The New Jersey Devils are stacked up front. Stacked is putting it lightly. The only player in their top six that didn’t score 30-plus goals last season is Dawson Mercer, with twenty-seven. So, with Mercer only three short of 30, it’s safe to say the Devil’s top six is powerful. Lindy Ruff must think he is dreaming with the deep options he has to work with. Tyce Thompson being put on waivers the morning after playing a good game shows how deep this team is. There just isn’t enough room for everyone. Those lucky enough to make the Devils roster have some work to do and maybe some expectations to live up to this season. The Devil’s Offense is their main weapon. The way that Lindy Ruff rolls out the top lines can frustrate opponents for multiple reasons. Captain Nico Hischier leads the top line with Timo Meier and Dawson Mercer on his side.
This is an extremely talented, high-scoring, two-way line. Ruff rolls out line two, led by Jack Hughes, with Jesper Bratt and Tyler Toffoli by his side. This line coming on after the high-paced play by line one puts less talented teams at an immediate disadvantage. The second line is speedy and accurate, not just with shooting but with passing. The shot of Tyler Toffoli is a rocket, and who better to get him the puck in the perfect spot but Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt? Toffoli walks onto a line with two of the best playmakers in the NHL today. Timo Meier, back on the top line, plays the same role Toffoli plays on his line, but with Nico Hischier and Dawson Mercer by his side making the plays, while Meier opens himself up to get the shot. The first line for New Jersey has more of a two-way look to it with Selke finalist Hischier and also Mercer, who, in the shadow of the Captain, can play his own two-way game. After dealing with the first line slowing down the play of the opponent, the second line comes out and just overwhelms whoever is unfortunately on the ice at the time.
Hughes and Bratt being the speedsters they are come out flying while the opposing team has to quickly decide who covers Jack and who covers Toffoli. Jesper Bratt plays low to the ice, making him quicker and harder to track. This Devil’s top six is one of the best, if not the best, top six in the NHL. When you look beyond these lines, you can quickly come to the conclusion that it doesn’t end at six, the Devils are deep.
BEYOND THE SIX, DEVILS DEPTH
While the New Jersey Devils bolster two of the most talented top lines in recent NHL history, it doesn’t end there. Tampa Bay Lightning fans frequently can be found on the Devils X account praising one of their favorite player, Ondrej Palat. Palat brings talent, experience, and leadership to a young team who are just on the cusp of being successful. What is really exciting about the Devils forward group altogether is that they have a mix of everything, and Palat isn’t the only second year Devil that brings the same experience and leadership. Before last year, Erik Haula was a traveling man. He had played on too many teams to count, many successful teams, though, which in turn brought him to the Stanley Cup Finals and other deep playoff runs. If the Devils needed something, it’s a player like Erik Haula. They had so many young guns, one of them being Pavel Zacha. Trading Zacha to Boston for Haula worked out well for both sides, but it could be said that the Devils got the better of the trade. That trade brought Haula into a team where he felt at home and, even more than that like he was needed. He wasn’t wrong; by the end of the season, he was a fan favorite, and he spoke directly to the media, saying he hopes the Devils sign him. He quite literally asked the Devils to keep him; they obliged.
Haula was given a 3-year contract, leaving him a Devil for four years and maybe more, depending on how it works out. It seems like home though, and he even has chemistry with Jack Hughes. Rounding up the third line to start the season, we will once again see the emergence of Alexander Holtz. If any player needs to play on a line with two big-time leaders like Palat and Haula, it is Holtz. They can only help keep him in the lineup. Knowing this is his last chance, we hope he breaks through and adds another 20 plus goals to this Devils high-scoring offense. When you are this deep into the forwards on an NHL team, you don’t usually expect to have optimism from the jump. The case with New Jersey is that Mike Mcleod centering the fourth line is an extremely important piece to this team and one of the top players in the NHL in faceoff win percentage. With longtime linemate Nathan Bastian and newly acquired Devil Curtis Lazar finishing the twelve forwards, there is reason to be excited about this team. Tomas Nosek is another option for this line, coming in from Boston over the summer. All the way down the line, the Devils have talent, experience, and leadership. This is a mix every team needs to push one step further. The Devils also have players like Chris Tierney, Nolan Foote, Chase Stillman, Max Willman, and others, all able to step in at any time. While the Devils offense is loaded with experience, that may not be the case for the Defense.
A NEW LOOK ON DEFENSE
Simon Nemec was expected to make the team as late as the roster announcement. He will be starting in Utica, but surely, we will see him play his first NHL game this season. The real hype this year beyond the obvious Dougie Hamilton and Jonas Siegenthaler pairing is the addition full-time of Luke Hughes. As of now, Luke has played two career regular season games. In his first game, he finished off with an assist. In his second game, the last game of the season, Luke skipped past a tired Alexander Ovechkin and scored the game-winning overtime goal on a beautiful wraparound after initially missing his shot. So far, he’s a point-per-game player, you could say. But in all seriousness, Luke looked amazing and even more slick than last year during this preseason. He is sure to be the talk of the town at the beginning of this year’s Devils season. Colin Miller is another new Defenseman who is joining the roster. It looks like Brendan Smith will be the seventh man.
Although Smith is a very reliable stay-at-home defenseman, some fans think he deserves less time, while others see a lot more in him. John Marino and big Kevin Bahl wrap up the Devils defensive group. Kevin Bahl has been seen as getting much faster over the summer. That is not great news for his opponents. Bahl showed us his skill and his hitting this preseason as well. The Devils preseason was a perfect one, with no losses between the split squads. We can only hope that the Devils extend their success from last season, but that remains to be seen. The New Jersey Devils are one of the top teams in the NHL; no one can doubt that. The question is, can they be even better than they were last season? With other Metropolitan Division teams stacking up, it might be a hard-fought battle, but it is more than possible. For more New Jersey Devils coverage, follow @DevilsJointYT and @TheDevilsJoint on YouTube. A new show on the Devils Joint channel called “The Devils Red Room” is starting next weekend. Be there for memorabilia giveaways, unique segments, and more.