The Devils had one of the best offseasons of any team in the NHL. Will that get them into the playoffs?
After finishing the shortened 2021 NHL season as one of the worst teams in the league, the New Jersey Devils went on to have one of the best offseasons of any team.
They got rid of multiple players at the trade deadline, but were able to fill the void by calling up several youngsters and then making some big signings and trades during the offseason.
The question is: will these moves be enough to make the Devils playoff contenders in the 2021-22 season?
Without further ado, let’s take a look at what we can expect from the members of the Devils’ 2021-22 team.
The only thing stopping Devils captain Hischier from having a breakout season is another one of his serious annual injuries. The 22-year-old center truly has the potential to be an elite forward in this league, he just has to be able to stay on the ice.
Hischier has missed chunks of time every year since making his debut in 2017. After playing just 21 games in 2021, this has to change.
It might not be rational to expect Hischier to play a full season because he hasn’t been able to do so in four years, but he should do big things offensively if he can play the majority of the season.
Hischier should also feature as an important fixture on New Jersey’s weak power play and has the potential to improve the team in that regard.
After a pretty disastrous rookie season, center Hughes turned it all around in year two. He was truly excellent, both offensively and defensively.
He took a giant leap in both aspects of his game and the improvement he made defensively was arguably the more impressive of the two.
Hughes was the Devils’ best player last season and showed the world that New Jersey made no mistake drafting him first overall. Hughes should be even better this season, especially given the fact that the team is in better shape.
Better teammates and linemates will help Hughes continue to improve and he has the ability to be the team’s best player once again.
This is going to be a big year for winger Bratt. He’ll have to be at the top of his game because this is a contract year for him, but he’s coming off a solid season so the odds might be in his favor.
Bratt has been a great two-way forward for the Devils over the past couple of seasons: he puts up points and plays well in his own zone.
The only things that might prevent him from establishing himself as a key piece of this team moving forward are inconsistent play as well as injuries.
In his first year behind New Jersey’s bench, head coach Lindy Ruff didn’t hesitate to demote Bratt when he didn’t like what he saw from the then-22-year-old.
If Bratt can refrain from getting hurt and can consistently play well, he could easily have a career-year. In fact, he would’ve set career-highs in multiple categories had the 2021 season been a full 82 games.
Once again, Bratt should be one of the Devils’ more important top-six forwards in 2021-22.
When the Devils added LW Johnsson last offseason, he was expected to do a lot of damage as one of the team’s top forwards. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
He wasn’t necessarily bad offensively or defensively, but the team and fanbase would’ve wanted to see more than five goals and 11 points from him.
Heading into the 2021-22 season, expectations have tempered for the 26-year-old, but it’s safe to say an improvement in his game will be expected. He’ll carry less of a burden to succeed, but he’s going to have to get those goal- and point-totals up.
Mercer has done nothing but impress since being drafted by the Devils and seeing him make the roster this season has been a nice surprise for fans.
It’s unclear what exactly Mercer’s role will be on the team this season and when/if he’ll become a regular in the lineup, but the fact that the organization thinks he’s ready to be in the NHL at this stage in his career is a sign of good things to come.
Mercer is a versatile forward who can be used in all situations. He likely won’t be a high scorer, but has many great traits that his teammates can benefit from. Mercer is one of New Jersey’s top prospects and has an incredibly high ceiling.
After several stints here and there over the past four years, Janne Kuokkanen was finally able to play his full NHL season in 2021. The good news is that he looked impressive doing so.
Kuokkanen did many of the little things well, so much so that he showed he has the potential to be a solid top-six forward in the league.
He became a regular in the Devils’ lineup and the 23-year-old will be expected to build on what he did well last year and improve even more this season.
The beauty of Kuokkanen is that he’s versatile. Ruff can use him in the top-, middle-, or bottom-six, and Kuokkanen will get the job done. He makes the players around him better and should continue to do so while scoring at a higher rate this season.
Like Kuokkanen, McLeod had his first full NHL season in 2021. He wasn’t perfect, especially not offensively, but he played well enough to earn a spot in the lineup to begin the 2021-22 season.
The 25-year-old center has been better defensively than offensively and is drawing comparisons to the long-time Devil Travis Zajac.
McLeod will have some competition as one of the team’s bottom-six centers, but has the potential to put up better offensive numbers. There will be more pressure on him to succeed, but he’s shown that he has the potential to do that.
Sharangovich is another Devils prospect who played his first full season in 2021. He struggled defensively, but put up points and showed that he has the potential to be a good scorer for them.
The hope is that Sharangovich worked on his defensive game this offseason and that he improves even more offensively.
Sharangovich, who scored 16 goals last season, could end up becoming an important power play guy for the Devils and just generally an impactful scorer.
The Devils got a steal in Tatar, who’s been a truly excellent two-way forward over the past several seasons. He’s going to take New Jersey’s top-six to another level and will be the best linemate Jack Hughes has had in his young career.
