New Jersey Devils Young Core
With the young core of the New Jersey Devils intact with Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Janne Kuokkanen, Yegor Sharangovich, Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha, and countless others there is a lot to be done with General Manager Tom Fitzgerald in his second season (minus his interim time) at the helm. The New Jersey Devils have a few very nice pieces down the center slots and a few notable scoring wingers on the team. Devils fans need to be patient when it comes to these pieces making it to the NHL.
Prospects in the Pipeline
Speaking of prospects on the wings there are a plethora of players like Marian Studenic who could push for a spot out of camp if not he’s less than a season away from cracking the lineup. 2020 1st round picks Dawson Mercer and Alexander Holtz are one to two seasons away and will likely get playing time in Utica this season (Binghamton Devils relocated to Utica). Dawson is the kind of forward who plays a Selke Trophy style of hockey is a great defensive forward that also translates into becoming an offensive threat also being a very dangerous shooter. Speaking of shooters, Devils fans should keep a close eye on Swedish right-winger Holtz.
Anytime the puck is on his stick he not only rips the puck very hard but it’s also shot with a lot of accuracy. It’s safe to say Nolan Foote will likely get a chance to get a full-time gig in New Jersey because assistant coach Mark Recchi seems to found another player he has tapped into that power forward and shooter in Foote while he was up in NJ for a little stint.
Tyce Thompson like Foote also got his feet wet at the NHL level where he has an idea how to score it’s a matter of harnessing the consistency at the big league level. He had a great career with the Providence Friars and playing with fellow prospect Patrick Moynihan who also can shoot and score. Don’t be surprised later in 2021-2022 Moynihan gets an Entry-Level Contract. While we are on the topic of shooters Devils prospect Graeme Clarke the brother of highly touted NHL draft prospect Brandt Clarke. One of the reviews from Hockeyprospect.com read “Graeme’s shot is his offensive weapon; he owns a lightning-quick release with great velocity and strong accuracy.” If Graeme can stay healthy while improving this offseason it won’t be long until he gets the call in New Jersey.
In the KHL the New Jersey Devils had fellow prospect Arseni Gritsyuk achieve the KHL’s highest level of success in winning the Gagarin Cup. He is a very young player that should be on the Devils’ entry-level contract radar where he will need to come over and join the organization with the skill and talent he has. Arseni had 4 points in 6 games in the U-20’s for the Russian national team getting 3 assists. In his World Junior Championships U-18 national team run, he had 5 points in 7 games with three goals. In 2018-2019 Arseni was a Bronze medalist in the Hlinka Memorial Cup, and a silver medalist in the U-18’s for Russia’s national team.
External Options on Offense
When it comes to external options I find it realistic with guys like Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, and Kevin LaBanc who are on a cap-strapped team like the San Jose Sharks don’t have a lot of cap space to work with. Tom Fitzgerald could easily start asking the asking prices on each of them. However, LaBanc has the most term but played his junior days in New Jersey for the Colonials and New Jersey Rockets. In a full season, LaBanc yields 56 points and in a 55 game season, he had 20 points. For an upcoming 82 game season Kevin LaBanc could yield 42 points so a 21 goal 21 assist average season is likely to occur.
Sam Reinhart is another player the Devils could aim for if they want to get him out of Buffalo. Reinhart tied his personal 25 goals from 2017-2018 that was in an 82 game season he played. This time Sam potted 40 points and 25 goals in 54 games so at an 82 game pace that is about 61 points. That pace would a 38 goal pace.
External Options on Defense
There are a few names to get into but a lot of them are based on their history of blocks and hits and the New Jersey Devils need to target very reliable stay-at-home defensemen that aren’t afraid to get into the shooting lanes. The other thing is Tom Fitzgerald needs to acquire a few pieces that will compliment the young defensive core. A few guys that come to mind are the local boy from Long Branch, New Jersey Connor Clifton. He’s not the kind of defenseman that lights the lamp but he does the opposite playing defense. Clifton is gritty, physical, and unselfish playing his position. His career isn’t highlighted by points but he gets the job done doing the dirty work to win games.
Another few players on the roster are Brayden McNabb, Zach Whitecloud, and Scott Mayfield. Those defensemen bring that lunch pale worker, heavy metal style of hockey separating the puck from the puck carrier. McNabb and Whitecloud have proven to be key cogs in the Vegas Golden Knights defense. As of now the Golden Knights and their GM Kelly McCrimmon need to get the team under the salary cap prior to the start of 2021-2022.
The next team the New Jersey Devils should try and pry a player from are the New York Islanders. One intriguing player under contract I find would be very ideal for a trade is Mayfield. He had 108 blocked shots and 76 hits in 56 games played. Depth wise the Devils aren’t ready to bring up Reilly Walsh an offensive defenseman so getting Mayfield could be an ideal target.
Defense in the Pipeline
The players that New Jersey Devils fans need to be patient for are Nikita Okhotyuk the young Anton Volchenkov type defenseman who has been learning to play the AHL game in the Devils system. His positioning will come and his physical play is there it’s just a matter of time when he puts it all together. the former Kitchener Ranger Michael Vukojevic has a lot longer to go like 2-4 seasons so there is no need to worry about him developing. Vukojevic is a physical, strong, sturdy defenseman that can keep opponents in check. Shakir Mukhamadullin is with Salavat Yulaev in the KHL currently and has a little while until he’s a free agent. Mukhamadullin has gained a lot of time and experience in the second hardest hockey league for a young man his age.
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