02/23/2024

BUF:

2

CBJ:

1

Final

WPG:

3

CHI:

2

Final

MIN:

4

EDM:

2

Final

02/24/2024

STL:

1

DET:

6

Final

MTL:

3

NJD:

4

Final

TBL:

4

NYI:

2

Final

NYR:

2

PHI:

1

Final

WSH:

2

FLA:

3

Final

TOR:

4

COL:

3

Final

VGK:

3

OTT:

4

Final

BOS:

2

VAN:

3

Final

DAL:

2

CAR:

1

Final

CGY:

6

EDM:

3

Final

MIN:

5

SEA:

2

Final

NSH:

4

SJS:

2

Final

ANA:

2

LAK:

3

Final

02/25/2024

TBL:

4

NJD:

1

Final

PHI:

6

PIT:

7

Final

CAR:

2

BUF:

3

Final

NYR:

2

CBJ:

4

Final

DET:

3

CHI:

2

Final

ARI:

3

WPG:

4

Final

NSH:

4

ANA:

2

Final

02/26/2024

OTT:

3

WSH:

6

Final

NYI:

3

DAL:

2

Final

LAK:

2

EDM:

4

Final

BOS:

3

SEA:

4

Final

02/27/2024

WSH:

0

DET:

0

07:00 ET

BUF:

0

FLA:

0

07:00 ET

ARI:

0

MTL:

0

07:00 ET

TBL:

0

PHI:

0

07:00 ET

VGK:

0

TOR:

0

07:00 ET

CAR:

0

MIN:

0

08:00 ET

OTT:

0

NSH:

0

08:00 ET

STL:

0

WPG:

0

08:00 ET

LAK:

0

CGY:

0

09:00 ET

DAL:

0

COL:

0

09:30 ET

PIT:

0

VAN:

0

10:00 ET

NJD:

0

SJS:

0

10:30 ET

02/28/2024

CBJ:

0

NYR:

0

07:00 ET

STL:

0

EDM:

0

08:30 ET

02/29/2024

VGK:

0

BOS:

0

07:00 ET

CAR:

0

CBJ:

0

07:00 ET

NYI:

0

DET:

0

07:00 ET

MTL:

0

FLA:

0

07:00 ET

BUF:

0

TBL:

0

07:00 ET

ARI:

0

TOR:

0

07:00 ET

WPG:

0

DAL:

0

08:00 ET

MIN:

0

NSH:

0

08:00 ET

COL:

0

CHI:

0

09:00 ET

PIT:

0

SEA:

0

10:00 ET

LAK:

0

VAN:

0

10:00 ET

ANA:

0

SJS:

0

10:30 ET

Room on New Jerseys Roster Is Prime Real Estate, and the Battle for a Spot Is Fiery

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 04: Alexander Holtz #10 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Washington Capitals in a preseason game at the Prudential Center on October 04, 2021, in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

PAIR OF FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICKS SILENTLY BATTLE

By the time the NHL Entry Draft came along in 2020, the New Jersey Devils had three first-round picks. It looked like a pretty good draft in the first two rounds regarding potential. At seventh overall, the Devils chose Alexander Holtz. A pure sniper who is quick with his wrists. Secondly, at the 18th spot, the Devils chose Dawson Mercer. Hindsight being 20/20, other teams are kicking themselves for not grabbing Mercer in the first half of the round. Shakir Mukhamadullin, woken up from a deep sleep overseas in Russia, was surprised to be chosen in round one. He has since moved on to the San Jose Sharks organization. In case Devils fans weren’t aware, Mukhamadullin played 12 games with the San Jose Barracuda, where he scored 1 goal and had 9 assists. I guess that is why New Jersey grabbed him 2 spots after Dawson Mercer. Since he is gone, the battle of the first-rounders has been one-sided. It’s been all Dawson Mercer. Mercer, in his rookie campaign, scored 42 points with 17 goals, not that bad for the 2nd first-round pick out of the gate. This past season, Mercer scored 56 points; not going with the sophomore slump tradition, he added 10 more this time with 27 goals and 29 assists. Holtz, however, hasn’t had the same success. As some Devils die-hard fans say he should have been traded already, while others want Dawson Mercer to take a back seat to Holtz. That isn’t a very reasonable decision. Holtz is getting and has been given every chance in the world to make himself a staple on the Devils roster, but he just couldn’t keep up. If he suddenly keeps up now, does this mean he should just be awarded to play on the teams top line over a player who came in without hiccups and scored 27 goals last season? It shouldn’t even be a question. This preseason, Holtz has been paired with Timo Meier and Devils’ Captain Nico Hischier, which is Mercer’s position. Holtz has compiled six total NHL points, three goals, and three assists in 28 regular season games. Those games were not consecutive, so Holtz has been underwhelming, to say the least. The name of the game in the preseason for most players is battle. Battle for positioning, for the puck, and a spot on the coveted New Jersey Devils roster. When New Jersey was packing up for the season after their second-round exit, it became clear to the fans and the team that this Camp and Preseason was the last chance for former early first-round pick Alexander Holtz. The message was sent down from the top; everyone from the fans to the team knows what’s happening right now. As teams prepare for the season, there is a heated battle between Holtz and Mercer, who have been put on the same squad. Mercer and Holtz have both scored pretty goals from close. Mercer has already made a name for himself and passed Holtz in every opportunity given to both of them. It even goes as far for the Devils to allow Holtz to skate in Mercer’s position with Timo Meier and Captain Nico Hischier just to give him that last boost, and the hope is that he will finally connect with the NHL squad. We don’t want him to become another Ty Smith, who the Penguins put on waivers the other night. In a game against the Flyers, it went to Overtime, and Holtz had an open shot that he whiffed on. He skated off the ice to be replaced by none other than Dawson Mercer, who made the play to end the game, assisting on Haula’s beamer to the top shelf of the net.

