Hello ladies & gents, my name is Scott Fairchild and I will be providing hockey coverage for TXHT as I follow the New Jersey Devils this season! Last season I did game recaps for another favorite team of mine (Washington Capitals) & playoff coverage following the Colorado Avalanche. Here’s a little bit of background info on me. I am a native New Jerseyan (Butler) & grew up as a big Devils fan growing up in North Jersey. I have countless memories of the three Stanley Cup championships that were won (1995,2000, & 2003). I was fortunate getting to watch great players such as Marty Brodeur, Scott Niedermeyer, Patrik Elias, ,Ken Daneyko, & my all time favorite Devil Scott Stevens. Those Stanley Cups were a long time ago and it’s time to build another contender in the present. Anyway, I will be taking a look at the Devils as training camp has just begun. First, let’s take a look at what transpired during off-season
Well, to say the Devils had a good offseason would be a HUGE understatement. They had the BEST offseason out of any team in the National Hockey League in my opinion. The Devils really made big moves to help improve their team and putting them on a path to being Stanley Cup contenders.
Let’s start with the 2019 NHL Entry Draft:
First, they had the number one overall pick and selected arguably the best player in the draft in Jack Hughes. He has the potential to be an elite number one center that has the abilities to change the game both offensively and defensively. Hughes potentially could win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie as long as the coaching staff put him in a position to succeed & build chemistry with teammates. While Hughes is the headlining move at the draft, the Devils had 12 overall draft picks as they moved back in the draft order at times to gain more prospects. The Devils did a great job here in restocking their farm system.
After the draft, the New Jersey Devils did not stand pat and were highly aggressive in their pursuit to vastly improve the team. On day 2 of the NHL draft, the Devils traded prospects Steven Santini/Jeremy Davies & draft picks for former Norris Trophy winner & elite defenseman PK Subban. The Devils are hoping he shores up the defense and will help to improve the Devils offense, especially on the power play which struggled mightily. Also via trade, the Devils acquired a very intriguing Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights. Gusev is considered to be one of the best players who has not played in an NHL game yet. He was a big scoring star in the KHL and the Devils are hoping he can provide the same offensive flair he showed while playing over in Russia. The Devils also acquired forward John Hayden from the Chicago Blackhawks. They are hoping through more playing time he will capitalize on the potential they think he has and what the Hawks used to think he had.
In Free Agency, the Devils went out and acquired veteran winger Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds is being counted on to provide a veteran presence and a net front presence while providing a scoring touch for the Devils.
Training Camp Battles
As fun as it is talking about Jack Hughes, there are some other intriguing story lines in training Camp that are just as intriguing as he is. We all know Hughes is going to make it onto the roster but let’s take a look at some other potential training camp battles. Two Devils rookies have a big chance to make it this year and crack this years opening night roster. One of them being defenseman Ty Smith. Smith was the Devils 17th overall pick in the 2018 draft out of the Western Hockey League. He almost made the opening night roster last year before being returned back to the WHL for some more development. He is considered to be the best defensive prospect the Devils have had in a long time. He had 69 points in 57 games which definitely opens up your eyes to the potential this kid has as a two-way defenseman that can certainly provide offense. Another potential Scott Niedermeyer? Maybe, who knows? Smith went onto win CHL Defenseman of the Year award. It’ll be interesting to see if you can crack the lineup this year.
On the forward side, Devils 2017 2nd round pick from Sweden Jesper Boqvist has a great chance to nab a spot in training camp in the bottom six forward groups. Boqvist has shown while playing in Sweden why the scouts liked him as he played for Byrnas IF in the SHL. On tape, he shown that he has explosive offensive abilities and potentially can play anywhere in the lineup. His ability to crack the lineup is going to depend on where the Devils envision him and getting the best out of this young forward.
Another intriguing training camp highlight is going to be the return of superstar left winger Taylor Hall. Hall is coming off a left knee injury which kept him from playing the second half of last season as the Devils went downhill along with Taylor Hall (amongst other injuries). However, Hall is healthy and is hoping to return to his Hart Trophy form of two season ago when he produced 93 points which helped propelled the Devils into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Taylor Hall is a valuable asset to this team and they’re counting on him to produce offense which they were sorely lacking without him in the lineup towards the end of last year. However, Hall is entering the final year of his contract and the Devils are hopeful they will be able to convince him to stick around especially with the offseason moves they made to show him how serious they are about winning and taking the steps necessary to win a Stanley Cup.
Potential Opening Night Lineup:
LW- Taylor Hall C-Nico Hischier RW- Kyle Palmieri
LW- Nikita Gusev C- Jack Hughes RW- Jesper Bratt
LW- Blake Coleman. C- Travis Zajac. RW- Wayne Simmonds
LW- Miles Wood. C- Pavel Zacha. RW- Jesper Boqvist
Will Butcher- P.K. Subban
Andy Greene- Damon Severson
Ty Smith- Sami Vatanen/Connor Carrick
- All I know is this, the New Jersey Devils have a very bright future ahead of them as they brought in very good additions through trades/Free Agency and restocking their minor-league system through the draft. It also helps by having the number one overall draft pick and selecting a generational talent such as Jack Hughes as well! There’s a lot to be excited for being a fan of Jerseys team! It would not surprise me if the Devils qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs. However, they are not ready yet to win the Stanley Cup. Concerns such as goaltending & keeping players on the roster healthy are the only things that are holding this team back! With what has transpired this off-season certainly does give hope that the New Jersey Devils could win another cup in the very near future!