Pre Draft look at Atlanta Devils
- By Ed Latham, Day 1, 2025
It is a busy time of the offseason and the draft is looming so we tried to check in with the Atlanta management to see how things are going.
Even though the draft is only a few days away, the staff at Atlanta really seemed laid back and almost expressed a disinterest. GM Ed Latham offered, "Look, we have been scouting these kids from all over for how many months now? We have done the whole listening to other teams' offers for our position, we have sniffed at the carrots offered to move up, we have explored options to move down...in fact I can't think of any stone we have not turned over preparing for this thing. There is nothing to do right now but wait until Saturday when we will review our notes and make sure all the staff is on the same page."
When asked what their draft focus maybe, Latham was fairly blunt. "We have been drafting some talented kids, but the fact is that they are all still really young and early in their career. We have traded in these last couple of years for more kids that look to be special players in the next five or so years." He gives a little laugh as he stretches back with his hands over his head, "Heck if we could just draft some way to move forward in time a couple of years I think we already have a great team here when they are cooked. Right now we are pretty raw in some areas. As for our focus? We have a middle of the round pick, as we seem to be destined to have all the time. We have people at every position on our team that we like and we even have some surplus in some positions. We will likely have kids from every position on our board and when you are in the middle of the round you really have to have a strategy that is flexible. We want to be prepared to use our three picks (Numbers 12, 41, 55) in any way we need to to add more to our team. What we add may not be a day one contributor. It seems only 3 to 4 kids a year really come into this league ready to light things up from the preseason and getting one of those kids would take mortgaging our future or an incredible amount of luck. So we are playing the long ball here and continuing to build our team as a something that develops from within."
This brought us quickly to free agency and some rumors that Atlanta has had some teams calling asking about trades and interest in sign and trade possibilities during free agency. "Yea we get calls almost all season. The thing about trading is that both sides have to feel they are getting something from any trade proposal. We have been getting some offers that really seem to make sense for the other team but our view of what we would get does not excite us in any way so far. When I look over the our free agent list and review my notes from talking to their agents, it is abundantly clear that many of the high profile guys out there have little interest in joining our team. There are some guys out there with interest to come over here and it is refreshing to see a large number of our own free agents want to come back to join us in this party we got starting up. We have money to spend. We have young talent that wants to be with us, we have the safety net of a good number of our own free agents with restricted status and with all of that in mind, we feel that all those 'What if...?' flights of fancy we hear from other teams or from the press is all hogwash or a waste of money or time. We have a plan here and it seems that even if things don't all go as planned in the draft or in free agency, we feel our plan will continue to build our team into the long term powerhouse we want."
Latham sure seemed relaxed and confident with the draft and free agent strategy he and his team have developed but we still have many questions about what this team is doing. Outside two players that were brought in last year for what appeared to be rotational roles, the team is one of the youngest in the league and has many lineups that are the youngest combinations in the league. The team also has over half of it's players in that 3-5 years of experience in which the term "break out or bust" becomes commonly used. Of course that means that many contracts for these kids can vary a good deal based on how the kid feels and how teams perceive their chance to break out. One reporter I talked to two days ago shared an interesting perspective. If you look at all the young talent the Devils have brought in, used for a year or two and then let go only to see those let go find solid roles on other teams, one gets the idea that the Devils could be looked at as a sort of Farm Team for the league. His exact quote was, "Yea, let Atlanta draft all the development players, put those kids through a few seasons to get them warmed up for the real league play, then watch the team trade those kids away for what? That's right, more picks to get more young talent for other teams! The JBL Farm Team is what I'm calling them and with rumors of an official junior league coming in soon, I would not be surprised to see fans joking around that Atlanta is guaranteed to win the junior league with their starting JBL rotation every year!" Of course this guy was speaking very tongue and cheek but there has been some organizational habits we have seen in Atlanta that gets us all questioning if they really wish to develop talent to keep long term on their team or are they, in effect, destined to be a sort of youth development team for others to leech off of?