The New Jersey Devils have found their No. 1 goaltender of the future in MacKenzie Blackwood even after such an inadequate season.
The NHL’s regular season has come to a close and the New Jersey Devils underwent an incredibly disappointing year. They’re one of seven teams who have failed to qualify for the 24-team playoff that will commence once hockey returns.
The Devils were unable to meet expectations, but they did indeed learn one thing: MacKenzie Blackwood is their bona fide goaltender of the near future.
Blackwood experienced a rough and inconsistent start to the 2019-20 campaign. Nonetheless, things changed when he took over as the team’s No. 1 goalie after Cory Schneider proved to be incompetent. Blackwood then went on to be fantastic in the final few months of the season.
Overall, MacKenzie accumulated a .915 save percentage, 2.77 goals-against average, .512 quality start percentage, 7.30 goals saved above average, and earned three shutouts in 47 games. His 22-14-8 record is incredible considering the fact that he plays for a team that finished 28-29-12.
His record additionally indicates that he truly carried the Devils with practically no help whatsoever.
For a goalie who underwent a rocky start to the season and played on such a bad team, Blackwood’s numbers were great. He finished second in save percentage among rookies who played at least 15 games. Blackwood also led all rookie goalies in wins, starts (43), saves (1,328), and shots against (1,452).
What makes Blackwood’s numbers even more impressive is the fact that he played far more games than any other rookie goaltender. For context, Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins was second with 33.
Blackwood was great for a rookie but also for a goalie that’s part of a subpar squad. He was ultimately the second-best goaltender to play for a bottom-seven team.
The cherry on top? Blackwood is just 23 years old.
The young player will become a restricted free agent this offseason, and although he still needs to prove he can portray long-term consistency between the pipes, the Devils must (and will) lock him up for the future.
Schneider is signed to an awful seven-year deal and the Devils have assuredly learned from that mistake. Therefore, we shouldn’t expect Blackwood’s contract to be anything egregious.
We can’t forget that Blackwood has yet to play a full NHL season as a No. 1 goalie. Even so, it’s difficult to imagine the Devils will give him anything fewer than a three-year deal.
New Jersey’s situation is a perplexing one. The first pick of the 2017 draft, Nico Hischier, is solid but hasn’t played up to his standards. The first pick of the 2019 draft, Jack Hughes, showed flashes of brilliance but also failed to meet expectations in his rookie season. Even P.K. Subban is clearly no longer the great defenseman he once was.
Evidently, the Devils possess a multitude of issues. Maybe they’ll receive an answer to their problems in this year’s draft, but finding a solid No. 1 netminder is something they can cross off the list.
Blackwood is well on his way to becoming one of the most exciting young goalies in the league. Simply speaking, the future is bright.