Our New Jersey Devils 2021-22 Preview is a part of our 2021-22 NHL Team Preview Series. Starting September 9th, we have covered one team per day in the leadup to the 2021-22 season. After a crazy busy offseason with a ton of player movement we need something to help summarize what happened and give an outlook of the impact on each team. Make sure to check back each day for the next team in the list!
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New Jersey was in a tough division last season. They were placed in the NHL’s East Division along with the Penguins, Capitals, Bruins, Islanders, Rangers, Flyers and the Sabres. To nobody’s surprise the Devils’s finished 7th out of 8 teams in the division, ahead of only the Sabres. They finished with a record of 19-30-7 and 45 points. They were matched up with a lot of far stronger teams and because of that some of their statistics look rough.
Their powerplay was 28th in the league at only 14.2% and their penalty kill was dead last at only 71%. This makes sense when you consider all those strong teams they were matched up against all season. They all had pretty dangerous powerplays, and good penalty kills. The Devils struggled to get offense going and to keep the puck out of the net. They finished the season with only 145 goals scored which is 26th in the league, and with 189 goals scored against them, which is 27th.
Corey Crawford was added before last season to help mentor Mackenzie Blackwood and suddenly retired before the season began. The team was left with a tandem of Blackwood and Scott Wedgewood, which although not terrible, was a drop from what they expected.
Team Captain Nico Hischier had a rough start to the season missing significant time with an injury, coming back and then getting injured again.
This all paints a picture of a pretty rough season but the Devils have a lot to be happy about. They were never an easy out for teams, they competed all season and a number of players had some great years. An example of this is the fact they went 5-1-2 against the Boston Bruins.
Young forwards Pavel Zacha, Jack Hughes, Yegor Sharangovich, Jesper Bratt all had solid a solid year offensively. Rookie defenseman Ty Smith made his debut for the team and played an average of 20:07 minutes a night.
So what did they do in the offseason? The biggest changes come on the blueline. They traded out Mikhail Maltsev and a 2021 2nd to Colorado for likely expansion target Ryan Graves. The big left handed defenseman can eat up some solid minutes and has played with very talented defenseman like Cale Makar during his time on the Avalanche. Taking advantage of Colorado who was flushed with talent for the expansion draft was a smart move, and I really like the injection of Graves into the top four defenders. The team also dumped Will Butcher’s contract to Buffalo. He was the odd man out this season and never really found a groove on the team. The big story of course was New Jersey landing one of the biggest fish on the unrestricted free agent market, Dougie Hamilton. He instantly becomes the team’s number one d man and is locked up long term. He can do everything and will get a lot of minutes even strength and will quarterback the powerplay. His addition should go a long way to boosting that terrible powerplay.
The team also added Tomas Tatar into the forward lineup, and signed veteran goaltender Jonathan Bernier who had remarkably strong numbers with Detroit last season.
Are the New Jersey Devils the winners of the off season?
They might be, but we all have said that before when they acquired Subban. So lets not place massive expectations on the team this time.
- Dougie Hamilton
- Tomas Tatar
- Ryan Graves
- Jonathan Bernier
- Christian Jaros
- Ryan Murray
- Nathan Bastian
- Nick Merkley
- Mikhail Maltsev
- Will Butcher
The Devils seem to have a lot of players at similar places in the careers. Young forwards looking to earn a consistent NHL spot.
Last season the top line most often consisted of Janne Kuokkanen, Jack Hughes, and Yegor Sharangovich. The chemistry between Hughes and Sharangovich was great to see. I want to see more of Hughes creating time and space for his linemates and more of Sharagovich’s great wrist shot.
Pavel Zacha, Nico Hischer, and Jesper Bratt are the likely members of the second line. The Devil’s have had to be patient with Zacha, and last season that patience looked to have paid off. He was the team’s leading scorer with 35 points in 50 games. A career high that he will be looking to surpass in a full season. Nico Hischier will hopefully have some better luck this season staying healthy. The team looks far better with him in the lineup and his importance to the team is probably understated. The young captain Hischier and Dougie Hamilton are the only two players signed past the end of the 2022-2023 season, and they’ll be the important pieces to stay healthy and contribute on a nightly basis moving forward.
One potential injection into the top six is Tomas Tatar. His veteran presence could earn him a spot.
In the bottom six the Devils seem to have a lot of players at similar places in the careers. Young forwards looking to earn a consistent NHL spot. Miles Wood, Michael McLeod, Jesper Boqvist and Marian Studenic all seem to fit that bill. Andreas Johnsson will be looking to bounce back after a pretty poor first year with the team.
The Devils don’t have a lack high end prospects that could fight for a spot either. Alexander Holtz is expected to be a special player. The 7th overall pick from 2020 has an amazing shot and if he can crack the lineup if he gets put on the wing of Hischier or Hughes it could be a great combination. Nolan Foote also played in a handful of games least season and could be looking to stick around.
Ultimately the team is a few veterans short of having a dominant offense, and lacks that defensive bottom six to keep games close. What they should have is a lot of speed and youth. If the secondary scoring gets a boost it could work out for the team really well.
This defense should be less porous than last season. The addition of Ryan Graves and Dougie Hamilton should provide some stability within the top two pairings.
As it stands it looks like Hamilton will be on the first pairing with sophomore Ty Smith. Smith had an excellent rookie campaign and played over 20 minutes a game on average. Can he keep his game up and play top line minutes with Hamilton?
Ryan Graves will likely be matched up with P.K. Subban. Subban has definitely taken a drop off from his peak, but should do much better in a reduced role and on the second powerplay.
Jonas Siegenthaler and Damon Severson round out the third pairing. Siegenthaler came over from Washington and will be in his first full season with the team. this should be an interesting pairing as Severson has the offensive aspect to his game and Siegenthaler is a defensive specialist. On the third pairing i’m curious how that will pan out.
Beyond this top six the team has Christian Jaros as the seventh, and Kevin Bahl as the likely call up. Bahl played in 7 games last season and looked good. The big left hander should play in quite a few more games this season.
The team also drafted the third Hughes Brother, Luke at 4th overall this draft. Is it possible he makes his debut? Or what about Shakir Mukhmadullin? For that name alone he should be inserted in the roster.
The team’s tandem will be Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier. Blackwood took a bit of a drop in his stats this season. He finished the season with 14 wins in 35 starts, a 3.04 goals against average and a 0.902 save percentage. Again, part of this might be explained by the division they were in, but his new partner Jonathan Bernier had better stats on the Detroit Red Wings, who were in a similar situation in the Central.
Last season Bernier posted only 9 wins in 23 starts, but a 2.99 goals against average, and a 0.914 save percentage. Detroit finished with only 3 more points than New Jersey so a pretty comparable team in front of him. These two should split starts pretty evenly and are both pretty good options. The tandem is a definite improvement from last season, and as long as Bernier doesn’t suddenly retire like Crawford did, they should be okay in net.
New Jersey Devils 2021-22 Prediction
6-7th Metro Division
The Devils are poised to rise right when other Metro Division teams are seeing their windows close. They are making good moves to set themselves up for future success. That being said I think they are a couple seasons removed from truly being competitive. Things are bright here, but with the Metro still being strong they may take a couple more seasons to be in the mix for the Stanley Cup. With the amount of youth and speed this team has they could be a surprise dark horse wild card team.
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