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New Jersey Devils Defense Primed for 2021

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The Addition of Ryan Graves

After the acquisition of Left-handed defender Ryan Graves, New Jersey Devils General Manager, Tom Fitzgerald added the 6’5” 220 pound Sasquatch of player. Fitzgerald himself got himself an extension. Yes, that’s right Sasquatch is the kind of name or even adjective that fits Graves perfectly. Due to his big build, very massive power, and strength he brings snarl and experience to New Jersey’s defense.

Graves is the kind of guy you also want on the power play, and even takes his chances on firing heavy slap shots on net for high danger scoring chances. The Devils would always pass the puck more than four times on a power play. This would prove ineffective. Now that Ryan Graves is likely anchoring the top first or second line on the left side the predictability factor on offense starts to erode away. Having a player in Dougie Hamilton anchoring the first line right flank adds more stability on New Jersey’s power play and even strength situations.

Hamilton on Broadstreet

With the recent acquisitions of Ryan Graves and the New Jersey Devils landing the big free agent in Dougie Hamilton. New Jersey’s power play under Mark Recchi just got far more improved. The Devils have a really phenomenal 1st line defenseman who can absolutely add bold flavors to this New Jersey goulash soup with a great beefy, paprika spice to this ever-improving team recipe for success.

Yes, the head chef being Fitzgerald in charge has his many staff members looking to improve how they assemble the roster day in and out. Hamilton will be able to provide offense and defense in New Jersey. Dougie’s here to provide leadership abilities, a big brother locker room presence on and off the ice. Guys like Damon Severson, Ty Smith, and Kevin Bahl will have a veteran in the locker room who will help groom these younger less experienced defenders how to play defense.

It’s not only the defensive aspect of the game that Hamilton is already gonna lead the charge, he‘s gonna help get these young gentlemen how to make stellar breakout passes to a Jesper Bratt, Jack Hughes, Yegor Sharangovich where the Devils could be down, tied, or ahead by a goal that makes them win the extra point or 2 in the standings.

Goaltending Performance Will Improve

Last season Mackenzie Blackwood was being thrown in day-in and day-out with less time off and getting a bit banged up. Part of that was due to Crawford’s retirement before the season even started. The Devils backups just weren’t able to be able to steal games as much as they wanted last season.

This season will be much more different because Tom Fitzgerald signed Jonathan Bernier to help split the workload. It appears that Jonathan Bernier will play 33 to 40% of the games, but don’t be surprised if he plays up to 45% of the games. With an 82 game season and a normal schedule on top of the ESPN, and Turner Sports deals it would be wise to see Lindy Ruff keep both of his goalies fresh.

With guys like Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier in net, they should feel cozier with the help and size due to the likes of Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Graves, Kevin Bahl in the lineup, and depth defenseman Christian Jaros adding the Sasquatch build to the Devils defense. Last season the Devils surrendered too many high danger goals around Blackwood and this season should be much different. The fact that Jonas Siegenthaler is also in the mix adds a stay-at-home defenseman at 6’3” 211 pounds where if Siegenthaler or Bahl needs a game off you have another big defender coming in fresh.

The Devils are trying to do their best to prevent guys like Blais, Reaves, and even Tom Wilson from running wild around the crease and trying to throw off the goalies game. Fitzgerald seems to have a blend of modern-day New Jersey Devils defensive strategy being incorporated with some of the old-school physical play of the glory years from the Devils blueprint.

This is the season it’s very likely to see the New Jersey Devils jump from cellar-dweller to a possible fringe wild card team. If Fitzgerald adds a very reliable top-six forward before the season this team is almost ready for a wild card spot and looking to become a playoff-caliber team going forward.

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Former writer for Pucks and Pitchforks and The Puck Authority. I cover New Jersey Devils hockey and NHL Draft prospects. I have a podcast called Heads Up Hockey on Anchor.fm