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Season Preview: New Jersey Devils

The roster for the New Jersey Devils is largely set as training camps open for all BEARD Hockey teams in a couple of weeks.

It’s a bit of a unique situation where no teams really have that core group of players returning to their team. Training camp will not just be about fitness testing and shaking off the rust, but also about meeting teammates, coaches, and getting familiar with new coaching systems.

The teams that can mesh quickly will find themselves at a pretty big advantage as the teams try to hit the ground running. The New Jersey Devils are a team that is built to win now, but also has an eye on the future.

Player to Watch: Oliver Bjorkstrand

Oliver is slated to start opening day on the top line with Brad Marchand and Jonathan Toews. Can he keep up with the big guns and produce? If so, he could blow past his previous season highs of 23 goals in 2018-2019, and 40 points in 2017-2018. Expect a career season for the 25-year-old.

Player Under the Most Pressure: Adam Henrique

Adam is in a contract year and is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season. He is centering a second line with youngsters Robby Fabbri and Illya Mikheyev. Can he carry the second line and provide the secondary scoring this team will need?

Added to that are rumors that he may be a part of trade discussions with another team in the Eastern Conference. If things go sideways early on in the season, how long before head coach John Tortorella runs the lines through the blender? Where will Adam end up after this season? Nothing is certain.

Biggest Question: Can this team provide secondary scoring?

Beyond the 1st line, scoring depth is a bit questionable. Can they score by committee, or does this team need to be defensively stingy to win games? Except Justin Williams to get a shot at 2nd line minutes if things go poorly for the Fabbri/Henrique/Mikheyev line to start the season. We can hear head coach John Tortorella screaming already!

Biggest Weakness: Checking

While the New Jersey Devils have good overall team defense, one of the top goaltenders in the league in Darcy Kuemper, and a solid core of five defensemen, their overall inability to check cannot be understated. Their overall team average is a low 71 rating in checking, by far near the bottom of the league. This team couldn’t check to save their life.

Team MVP: Darcy Kuemper

A player that New Jersey targeted prior to the start of the Dispersal Draft, GM Corey Chernuka got his man in Darcy Kuemper with the Devils second pick.

Darcy is an analytics darling, holding a 91 average in primary goaltending stats and 88 in secondary stats. While he is 30 years in age, Darcy still has the potential to get even better, not yet hitting his absolute ceiling. Locked up to a four-year contract, the Devils have this position cemented for a long time. Expect difficulty scoring goals on this Devils team.

On the Cusp: Jan Jenik, K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundqvist

After drafting a massive 18 prospects in the 2020 BEARD Hockey Entry Draft, the Devils have quite a few prospects bubbling under the surface.

Right winger Jan Janik averaged 2.07 pts per game in a breakout season for the Hamilton Bulldogs, and was also a point per game player for the Czech Republic in the 2020 World Juniors. Defenseman K’Andre Miller had a slightly less productive year in the NCAA last year, but still has the pedigree of being a first round draft pick in 2018.

Defenseman Nils Lundqvist had a solid year with Lulea HF of the SHL and also was a point-per-game player with Sweden at the 2020 World Juniors. Expect all three to jump to the AHL this season with the possibility of earning a cup of coffee at the BEARD Hockey level.

Expectation: Top 2 in the Metropolitan

It’s going to be a close race between New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils for the top spot in the Metro.

New Jersey has better goaltending in Vezina candidate Kuemper. On defense, New York is by far more punishing and has better puck movers than the Devils, so the defensive edge goes to New York. At forward, the Devils have much better overall depth, but the Rangers have the league’s best player in Connor McDavid.

Overall, this race is too close to call! Great ready for a recount of all points at the end of the season!

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