YOUNG GUYS LOOKING FOR SPOTS

  • GRAEME CLARKE
  • NOLAN FOOTE
  • CAL FOOTE (D)
  • SIMON NEMEC (D)
  • ALEXANDER HOLTZ
  • TYCE THOMPSON
  • CHASE STILLMAN
  • SEAMUS CASEY (D)
  • TOPIAS VILEN
  • SANTERI HATAKKA

OTHER PLAYERS FIGHTING FOR SPOTS

  • CHRIS TIERNEY
  • CURTIS LAZAR
  • BRENDAN SMITH (D)
  • TOMAS NOSEK
  • COLIN MILLER (D)
  • JUSTIN DOWLING

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN?

To some New Jersey Devils fans, this is a touchy subject. It seems to many, and surely to Tom Fitzgerald, that the time has passed when Holtz could be used as a major piece in a trade. He has been dragged along too long now. Most teams are not going to give back much for a player who, yes he may light up the AHL but has yet to show any NHL growth. At the same time, Dawson Mercer has been a major part of the Devils sudden success. If what the Devils had in mind for Holtz came to fruition, they would not have had the need to sign either Timo Meier or Tyler Toffoli. The reason being that Holtz would be the guy in the top 6, and having Mercer would’ve just been icing on the cake. However, It didn’t work out the way they planned, and Mercer was the one who impressed, leaving Holtz to be put under pressure any time he gets added to the lineup. It is absolutely not the worst problem to have; having too much depth is never a bad thing. The thing is, like Yegor Sharangovich, sometimes there just isn’t enough room for an extremely talented player. Every team, every successful team at least, is a mix of speed, finesse, grit, and the ability to shut the game down when they have a lead. Having too many offensive forwards could come back to bite a team in the butt. You can look at examples of that when you see the Toronto Franchise, for instance. But enough about that mess; the Devils have a recent history with Lindy Ruff at the helm of playing seven defensemen and eleven forwards. With that kind of play and the need for two-way toughness, Holtz once again finds himself on the back burner to Toffoli and Meier.

FUTURE HOPES AND PAST INFLUENCE

Hope is a hard word to use in the situation of a player who had all of the hope in the world at one point. How would you feel if you were drafted first, but the guy that went after you has a spot on the number one line on the big club? All the while, you have great success in the AHL, but it just won’t translate when you get called up. Thinking from the perspective of a player, I would feel maybe another team would have a better opportunity for me. Long-time New Jersey Devils fans know what it was like for any upcoming goaltender in the Devils system when Martin Brodeur was the man in the net. It wasn’t even worth the time of a goaltender to try to break through to the NHL with New Jersey. This is why Brodeur was usually backed up by another veteran goaltender. John Vanbiesbrouk, Johan “Moose” Hedberg, and Kevin Weekes are a few examples of who was behind Brodeur in the past. The Devils had a great goalie in the system named Ari Ahonen, who ended up back overseas and never panning out with the NHL. It is said that it is partially because of the organization that drafted him that he never made it. Ahonen did have the talent, just never the opportunity. Opportunities are not just cases where a player gets a chance to make the big time, but they come up after and before that. Little things like what is going on with the organization at the time a player is drafted could severely limit or allow more opportunities. Check out @DevilsJointYT on X/Twitter or @TheDevilsJoint on YouTube for rare videos, clips, podcasts, and more. Don’t miss the numerous giveaways from the Devils Joint channels! Also join the Devils Joint X Community here: https://twitter.com/i/communities/1709389625351901208

Joseph Stassi

Joseph Stassi is a Writer/Musician from New York. He covers the New Jersey Devils on X @DevilsJointX and YouTube with the same handle.

9 thoughts on “Room on New Jerseys Roster Is Prime Real Estate, and the Battle for a Spot Is Fiery

  1. This is probably your most informative article. I truly enjoyed it. Everyone has been wondering if he will ever step forward. This article just answered everything we needed to know. Great Article. Looking forward to the next one.

  2. Reading different articles on itr and i gota say your artickle has much more depth then others and it seems you put alot of work or passion into this. i will find your youtube or twitter channel. Good job, how long have you been writing?

  3. nice lists, you didn’t put every. single. player. Only the ones who would have a shot. I noticed that. The devils depth is really one of the best depth groups i’ve seen in years and definitely one of the best in the league now if not THE best

  4. Reading these articles just gets me excited for the season. Another solid piece. We’ll see what happens with Holtzy

    1. Thanks Augie! I had a friend named Augie when I was young. I appreciate the “solid piece” sentiment!

  5. You can’t just take Mercer off his line, he earned that spot no matter what Holtz does in the preseason, let’s be real here. Mercer earned it, and if Holtz earned it too, Mercer earned it First. I don’t like all this anti-Mercer talk on Twitter man

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