By Brian Monzo
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One of my favorite events of the year is the first round of the NHL draft.  To me, it is basically the beginning to the new season.  All the teams are improving, they’re getting ready to nab their next top players.

As for the locals, the Devils and Islanders both pick in the top five and the Rangers pick at No. 15.

One of the arguments in every draft is whether a team should take the best available player, or do they take someone to fill a need? Here’s what I think. In the NHL, unless you have a top three pick, you fill a need.  Each of the locals should be filling needs.

Let’s start with the Devils.  They’ll pick No. 4 overall after winning the draft lottery.  The Devils would love to grab defenseman Adam Larsson out of Sweden (as would every other team if they had the chance), but unfortunately I think he’ll go in the top three.  With the future of Zach Parise in limbo because of his contract, the Devils will look to go offense to help out Ilya Kovalchuk.

They’ll need to make a splash, because after they pick 4th, they don’t pick again until No. 75.  For that reason, I believe they will pick center Jonathan Huberdeau.  Huberdeau is a highly skilled offensive player out of the QMJHL, who scored 43 goals in 67 games last season.  He has been compared to Patrick Kane, and at 6’1 and only 168 pounds, will get bigger.  If unavailable at four, names like Sean Couturier, a center out of the AMJHL or Ryan Strome, another center out of the OHL would be solid options.  But Huberdeau fits the bill and a few years down the line could be scoring a lot of goals.

The Islanders pick fifth overall.  The Isles have had some great picks in recent years. Names like John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Josh Baily and Nino Niederreiter will be lighting the lamp on Long Island for quite some time.  The problem is, minus Calvin De Haan, who they drafted two years ago 12th overall, they have been a little light on the blueline.

Insert 6’4 Dougie Hamilton out of the OHL.  The big defenseman is rated 7th overall by the International Scouting Service and can do it on both ends of the ice.  Hamilton put up 58 points in 67 games with Niagra last season and has really earned a reputation as being a leader.  This pick makes too much sense to pass up.

Other players that could be available are Ryan Murphy from the Kitchener Rangers, who may have some more offensive ability but at 5’11 is a bit smaller than Hamilton.  Another name: Duncan Siemens, a playmaking defensemen from the WHL.  Hamilton would be a complimentary defenseman to what they have already and would be a perfect fit.

Finally, we look at the Rangers at No. 15.  The Rangers’ draft history is all over the place.  In1999 they traded up and drafted Pavel Brendl. Bust.  In 2003, they drafted Hugh Jessiman.  In what was rated as perhaps the best first round in NHL history, Jessiman was the only bust.  In 2005 they took Marc Staal, who is now ther best defenseman.  Two of the last three seasons they have drafted Michael Del Zotto and Dylan McIlrath, both defenseman.  Earlier this month, they acquired Tim Erixon from the Flames, a former 2009 first round pick defenseman.  When they traded Scott Gomez, they acquired Ryan McDonagh, a former first round pick defenseman.  Get the point?

They are loaded on front end defensemen.  This year they need to draft an impactful forward.  It’s no secret the Rangers have scoring issues.  They need to start addressing that, as well as size up front.  That is exactly why they need to draft the 6’2, 210 pound forward Tyler Biggs.  Born in Cincinnati, Biggs is a gritty, hard working (sound familiar?) player.  He scored 17 goals in 48 games on the U18 team, and isn’t afraid to drop the loves.  He is a perfect fit.  If he is gone, Mark McNeill would be a solid pick at 6’1, 204 pounds and putting up 81 points in 70 WHL games.  The one thing about the Rangers is that they normally know who they picking long before the draft starts.  Biggs fits the Rangers’ model.

There have been some mixed reviews about this draft class.  I’ve been told that in comparisons to the last few seasons, this is a weak draft.  I’ve also been told this crop could be compared to the 2003 first round.

Regardless, it’s a great night.

Follow me throughout the first round on Twitter: BMonzoNHL660

Is Monzo spot-on? Sound off in the comments below…

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