Vilardo: ASU Set for Breakthrough NHL Draft Picks

Posted on July 20, 2021

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

In just six seasons Arizona State has already made strides on the ice.

The breakthrough for the Sun Devils came in 2018-19, when they made their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament after just 23 total wins in their first three years in D1.

ASU was poised for a return trip to the tournament in 2020 only to see the season end prematurely.

The 2020-21 season saw Arizona State play Big Ten opponents only, with all of the games on road ice, posting a 7-16-3 mark on the season and some impressive wins.

(The Sun Devils should just join the Big Ten in ice hockey as the eighth member of the Conference—or just replace Notre Dame—but that is a topic for another column and another day).

Despite the recent success, the one thing still lacking is a player selected in the NHL Draft.  Now, the Devils have had drafted players on the roster, but have yet to see a player drafted straight from their ranks.

While that is not likely to change this Friday and Saturday, when the NHL holds their 59th entry draft, some incoming freshmen are certainly likely to hear their names called.


Among those incoming players likely to be selected are a duo with last names familiar to any NHL fan: Jackson Niedermayer, son of Hall of Famer Scott Niedermayer, and Josh Doan, son of former Coyote Shane Doan.

Joining those two front-liners is defensemen Ethan Szmagaj of Canton, Michigan, giving the Devils the potential of three incoming skaters hearing their names announced at the draft.

Those three would join a trio of future teammates whose rights are owned by NHL clubs after being drafted prior to setting foot on campus in: Demetrios Koumontzis (Calgary 2018), Ryan O’Reilly (Detroit, 2018), and Cole Brady (New Jersey, 2019).

While not drafted, the Sun Devils did see four former players sign professional contracts as free agents last summer, with Josh Maniscalco and Brinson Pasichnuk inking NHL deals—Maniscalco with Pittsburgh, and Pasichnuk with San Jose.

Joey Daccord has played the most games and collected the most wins between the pipes in ASU history, and is the first Devil alum to make an NHL roster.

Daccord got a one-game call-up for Ottawa in 2018, and appearing in eight games for the Sens this past season, while posting a 3.27 GAA, the third best of the five netminders the Senators sent out last season, and slightly better than the team’s average of 3.38


While those three are on their way to NHL futures, here is a bit more on the three that could begin that journey this weekend.

Josh Doan was a scoring machine for the Chicago Steel of the USHL this past season with 70 points in 53 skates for the Steel, racking up 31 goals to go with his 29 helpers.

He should hear his name called in the early to mid-Third Round, and then next week will head to USA Hockey’s 2021 World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan, an event designed to evaluate US players for the World Juniors Championships next winter in Alberta.

Jackson Niedermayer averaged .87 points per game in 2019-20 for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL prior to an injury that caused him to miss the entire 2020-21 season.  He logged 23 goals and 22 assists in 52 skates for the Vees two seasons ago.


Ethan Szmagaj, who could go on the second day of the draft, added some offense from the blue-line for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL in 2020-21. The Michigan native led Waterloo defensemen with 26 points (8 goals and 18 assists) in 45 games played.

The Devils will be represented in this draft even if it is not from a player on the current roster. The foundation has definitely been laid in Tempe, and the future of Arizona State hockey looks very bright.

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