New Jersey Devils Season Review

2018-19 record (31-41-10) 72pts

Season Recap

The New Jersey Devils were heading into the 2018-19 season with somewhat high expectations, considering the fact that they reached the playoffs the year prior. However, an injury to top player Taylor Hall plagued the Devils.

What the Devils needed to do was improve on the mental game. What do I mean by this? The New Jersey Devils could have done much better than they did. They may have been a wildcard if they really grinded it out. Improving on the mental game could mean replacing some players and it could mean using different coaching tactics. 

At one point, the Devils had the worst save percentage in the league. Corey Schneider, a former all-star, just couldn’t handle all the shots being fired his way. Defensively, the Devils were just hard to look at. Going forward with the addition of Wayne Simmonds, P.K. Subban, and Jack Hughes, the New Jersey Devils look to be one of the most promising teams coming out of the offseason.

Season MVP- Nico Hischier

Nico Hischier played in 69 games last season for the New Jersey Devils and wound up scoring the second most points on the team with 47, three points behind Kyle Palmieri, who had played five more games. 

Most Improved Player -Blake Coleman

Blake Coleman went from 13 goals and 12 assists in the 2017-18 season to 22 GOALS! and 14 assists in the 2018-19 season.

Disappointment – Taylor Hall

Taylor Hall, through no fault of his own, hurt the Devils. Hall is hands down their best player, and he missed a large chunk of the season, ultimately playing in just 33 games. Your best player can’t be the best player off the ice.

Highlight of the Year

Current Depth Chart

Top Three Prospects

Jack Hughes: Drafted first overall in the most recent draft, Hughes is the most anticipated player in New Jersey for next season. A lot of people may argue that he isn’t a prospect, as he is more than likely going to be in the NHL for next season, however, he has never played even a preseason game in the NHL, and therefore is technically a prospect. Easily the top guy in the Devils pipeline, Hughes has a plethora of talent. He is a ridiculously fast skater, with the ability to burn past defensemen wide and to the net. He has extremely high hockey IQ and can read the play faster than everyone else he played against in the US National Development Team Program. Outstanding vision and an accurate pass allow him to be a playmaker, but he also has a great shot. Having those two traits blend allows him to be a lethal offensive weapon. His transitional game is outstanding as well, and playing with PK Subban on the backend will make for a dynamic duo. 

Michael McLeod: Drafted 12th overall in the 2016 NHL entry draft, McLeod hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype he once carried. However, he slotted in for 21 NHL games last season, recording 3 assists, showing a bit of promise in that span. He also had a decent season in the American Hockey League, with the Devils affiliates, the Binghamton Devils. There, he scored 6 goals and 27 assists for 33 points in 55 games. He is only a few minor shakeups away from being a solid NHL talent, and it all resides on him not taking enough shots. He possesses a good shot and has the speed and stickhandling to create space to unleash that shot, but doesn’t take advantage enough. Once he is able to work on that aspect, as well as become a bit better in the defensive zone, he could very well live up to his top six potential. 

Michael Vukojevic: Drafted 82nd overall in the most recent draft,  Vukojevic was projected by some to go much earlier in the draft, more specifically in the second round (first 62 picks). However, he dropped right into the Devils laps, and they did not pass him up. He is a big presence on the backend, winning the physical battles. Whether it be clearing a screen in front of his own goalie, or battling for the puck in the corners and along the boards, Vukojevic wins those battles. He is strong on his skates, with solid foot speed, which opens up some of his potential in the offensive end. However, he is primarily a stay-at-home, shut-down defenseman, who plays a physical brand of hockey. He loves stepping up and laying on a big hit. However, his offensive game is extremely streaky and is definitely a project that needs some work to be done on. 

Players Primed For a Breakout

Pavel Zacha, if they hold onto him, is the best bet for a breakout. However, the Devils mainly have veterans who have already proven themselves or youngsters that have taken the reigns as top players. If Zacha does not get moved before the start of the year, he could be the only player due for a breakout. He is still just 22 years old (as of July 15th, 2019), and has time to grow into his potential that he once held after being drafted with the sixth pick in the 2015 NHL draft. However, he will likely be buried in the lineup behind newly acquired Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and Travis Zajac. He will have to impress a lot of the Devils coaching and management staff this off-season and this upcoming regular season, in order to earn the minutes required for him to truly breakout. 

Key Additions/Departures

Wayne Simmonds: 17 goals, 13 assists, 30 points in 79 games played last season. Played with the Philadelphia Flyers and Nashville Predators. 

P.K. Subban: 9 goals, 22 assists, 31 points in 63 games played last season. Played with the Nashville Predators. 

Jack Hughes: 34 goals, 78 assists, 112 points in 50 games played last season. Played with the US National Team Development Program. 

Free Agent Signings (as of July 15th, 2019)

Wayne Simmonds: One year deal worth $5M

Ben Street: One year deal worth $750k 

Matt Tennyson: Two-year deal worth $1.4M ($700k per season) 

Dakota Mermis: One year deal worth $700k 

Trade Bait

Pavel Zacha: Was a top 10 selection in 2015, yet hasn’t gotten over his growing pains. The Devils should move him before his value gets any lower. A change of scenery could go a long way for the 22-year-old center. 

Andy Greene: The Devils captain is now 36 years old (as of July 15th, 2019), and is in the final year of his $5M contract. However, he has proven over the last 3 seasons that he is not that good. However,  he has a full no-trade clause and must waive that in order to be traded, and there may not be a lot of teams looking for an aging, declining, veteran defenseman worth $5M.  

Offseason Needs

Goaltending is a major need for the Devils. Cory Schneider has been struggling over the last two years and has not looked like a starting caliber goalie. While MacKenzie Blackwood has been trending up, and Devils fans are optimistic about the young goalie, he too isn’t starting caliber. That being said, the Devils have two backup goalies, fighting for the starting position. I can tell you that teams who don’t have a starting goalie tend to not go very far in a season. 

Trending Up

Way up! With the addition of P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds and 1st round pick Jack Hughes, the Devils look to be a big playoff contender in the 2019-20 season. If Hall can stay healthy,  their depth scoring increases and if their goalies can put it together, the Devils have a contending roster. 

Stats

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All stats via hockey-reference and eliteprospects

All salary info via Capfriendly

All Images via Dinur Blum

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