHL Draft, the New Jersey Devils are in desperate need of forward depth.
The NHL roster is loaded with talented skaters, and young players like Adam Henrique, Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby help build that strength. Past that, however, the Devils are dangerously thin.
The Albany Devils didn't see much production from their right wing this season. Joe Whitney, a 5'-6" forward, led the team with 44 points (15g, 29a) in 72 games played. After that, the decline was steep. Matt Anderson collected with 31 points (10g, 21a). Mike Sislo scored just nine goals, and finished with 27 points in 59 games. Nathan Perkovich, entering his fourth season, recorded just 19 points (10g, 9a) in 53 games.
Throughout the organization, there isn't much offense to be excited about. New Jersey re-invested in the blueline in recent drafts, and the bubble of prospects in the pipeline should eliminate the possibility of drafting a defenseman with the 29th overall pick. They also spent three picks on goalies, and signed Keith Kinkaid, improving a shallow goalie pool.
While the team lacks depth at center, the position is a strength at the NHL level. Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias provide quality scoring at left wing, and it's also a position the team can concentrate on later in the draft.
Right wing, however, continues to be an issue. The top line didn't have a true right win this past season, and only David Clarkson provided consistent scoring from the position. Players like Dainius Zubrus can bring the body, but have reached their ceiling in terms of scoring.
New Jersey won't have a chance at Neil Yakupov, the consensus top pick in the draft. Most experts are picking Swedish right wing Sebastian Collberg, the third-ranked European skater, to make his way off the board in the middle of the opening round.
The most likely choice for New Jersey, barring any trades, will be Tom Wilson, a right wing from Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League. A 6-foot-4, 203-pound right wing, Wilson is a physical player, earning the "Best Body Checker" award this season. He's not afraid of physical play, and will go to the front of the net. Some project him to become a second-line winger.
Wilson, though, comes with his fair share of negatives. The biggest may be his injury history. This season, he missed time with a sprained MCL and a broken knuckle, limiting him to just 49 games. Last season, he appeared in just 28 games after severing a tendon in his wrist.
New Jersey needs to start building depth in front, and Wilson may be the first piece in that process.