With a lot of new faces wearing the red and black this upcoming season, the Devils have a very good chance at making moves in the standings and hopefully playing in the postseason. Let’s take an in-depth look at what Lindy Ruff could be putting together for opening night at the Rock.
The emergence of forward Yegor Sharangovich was a bright spot in a season with a lot of dull moments for Devils fans last season. A player with a nasty wrist shot that can also kill penalties can be a true asset for New Jersey. Pair him with Jack Hughes who many project to have a massive year, and a top prospect in the Devils’ system, this line could add a ton of points this season. Hughes has been buzzing around the ice in scrimmages and preseason so far this season, and him doubling his points from last year is a real possibility.
Yegor Sharangovich – Jack Hughes – Alexander Holtz
Captain Nico Hischier had a rough inaugural season as the 12th captain in Devils history. Riddled by unfortunate injuries, Hischier looks to get back on track to his old self, playing a strong two-way game at each end of the ice. Alongside him will be shifty Swedish forward Jesper Bratt and newcomer Tomas Tatar, this line has the potential to be one of the team’s best. Tatar was brought in on a two-year deal in early August. After having a down year last year, Tatar looks to get back to his old self, a player the year before who had 61 points in 68 games. This line will offer a strong offensive attack with support on the backside.
Jesper Bratt – Nico Hischier – Tomas Tatar
Devils fans saw a surprising sign of hope in forward Pavel Zacha last season. The former #6 pick finally showed some promise, putting up a career-high 35 points in 50 games, while also playing valuable minutes on the PK and the PP. Janne Kuokannen had a strong start to his first season with the Devils, putting up 25 points in 50 games. He skated well on the first line, and hopefully, that progression continues. Former first-round pick, Dawson Mercer absolutely tore up the QMJHL and has shined so far in camp this year. A dark horse for the Calder, Mercer has unlimited offensive talent in every aspect.
Janne Kuokannen – Pavel Zacha – Dawson Mercer
The Devils fourth line was an exciting, physical line last year. The loss to Nathan Bastian to the expansion draft hurt after signing him to a two-year deal. Michael Mcleod became a very strong player, becoming a two-way player who shined offensively and defensively. Miles Wood became more comfortable at the left-wing position on that line, using his speed and size to his advantage much more often. A former 20 goal scorer, Andreas Johnsson’s season last year was nothing more than a disappointment. Johnsson looks to improve his game and prove last year was a fluke.
Miles Wood – Michael Mcleod – Andreas Johnsson
Defensive Pairing 1
The Devils’ offseason was headlined by signing superstar defenseman Dougie Hamilton to a 7 year, $63 million deal. A do it all big body defenseman, Hamilton will help in all aspects of the game. Pair him with young, offensively talented d-man Ty Smith, both of these defensemen thrive on defensive zone exits and offensive zone entries. From the start, Smith quarterbacked the first PP unit. These two will hopefully be the Devils top pairing for a long time.
Ty Smith – Dougie Hamilton
Defensive Pairing 2
Another big body defenseman the Devils brought in this offseason was former Colorado Avalanche D-man, Ryan Graves. A solid player should thrive in this mid-pairing playing a physical and two-way game. The Devils longest-tenured defenseman Damon Severson has had a lot of ups and downs in the Devils uniform. Severson is a solid player and putting better players around him should raise his playing ability. These two will offer a good defensive pairing with some offensive talent.
Ryan Graves – Damon Severson
Defensive Pairing 3
Jonas Siegenthaler was brought in last year via trade from the Capitals. While being a very strong defensive-minded player, his offensive side is very weak compared to others. Devils fans should see a lot of minutes on the PK, which is where he plays his best. A true bottom-pairing option, Siegenthaler knows his role and should play well in it. Since coming over from Nashville, P.K. Subban has not lived up to expectations. Subban has struggled defensively and his offensive numbers have not been impressive. In the last year of his contract, expect Subban to be gone at the deadline, and if not he will definitely be gone once free agency hits.
Jonas Siegenthaler – P.K. Subban
The Devils have their guy. Mackenzie Blackwood is a star in the making, having successful years with some of the league’s worst defenses in front of him. With an improved defensive core in front of him, hopefully, Blackwood’s numbers improve and he becomes a true #1. The Jonathan Bernier signing was a productive one from GM Tom Fitzgerald. Bernier will help in not only on-ice play but also by helping Blackwood on the mental side of the game. This tandem should help the Devils win games, as Bernier is a massive upgrade from Scott Wedgewood and Aaron Dell.
With this lineup being in place, the Devils are at an expected cap hit at $69.4 million, leaving just over $12 million in cap space. If the Devils can make a run, they have room to make a big move at the deadline to make their roster a lot better. Tom Fitzgerald has made very good moves so far, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that continues.