There are a lot of expectations riding into the 2021-22 season for the Devils. Many new talents like Dougie Hamilton and maybe a few prospects the Devils are excited to use. Unfortunately, even with all the new players, the Devils aren’t exactly a team that most people would tune into on a massive network like NBC or ESPN. However, there are still must-watch games that will grab people’s attention. These five games have a different variety of reasons that people will be tuning into them.
October 15th vs. Chicago Blackhawks
In just one week from today, the Devils will be playing their first game of the year at home against the Chicago Blackhawks. It would be the first game in two years that the Devils had a home opener in an 82-game regular season. Hopefully, this home opener is better than the last Devils home opener with a packed crowd. The Devils and their fans will be paying attention to three players. Since becoming a Devil, Dougie Hamilton has had a lot of attention on him in the Devil’s media. Now that the season is about to get underway, it’s time to see why he is one of the underrated defensemen of the league. Fitzgerald went all out to get him, so the skill for Dougie must be up there by puck drop.
The two other players that Devils fans want to see on opening night are Dawson Mercer and Alexander Holtz. While the official opening night roster hasn’t gotten released yet, these two rookies are looking to make that list after some awe-inspiring preseason games. Both Mercer and Holtz in each match they played provided impressive skill as each got the point. Holtz had 4 points in 3 games, while Mercer had 3 points in 3 games. If both make the roster, it will give the Devils a lot of centers and right-wing skills. For the Blackhawks, the players to watch are Marc-Andre Fleury and Seth Jones. Jones just recently got a contract by the Blackhawks, which is an eight-year deal. It’s a hefty price, especially for Jones, so the Blackhawks are hoping he works out. For Fleury, he is looking to provide a goalie, which the Blackhawks needed. It will hopefully be an entertaining game for both sides for sure.
October 19th vs. Seattle Kraken
The 2021-22 season debuts a new NHL team in the Seattle Kraken. On the Kraken side, this game would be the last game for the Kraken on the road before heading home. Unlike Vegas, the Kraken doesn’t have any significant superstars on its roster. However, there still are names that can perform and help the Kraken get used to playing in the NHL. There are players like Jordan Eberle, Jaden Schwartz, Brandon Tanev, and Mark Giordano, who have all had excellent experiences in the league.
There are also some players on that roster who are former Devils. Three Devils players on that roster are looking to add some value to the Kraken. At the same time, the Devils have faced against Adam Larsson and Marcus Johansson in different uniforms before there is one player who will have a homecoming game. During the expansion draft, the Devils gave away Nathan Bastian to the Kraken. Now with the Kraken, Bastian hopes the Kraken can help progress him into a critical contributor to their franchise. If the Devils need a player to branch out in this game, that player must be Michael McLeod. With the right gamelan, Ruff may find a way to show that McLeod can succeed independently. If McLeod can do that, he could potentially become a big core player. This matchup will be intriguing enough to see who comes out in the first-ever matchup between the Kraken and the Devils.
November 5th at LA Kings
For these next three games, one common thing you will notice is that a player is returning to play against their former teams. For this matchup against the Kings, the player who is making his return is Jonathan Bernier. Bernier was once a Stanley Cup Champion for the Kings during the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals against the Devils. While he may not have played any of the games, he still raised the cup at the end of the day due to Jonathan Quick. Now with the Devils, he hopes he can help solve a goalie issue since Mackenzie Blackwood may have some problems returning into the league. Having Bernier start against the Kings against his former teammate would be a matchup that people would love to see.
For the Kings this year, they have improved a bit during free agency. They’ve selected defenseman Brandt Clarke in the 2021 NHL Draft, signed center Andreas Athanasiou, and signed a 6-year deal to center Phillip Danault. Meanwhile, your franchise veterans Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Dustin Brown are still putting up great numbers for their ages. Though they just recently lost Quinton Byfield to injury, they still have a ton of talent they can use. While the Kings may be the no.1 overall team in the Pacific Division, they can still put a challenge against opponents. You could expect a great game with this one.
December 18th at Red Wings
The next Devils player who is returning to his former hometown is Tomas Tatar. Tatar spent over seven years with the Red Wings from 2010-17. Tatar averaged more than 30 points in five of those seven years with the Wings during that time. While Tatar didn’t win any cups with Detroit, he still became one of the player’s fans loved while being there. Now playing with New Jersey, Tatar is becoming a great point producer in a top 6 line; if there is any game, Tatar needs to showcase this particular game.
The Red Wings only made one big move during the offseason. Looking for goalie help, they traded for Alex Nedeljkovic from Carolina. But there is one more significant part to this story which I will mention later. Detroit selected defenseman Simon Edvinsson from Sweden in the draft, who fills a hole with a defenseman, which Detroit lacks. As for their main roster, they are still very far away until they have a great team. The Wings only leading scorer had only 26 points last year. Understandably, they had a shortened season, but many other teams had a lot more points from their top scorers. While this game may not be a guaranteed victory for the Devils, this is the least hard of all the games mentioned here. With the type of fantastic talent they have, the Devils need to take advantage of it.
January 29th at Carolina Hurricanes
The last Devils player who is returning to beat his former team hopefully is Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton played with the Carolina Hurricanes for the past three seasons before signing in New Jersey. In Carolina, Dougie became the best defenseman of the Hurricanes throughout his time there. Hamilton averaged almost 40 points each season in Carolina. Last year, Dougie made the second team of the 2021 NHL All-Star Game. Since Dougie is one of the best defensemen on the market, Fitzgerald made sure he could sign him before anyone else did. Now returning to Carolina, he hopes to show Don Waddell how it was a mistake not extending him. But against the Hurricanes, it’s not going to be easy.
Including losing Dougie Hamilton, the Hurricanes offseason had some issues. I mentioned earlier how the Canes lost Alex Nedeljkovic to the Red Wings. Well, the goalie received back from that trade just so happened to be Jonathan Bernier. Because Bernier and the Hurricanes couldn’t agree on the correct contract numbers, he got let go to free agency. After that, Bernier signed with the Devils. But they still had their moment to shine in the offseason after shocking everyone by offer sheeting Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Despite all this, the Hurricanes are still one of the better teams in the Metropolitan. With the addition of Kotkaniemi, the Hurricanes have a bunch of offensive weapons they can use. Sebastian Aho, Vincent Trocheck, and Andrei Svechnikov are three examples of how good the Hurricanes are. If the Devils find a way to win, they could prove they can become a good team in the future.
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