New Jersey Devils Blake Coleman
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The New Jersey Devils re-signing Blake Coleman means his expectations have been set higher than ever before.

Most NHL fans probably had no idea who forward Blake Coleman was prior to the start of last season. Yet, it was reported via on Tuesday that Coleman was awarded a three-year contract, worth $5.4 million, by the New Jersey Devils.

While Coleman had little expectations heading into 2018, the expectations are now higher than ever for the 26-year-old with the Devils.

New Jersey’s 2011 third-round draft pick (75th overall) brought an uncanny sense of energy and depth to the Devils’ lineup on a nightly basis last season, and now Jersey’s team is giving him a shot to build off of last year’s growth.

Coleman’s heart and emotion were worn on his sweater’s sleeve, and that type of skater had been absent for far too long from the Devils’ third line. The Plano, Texas native finished last season with 12 goals and chipped in 13 helpers for a total of 25 points. He also led the team (tied with Brian Gibbons) with three shorthanded goals last season.

No, those numbers are nothing spectacular at first glance, but Coleman’s timely goals were highly valuable last season, and those are the caliber highlights that will be expected more often from the third-year pro.

It was somewhat disappointing at first to Jersey’s fanbase that general manager Ray Shero not only avoided any notable signings in this summer’s unrestricted free agency period, but the Devils also saw the loss of defenseman John Moore, forwards Patrick Maroon and Brian Gibbons among others.

Those new vacancies in the Devils’ expected 2018-19 lineup not only provide an opportunity to youngsters such as blue liner Steven Santini and forward Joey Anderson, but also provide more ice-time and pressure for Coleman.

With that being said, the Devils are going to rely more on No. 20 in various crunch time situations throughout the upcoming season. If New Jersey wants to make back-to-back appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009-2010, then Coleman is going to have to be one of the team’s best players on the ice.

And, yes, Coleman will be wearing No. 20 again and not 40 moving forward with the team that he’s “extremely proud” to be a part of.

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Kyle McKenna is a freelancer who covers the NHL for Elite Sports New York, Hooked On Hockey Magazine & Fansided. Follow him on Twitter @KMcKenna_tLT5 and use the hashtag #McKennasDigest to have your NHL questions featured in an article or answered over his weekly NHL podcast.