New Jersey Devils should be playoff bound this NHL season

With the 2019/20 NHL season knocking on the door, fans of the New Jersey Devils should be anxious to see how their team performs. The club made the Stanley Cup Final five times from 1995 to 2012 and won the silverware three times in that span. However, they haven’t done much since. That could all change this season though if everything falls into place. They failed to make the postseason five consecutive years after their last appearance in the final before making it in 2017/18, but missed out again last year.

They went 31-41-10 last season for an eighth-place finish in the Metropolitan Division and were also third-worst in the entire league. Fans felt it was a setback especially since the club won the 2017 draft lottery and selected forward prospect Nico Hischier first overall. In addition, they acquired some elite scoring from the Edmonton Oilers when they landed Taylor Hall in a trade for defenceman Adam Larsson. Hall came over in the summer of 2016 and would win the Hart Memorial Trophy for 2017/18 as the league’s top player. He missed most of last season due to injury but still posted 37 points in 33 outings.

General manager Ray Shero worked hard at improving the roster during the offseason and also had a bit of luck go his way. The Devils won the draft lottery again and selected young scoring sensation Jack Hughes from the American hockey program. The 18-year-old Hughes of Orlando, Florida, scored 116 in 2017/18 skating with the U.S. Hockey National Team Development Program and posted 112 points last season in just 50 contests. Hughes set a new record for scoring with the program by posting 228 points and the 5-foot-10-inch center spent the preseason with New Jersey proving he’s ready for the NHL.

Shero traded for 30-year-old defenseman P.K. Subban in the offseason as he sent a second-round draft choice this summer and next to Nashville along with prospects Steve Santini and Jeremy Davies. Subban was named the best defenceman in the NHL in 2012/13 and took home the Norris Trophy for his efforts and is also a three-time NHL All Star. Davies had yet to play an NHL game and fellow rearguard Santini had 21 points in 114 career contests.

Shero also landed 21-year-old forward Nikita Gusev from Russia from the Vegas Golden Knights for a third-round draft pick in 2020 and a second-rounder in 2021. Gusev was originally drafted in 2012 by Tampa Bay in the seventh round as the 202nd overall selection. He’s yet to play in the NHL though as he remained in Russia to play with in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Vegas took him in the league’s expansion draft when the club entered the NHL.

Gusev played 391 games in the KHL with 332 points on 119 goals and 213 assists and added 28 goals and 40 assists in 67 postseason outings. He led the KHL in scoring in 2018/19 with 17 goals and 65 helpers in 62 games for 82 points. He was MVP of the league and honoured as the best forward at the 2018 Olympics with four goals and eight assists in 12 games. Shero managed to sign Gusev for $9 million over two years.

The GM wasn’t finished there though as he signed 31-year-old power forward Wayne Simmonds as an unrestricted free agent from the Nashville Predators. Simmonds was inked for a season at $5 million after struggling in 2018/19 with 17 goals and 30 points. On the bright side, he’s notched 74 goals with the man advantage since 2012/14 to rank second behind Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals with 120 power-play markers.

Simmonds played eight campaigns with the Philadelphia Flyers before Nashville traded for him at the deadline last season. Simmonds scored a minimumĀ  24 goals in six of his seasons with the Flyers and cracked the 30-goal plateau on two occasions. He’s scored 243 NHL goals up to now with 94 of them coming on the power-play, so should be a big help in that department as New Jersey were 21st in the league with the man advantage last season.

The Devils appear to have solid scoring with Gusev, Hughes, Simmonds and Subban added to the lineup while Hischier has an added year of experience and Hall should be healthy. If they can get good enough goaltending and play well inside their own blue line the team should still be in the thick of things when the 82-game schedule concludes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *