Before the season, in a new tradition, let’s analyze the New Jersey Devils’ offseason and evaluate the prospects.
Signed: g. Erik Kallgren (Toronto), g. Keith Kinkaid (Colorado), d. Colin Miller (Dallas), d. Cal Foote (Nashville), d. Daniel Misul (KHL, Lokomotiv), f. Tyler Toffoli (Calgary), f. Tomas Nosek (Boston), f. Chris Tierney (Montreal)
Left: g. Mackenzie Blackwood (San Jose), d Ryan Graves (Pittsburgh), d. Damon Syverson (Columbus), f. Tomas Tatar (Colorado), f. Miles Wood (Colorado), f. Egor Sharangovich (Calgary), f. Jesper Boqvist (Boston)
📌 Last season: Progress of the Year nomination, a strong regular season (2nd in division) and a decent return to the playoffs (2nd round)
📌 Changes over the summer: moderate – Timo Meyer’s big contract, Tyler Toffoli’s trade, and defense shuffles
With a quality performance in the previous season, New Jersey proved that they were able to perfectly complete the long rebuilding process. The roster assembled by general manager Tom Fitzgerald under the guidance of experienced coach Lindy Ruff has reached a new level. What remains to be done from here is for the young leaders of the team to progress and gain cup experience.
The biggest change over the summer was the Devils’ defensive line. Instead of Graves and Syverson, who left for bigger contracts, they got Colin Miller, a more experienced and inexpensive cup fighter.
Miller will certainly help on the third pairing and add needed depth, as will Cal Foote. But the team’s main hopes lie in the continued progression of the young top players and a complete generational change on defense!
Luke Hughes, a.k.a. the younger brother of center Jack Hughes, made his mark at the end of the season and even played in playoff games. Before the new season, the 20-year-old Hughes, selected No. 4 overall in the draft, is listed as a first- or second-round pick.
Next on the approach to the main team is gradually approaching Šimon Nemec. Selected a year ago as the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, the 19-year-old Slovakian is now a reserve at the farm club level and is just getting ready to make his NHL debut.
On offense, the unstable Egor Sharangovich was traded for the experienced Tyler Toffoli. It won’t change the overall offensive game, but the 31-year-old Toffoli will be highly motivated to have a strong contract year and looks like a more reliable option before the long season.
📌 The goal for the season: to gain a foothold at the top by raising the stakes
📌 Status in the league today: a new force in the league, the first top team of the next generation
📌 Prediction: qualify for the playoffs, able to pass 1-2 rounds
New York’s main rivals and neighbors have tested what it means to win in the playoffs. Now the Devils’ young leaders have a big task ahead of them. They need to repeat last year’s accomplishments, if possible confirming GM Fitzgerald’s loud words about the “championship window” that has opened.
It’s probably too early to count New Jersey among the top Cup contenders in the East for the upcoming season, but Lindy Ruff’s team is certainly capable of making noise in Cup games, as well as causing problems for the more experienced favorites (the Rangers are hungry for revenge).
📌 Bold prediction: reaching the East finals under fortunate circumstances
To get past Round 2, i.e. to beat the entire Metropolitan Division, where Carolina is – looks like an overly difficult task and an optimistic scenario. But is it possible to imagine such a thing, knowing perfectly well how many things can happen, knowing the usual unpredictability of the NHL playoffs? The answer is: why not.