After just one preseason game, it might have become a bit easier for the Devils to answer the questions they have about filling out their roster.
But what you do find in the preseason is an opportunity to solve the puzzles given to head coach John Hynes and general manager Ray Shero at the beginning of Training Camp. There are the guaranteed veterans that will inevitably be a part of the Opening Day roster, but there’s also the rookies and draft picks that need to prove their worth.
Shero and Hynes got a taste of exactly what they are looking for on Wednesday.
The biggest question up in the air for the Devils during the offseason was how to fix the lack of skill on defense. Andy Greene and Damon Severson lead the way along with Ben Lovejoy and John Moore creating the second line. The signing of Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher confidently fills the first of the two openings but that last spot was really up for grabs between quite a few defensemen.
Last night, when the Devils faced off against the Capitals, three of those players working their hardest for the job came out to impress.
Yaroslav Dyblenko was signed by the Devils during the offseason after a single season in the KHL, scoring 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 51 games. Appearing to most as a “why not” type of signing, the Devils dressed him for the first time against the Capitals and he was present, to say the least. Sitting in the penalty box twice, while accumulating a plus-3 in one game stands out. It proves he has a large presence on the ice. He didn’t have the points to prove it but the plus/minus goes to show he aided the team in scoring, something the Devils are desperately in search of. Given the opportunity, Dyblenko proved his worth in one game.
As for Mirco Mueller, the Swiss D-man acquired from the San Jose Sharks via trade during the offseason, he scored the first goal of the game, and in turn the first goal of the Devils preseason with an absolute rocket from the point, a Sheldon Souray-esque laser that couldn’t be seen until it hit the back of the net.
This was something the Devils didn’t even expect. When scoring from the point is found in such a powerful fashion, it needs to be utilized.
Dalton Prout, the last of the questionable D-man who played last night, doesn’t have anything to show on paper. This could be seen either way, because with an even plus/minus, at least he wasn’t on the ice when the Capitals scored.
Ultimately, it’s just one game and the rest of the players fighting for the one spot truly up for grabs have time to capture it.
In terms of forward presence, scoring four goals is out of this world for the Devils. Doing so against the Capitals is even more of a miracle. The one true highlight of the game, however, would have to be Nico Hischier’s late third-period goal to set the win in stone, his first on NHL ice, and first in a Devils uniform.
The goal was slick and skillful, stealing the puck away in the offensive zone while then after having to break through two defensemen and tuck the puck under the pad of the sprawled-out goaltender. Unassisted, it was the epitome of what Ray Shero needed for his team, a player that can just pull together a scoring opportunity and make it happen.
Keeping reality in mind, and knowing that it was merely the first preseason game, the Devils still looked impressive. As spoken by Boomer Esiason on 660 WFAN this morning “You watch, the Devils are going to be a force to be reckoned with this season.”