Tatar is set to have another season in which he puts up points and does well defensively. Look for him to be used by the Devils in all situations. He’ll be one of the team’s best and most important players and will be dangerous alongside Hughes.
Wood will open the season on the IR. The good news, though, is that he isn’t expected to miss much time.
Wood is coming off the best season of his career. He scored an impressive 17 goals and was actually quite good defensively, something that had been a weakness in his game in seasons past.
Wood should also benefit from the team’s roster upgrade and could become a staple on the Devils’ third line as well as on the power play. One of the team’s most impressive players last year, Wood should do well in 2021-22.
In 2021, Zacha proved that the organization and fanbase were right to buy into him. He wasn’t perfect, but he had a good year, setting career-highs in goals with 17 and points with 35, even though the season was short.
Zacha likely is never going to do well in his own zone, but he can make up for it offensively. He’s one of the team’s best shooters and scorers and should be a dangerous weapon for them on the power play.
The Devils’ blockbuster move of the season was signing Hamilton, who is expected to be a transformational player on this rebuilding team.
As we mentioned above, Hamilton is one of the best defensemen in the NHL: he’s absolutely elite offensively and is great in his own zone.
One of the (very few) concerns surrounding Hamilton on the Devils is that he might not be as successful because he’ll be playing on an inferior team.
While this definitely is true, the fact that he’ll be paired with such a great defenseman as Graves is encouraging. Regardless of the situation, Hamilton is so elite that he should succeed no matter how or where he is used this season.
Hamilton will be the team’s most important player and will be used heavily at even-strength, on the power play, and on the penalty kill.
The first big move the Devils made this offseason was trading for LHD Graves. Graves played an important role on one of the best teams in the NHL, the Colorado Avalanche, for multiple seasons.
The big defenseman brings decent offense and great defense to a Devils blueline that struggled last season.
Granted, Graves was playing alongside one of the best defenseman in the league in Cale Makar, but he will be playing with another top defenseman in the NHL in Dougie Hamilton with the Devils.
Expectations are going to be high for the 26-year-old. Graves will be expected to be one of the team’s best players and to be used in all, or at least most, situations.
Severson was a bright spot on a Devils team that struggled in 2021. He probably should’ve done some more scoring, but 2021 was the best season of his career, offensively and defensively.
The Devils did well offensively when he was on the ice and he was more than solid in his own zone.
If Severson can even just replicate what he did last season in 2021-22, the Devils are in great shape, especially since the team focused so heavily on upgrading the defensive group, as a whole.
Subban played some of the best hockey that he’s played since arriving in New Jersey in 2021 and has actually been pretty underrated as of late. He’s no longer the Subban of five years ago, but he can still get it done at both ends of the ice.
Subban will certainly see his TOI decrease next season, but he has the potential to be one of the best third-pairing defensemen in the NHL.
The ultimate goal would be for him to really click with Siegenthaler and for the chemistry to allow each of them to play to their strengths and thrive in their roles.
After heading to New Jersey at the trade deadline, Siegenthaler played just 15 games for the Devils in 2021. He’s going to be regarded as the team’s number-six defenseman so expectations won’t be too high for him, but he should have a good year.
Siegenthaler has never done much offensively, but has been above-average defensively throughout his career. The 24-year-old will be an upgrade on that third pairing that’s been terrible for the Devils over the past few seasons.
Next up is Severson’s linemate, Smith. Smith is coming off an impressive rookie season in which he put up points and defended well. He would’ve been pretty great offensively had he scored more than two goals.
Smith was better than most expected in his rookie season and even helped his linemate, Severson, have the best season of his career.
The two are going to be reunited this season and should have another great year with Smith taking the next step in his game.
More goals and improved defensive play, especially on special teams, can be expected from a player who’s cementing himself as a core member of this team.
Bernier was another one of the Devils’ best acquisitions this offseason. He’s going to be one of the best backups in the NHL and should be a reason why New Jersey’s goaltending tandem is one of the best in the league.
Bernier is so good that he’s capable of being a starter, as we saw with the Detroit Red Wings last season, and the Devils are incredibly lucky to have him as a backup.
Bernier should have an excellent season. He’ll likely be used more frequently than most backups, but that’s only because he’s so good at what he does and the Devils have the luxury to rest their starter in favor of their backup when they want.
Blackwood got off to a flying start last season, but missed time after testing positive for COVID-19 and didn’t look the same afterwards.
His goal this season should be to stay healthy and maintain the elite play that he’s capable of throughout the entire season.
Consistency has been a bit of an issue in Blackwood’s young career, but the fact that he’s shown that he can be one of the best in the game is promising and it’s just a matter of time before he has a breakout season.
Blackwood will be under some pressure, however, to stay consistent this season because his backup is so good and capable of stealing the starting job from him.