The New Jersey Devils finished 2016-2017 tied for last place overall in goals at five-on-five. They were also second last in shots on goal and 28th overall in goals with just 180. Their power play was 22nd overall and they were last in the Eastern Conference with a 28-40-14 record.
The good news? The Devils won the draft lottery and selected Nico Hischier first overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The Swiss forward is expected to start the 2017-2018 season with the big club and could even line up as the top line centre, with head coach John Hynes eager to give him the opportunity.
With the news that forward Travis Zajac will be out four to six months to recover from surgery, the door for Hischier swings even wider open. Zajac isn’t likely to be back until mid-December, which means the offensive balance will fall to the rest of the squad come October.
Taylor Hall didn’t have the greatest year in his first season with New Jersey, but he could bounce back in the upcoming season. He produced 53 points in 72 games, scoring 20 goals. Seven of his goals came on the power play and four were game-winners. The 25-year-old first overall draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers can’t be expected to do everything for the Devils, but it’s safe to say more is coming in 2017-2018.
Kyle Palmieri is the man when it comes to goal-scoring in New Jersey. That may sound like faint praise, but he still scored 26 goals after setting career-high totals in 2015-2016. That may mean the 26-year-old will continue to trend upward along the wing, as he seems to have found his place with the Devils. The former Duck is also a stalwart on the first power play unit.
New Jersey brought Marcus Johansson to the fold in July and he could make an impact almost immediately. He had his best season last year with Washington and he’ll have to adjust to the slower style in the Garden State, but the 26-year-old still has plenty of top-level skill. He scored two dozen goals last season with the Capitals and is quick on his feet.
Hischier is a question mark for the Devils, but there’s a lot to like about the number one draft pick. He produced 86 points in 57 games last season for Halifax and has plenty of offensive upside. He’s a slick passer and many have him tapped to be one of the best point-producers to ever come out of the Switzerland. No pressure, Nico.
New Jersey’s defensive group won’t put up a lot of offensive numbers, but Damon Severson can produce. The 23-year-old has steadily been improving his numbers and scored three goals last season for a total of 31 points in 80 games. He had 13 points on the power play and owns a quality point shot. He also plays a physical game.
John Moore had a dozen goals for the Devils in 63 games, stunning many. The Winnetka native is not known for putting points on the board and indeed only one of his goals came on the power play, but he does have surprising wheels. He also owns a big sturdy frame, which makes him a physical threat for New Jersey. Don’t expect another offensive season from Moore in 2017-2018.
Andy Greene is the top defenceman on the depth chart. He had 13 points in 66 games last season and averaged 21:56 of ice time with 83 shots on goal. Greene can lug the puck and plays a poised game at both ends of the ice, plus he’s durable enough to play big minutes. The book on him seems to suggest that he’s lost a step and can no longer lead the New Jersey defence, so we may see a resurgence in 2017-2018. Or not.
Cory Schneider is coming off his worst season to date. He posted a 2.82 goals against average and a .908 save percentage, winning just 20 games in 59 starts. Optimism suggests the 31-year-old could bounce back and find his stride in 2017-2018, while his skill level confirms he has the ability to do so. Schneider is a quick goalie for a man his size, plus he’s positionally sound and confident.
Keith Kinkaid is the backup for the Devils. The Farmingville native has gone on record as saying that Schneider will finish in the top five goalies in the league in 2017-2018, so he doesn’t lack for supportiveness. But Kinkaid also has his own kitchen to worry about, with just eight wins last season and a 2.64 goals against average.