2021 has been a challenging year for the Devils. It’s been a challenging year between injuries, several battles with COVID-19, and overall team struggles. Despite it being a pretty bad year, it did have some high points. So to say goodbye to 2021, we should remember the good that came this year for the Devils. Here are my top five Devils moments from 2021.
#5: Utica Has Best Start To Season In AHL History (Oct. 17 – Nov. 20)
The Utica Comets became the Devils AHL affiliate starting in the 2021-2022 season and quickly have shown that the Devils made the right choice. The Comets quickly got out to the best start in AHL history, winning 13 straight games, breaking the previous record that stood for 37 years. It’s a monumental accomplishment that shows how good the Devil’s prospect system is. Led by top defensive prospect Reilly Walsh, the Comets are the best team in the AHL through 21 games and look primed and ready to make a run for the Calder Cup throughout the rest of the season.
#4: Luke Hughes Drafted 4th Overall (July 23)
To kick off the fantastic 2021 summer that the Devils had, they were able to draft the third and youngest of the Hughes brothers, Luke Hughes. This was a no-brainer pick for the Devils, as they were able to unite Luke with his older brother Jack, who is already a star for the team. The Devils drafted Luke at fourth overall, and as soon as the selection was made, Jack jumped off the couch to hug his younger brother and was so happy that they would get a chance to play together. As for how good Luke could be, he is actually the biggest of the Hughes brothers at 6’2 and is an elite skater with great puck movement. Luke is currently playing at Michigan, but when he becomes a Devils, he will be a great addition to the Devils blue line for many years.
#3: The Emergence of Dawson Mercer
Dawson Mercer, the Devils 2020 18th overall pick, has been a shining bright spot on the team this season. The 20-year-old only has 31 games under his belt but plays like he has been playing in the NHL for years. With 16 points in 31 games, Mercer has inserted himself into the conversation for the Calder Trophy. His electric energy, speed, and fun style of play have been so much fun to watch this season, as well as his chemistry with Jesper Bratt and Andreas Johnsson. Mercer is just another great centerpiece that the Devils have for the future, and watching him emerge and flourish in his rookie season has been fantastic.
#2: Jack Hughes’s Glorious Goal (Oct. 15)
The first game of the 2021-2022 season was a wild one, to say the least. The Devils took on the Chicago Blackhawks, and it seemed like it would be a repeat of the season opener in 2019 when the Devils blew a 4-0 lead and lost in the shootout to the Winnipeg Jets. But this time was different, even though the Devils blew a lead once again, this time, they were able to win spectacularly on the back of Jack Hughes. Hughes took the puck himself and outwaited and deked around Chicago’s Kevin Lankinen for an amazing finish, then celebrated by tossing his stick into the crowd. It was a surreal moment for a fanbase that finally had hope again, and when they needed him most, Jack Hughes, like a bright shining star, came through and scored an amazing goal.
#1: Dougie Hamilton Becomes A Devil (July 28)
Adding to the Devils’ already fantastic summer, they spent money on good pieces in free agency and made intelligent trades. The prime example was the signing of top free agent Dougie Hamilton. The Devils were one of many teams vying for his services and finally sealed the deal on July 28, to the tune of $9 million per season for seven years. It was the first time, at least in my 21 years of life, that the Devils actually spent the big bucks to sign a free agent, as well as getting the best free agent on the market. It was a huge signing and has paid off tenfold, with Hamilton being more than advertised with 18 points in 28 games and being third on the team in points. His offensive prowess as a defenseman is something the Devils desperately needed, and the addition of Hamilton was definitely the best moment of the year.