Nico Hischier (C)
2017 First overall pick Nico Hischier immediately adds goal scoring ability, and top-six scoring ability at that. Hischier had a strong season in Halifax with the Mooseheads, scoring 86 points (38 G 48 A) to supplant Nolan Patrick as the first overall pick. He has the ability to come into the NHL and contribute right away. The Devils got a great stroke of luck in winning the draft lottery and now it finally gives them a number one centerpiece to build around.
Marcus Johansson (LW)
Marcus Johansson is an excellent skater with offensive instincts to match that. The 26-year-old also boasts great hands in tight spaces and has shown the ability to score big goals in the playoffs like the series winner against the Maple Leafs this summer. He will provide an instant upgrade to their overall offensive game and was a great pickup by GM Ray Shero.
Will Butcher (D)
Many NHL teams were in a bidding war over coveted Hobey Baker Award winning Will Butcher. The young defenseman had a very productive season at the University of Denver with 37 points in 43 games. He is a great offensive defenseman prospect who will distribute the puck and could make the team as early as this season.
Brian Boyle (C)
Can be very effective in a fourth-line role for New Jersey and can win faceoffs in his own zone as shown throughout his career and he will continue to do just that for the Devils.
Michael Cammalleri (LW)
His deadly accurate wrist shot and all-around offensive skills will be missed in New Jersey but management was going to end up going in a different direction eventually the way the last few seasons have gone.
Devante Smith-Pelly (RW)
Another solid NHL’er out the door, but there were many moves made by management this summer to go in another direction with this team and the team should be able to replace what he brought to the lineup.
Jon Merrill (D)
Lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft, Merrill was a pretty solid defenseman year and year out for the Devils, not with flashy numbers but with solid defensive play. He has yet to play a full 82-game season in his career so far but likely still would have remained had there not been an expansion draft this year.
On The Way Up
Pavel Zacha (LW)
After getting his first full season in the NHL under his belt, the expectations are going to increase for Pavel Zacha. If he plays to his potential, he has a chance to greatly improve on his 24 points from this past season.
Michael McLeod (C)
McLeod shows great offensive upside in his game, especially with the ability to create offense from seemingly out of nowhere during his time in the OHL. His deadly combination of speed and quick finishing ability make him a prospect for Devils fans to get really excited about.
John Quenneville (C)
Quenneville got his first taste of the NHL this past season, playing in 12 games where he tallied 4 points. His value comes from his ability to distribute the puck, so much so that between his second year in the WHL and his most recent appearance spent mostly with Albany in the AHL last season, he hasn’t had less than 30 assists per year. The forward looks to develop into an NHL playmaker.
Blake Speers (RW)
The 67th overall pick from 2015 also had a brief spell in the NHL last season, going scoreless in three games. Another player who looks to have a well-rounded offensive game getting 34 points in only 30 games in what was a busy 2016/17 for Speers. Some time developing his game and size in the minor leagues would do wonders for Speers.
Over the years New Jersey has started to build up an impressive prospect pool. They possess many high-level prospects that may have a chance to step up into the NHL together much like the Toronto Maple Leafs did with their outstanding rookie class a year ago.
I feel this Devils team is going to be better than people expect and will challenge for the final playoff spots, or be just barely on the outside looking in. I expect no lower than 11th in the Eastern Conference even if things go south. If the kids mesh well with the established NHL’ers they added in the offseason they will surprise many teams this year.
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