Will ‘fun’ and ‘successful’ be the same thing?
The Devils made a huge splash over the summer, drafting Jack Hughes first overall, trading for P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev and signing Wayne Simmonds. With Nico Hischier and recent Hart Trophy-winner Taylor Hall in the fold already, this promises to be the most exciting version of the Devils the NHL has ever seen. Will all that skill and personality translate into a playoff berth? That truly is the burning question, since New Jersey still has holes in its lineup. No doubt the power play is going to sizzle, with Subban blasting from the point and Hughes making magic with the puck, but there’s more to the game than scoring.
Who is playing in net?
Veteran Cory Schneider has gone through the wringer in the past few seasons, from injuries to just plain bad play. At 33, his best days are behind him (he hasn’t had a decent save percentage since 2015-16), though he was solid at the World Championship for Team USA this summer. His contract won’t be easy to move, since he still has three more years at $6 million per, plus a no-trade clause. Rookie Mackenzie Blackwood would have been more of a story in a world without Jordan Binnington, though the Devils being a non-playoff team contributed to the lack of spotlight. Nevertheless, Blackwood showed promise in his 23 games. Maybe he’s the answer.
Is there any room for Ty Smith?
The offensively gifted defenseman looks ready for the NHL, but do the Devils have room for him right now? The top four is pretty locked in, so Smith would have to usurp a more experienced player such as Connor Carrick or Mirco Mueller to gain a regular role. Since Smith plays the left side, things get harder, because the Devils already have Andy Greene, Sami Vatanen and Will Butcher. Smith still has junior eligibility left, so he cannot play in the AHL yet. He’s a lock for Canada’s World Junior Championship squad, so if he earned an NHL look in training camp, he could play nine games with New Jersey before returning to WHL Spokane and then heading off to international duty in the Czech Republic.
Stanley Cup Odds: 60/1
There’s a lot of excitement in Jersey, and one of the main reasons is Jack Hughes. The 2019 first overall pick brings a speedy game dripping with skill, and he won’t be the only freshman. Nikita Gusev, too old for the Calder, is already slotted for the top six, and Jesper Boqvist can contribute, too.