January 9, 2020 • NEW JERSEY DEVILS NEWS & CLIPS
- LOCAL PRINT/WEB
- TV/VIDEO LINKS
- RADIO LINKS
- NATIONAL PRINT/WEB
The club faces-off against NY Rangers tonight at Madison Square Garden at 7:00 PM ET on MSG. The Devils look to bounce back after their overtime loss to the Islanders on Tuesday night at Prudential Center (4-3 OTL).
Binghamton’s Joey Anderson was named to the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic. Anderson has recorded eight goals and 15 assists in 34 games with Binghamton this season. The AHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place on Sunday, Jan. 26, and the AHL All-Star Challenge on Monday, Jan. 27
2) LOCAL PRINT/WEB
- Binghamton’s Anderson added to roster for 2020 AHL All-Star Classic
by AHL Communications
|SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League today announced a change to the playing rosters for the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Ontario International Airport, to be held January 26-27 in Ontario, Calif.
Binghamton Devils forward Joey Anderson has been added to the North Division team roster. Anderson, a third-round selection by New Jersey in the 2016 NHL Draft, has recorded eight goals and 15 assists in 34 games with Binghamton this season. The 21-year-old native of Roseville, Minn., appeared in 34 NHL contests with the Devils as a rookie in 2018-19.
In addition, the AHL announced that Devils forward Ben Street will be unavailable for the event.
Tickets for the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Ontario International Airport, which include admission to both the AHL All-Star Skills Competition on Sunday, Jan. 26, and the AHL All-Star Challenge on Monday, Jan. 27, are available now by visitingontarioreign.com/allstar.
The 2020 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Ontario International Airport will feature the top young talent in the American Hockey League: since 1995, more than 95 percent of All-Star Classic participants have gone on to compete in the National Hockey League, including Cam Atkinson, Patrice Bergeron, Jordan Binnington, Ben Bishop, John Carlson, Zdeno Chara, Logan Couture, Connor Hellebuyck, Braden Holtby, Tyler Johnson, Andreas Johnsson, Martin Jones, Jonathan Marchessault, Brandon Montour, William Nylander, Kyle Palmieri, Zach Parise, Mikko Rantanen, Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne, Dylan Strome, P.K. Subban and Mats Zuccarello.
In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League serves as the top development league for the players, coaches, managers, executives, broadcasters and staff of all 31 National Hockey League teams. Nearly 90 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame spent time in the AHL in their careers. In 2018-19, over 7 million fans attended AHL regular-season and playoff games across North America.
Rosters as of Jan. 9:
|Atlantic Division All-Stars
F Andrew Agozzino, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (3rd appearance)
D Sebastian Aho, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (2nd)
D Jake Bean, Charlotte Checkers (1st)
F Paul Carey, Providence Bruins (1st)
G Chris Driedger, Springfield Thunderbirds (1st)
F Morgan Frost, Lehigh Valley Phantoms (1st)
D Joey Keane, Hartford Wolf Pack (1st)
F Matt Moulson (“C”), Hershey Bears (1st)
F Mike Sgarbossa, Hershey Bears (2nd)
G Igor Shesterkin, Hartford Wolf Pack (1st)
F Jack Studnicka, Providence Bruins (1st)
F Owen Tippett, Springfield Thunderbirds (1st)
Coach: Kris Knoblauch, Hartford Wolf Pack (1st)
|North Division All-Stars
F Joey Anderson, Binghamton Devils (1st appearance)
F Rudolfs Balcers, Belleville Senators (2nd)
F Alex Barre-Boulet, Syracuse Crunch (1st)
F Drake Batherson, Belleville Senators (2nd)
F Reid Boucher, Utica Comets (3rd)
F Nathan Gerbe, Cleveland Monsters (3rd)
F Charles Hudon, Laval Rocket (2nd)
G Jonas Johansson, Rochester Americans (1st)
G Kasimir Kaskisuo, Toronto Marlies (1st)
D Lawrence Pilut, Rochester Americans (1st)
D Brogan Rafferty, Utica Comets (1st)
D Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Marlies (1st)
Coach: Chris Taylor, Rochester Americans (1st)
|Central Division All-Stars
D Alexandre Carrier, Milwaukee Admirals (2nd appearance)
F Lucas Elvenes, Chicago Wolves (1st)
F Matthew Ford (“C”), Grand Rapids Griffins (1st)
F Jansen Harkins, Manitoba Moose (1st)
G Connor Ingram, Milwaukee Admirals (2nd)
G Kevin Lankinen, Rockford IceHogs (1st)
F Joel L’Esperance, Texas Stars (2nd)
F Gerald Mayhew, Iowa Wild (1st)
D Brennan Menell, Iowa Wild (1st)
D Derrick Pouliot, San Antonio Rampage (2nd)
F Chris Terry, Grand Rapids Griffins (5th)
F Yakov Trenin, Milwaukee Admirals (1st)
Coach: Karl Taylor, Milwaukee Admirals (1st)
|Pacific Division All-Stars
F Joachim Blichfeld, San Jose Barracuda (1st appearance)
D Kyle Capobianco, Tucson Roadrunners (3rd)
D Kale Clague, Ontario Reign (1st)
F Martin Frk, Ontario Reign (1st)
F Glenn Gawdin, Stockton Heat (1st)
F Lane Pederson, Tucson Roadrunners (1st)
G Cal Petersen, Ontario Reign (2nd)
F Matthew Phillips, Stockton Heat (1st)
G Anthony Stolarz, San Diego Gulls (2nd)
F T.J. Tynan, Colorado Eagles (3rd)
D Chris Wideman, San Diego Gulls (2nd)
F Kailer Yamamoto, Bakersfield Condors (1st)
Coach: Jay Varady, Tucson Roadrunners (1st)
- Devils prospects update (1/7/20) | Tyce Thompson continues to score; How Kevin Bahl, Nick Merkley, Nate Schnarr have done since trade
by Chris Ryan, NJ Advanced Media
As the Devils crossed the midpoint of the 2019-20 season, many of their prospects around the world did the same.
Here’s a look at all of the organization’s prospects and their progress so far during the 2019-20 campaign, including the three prospects — Kevin Bahl, Nick Merkley and Nate Schnarr — acquired in the Taylor Hall trade.
Joey Anderson, F (Binghamton Devils, AHL)
2019-20 stats: 33 GP, 8 G, 15 A, 23 P
Drafted: 3rd round, 73rd overall in 2016
Anderson’s production in the AHL has been good, and after scoring six goals between the NHL and AHL last season, putting eight in the net through the first 33 games is a decent step. He hasn’t gotten a crack in the NHL yet this season, but if more changes or injuries hit the NHL roster, he should near the top of the list for a call-up.
Brandon Baddock, F (Binghamton Devils, AHL)
2019-20 stats: 31 GP, 3 G, 4 A, 7 P
Drafted: 6th round, 161st in 2014
Kevin Bahl, D (Ottawa 67′s, OHL)
2019-20 stats: 28 GP, 5 G, 15 A, 20 P
Drafted: 2nd round, 55th overall in 2018
Bahl was the headlining prospect the trade that sent Hall to the Arizona Coyotes, though the move hasn’t had any impact on his status for this season, since he stayed with his junior hockey team. The 6-7, 240-pound defenseman is on pace to set new career highs in goals and points this season with Ottawa after going for six goals and 34 points last season. He also helped Canada win gold at the World Junior Championships on Sunday.
Nathan Bastian, F (Binghamton Devils, AHL)
2019-20 stats: 34 GP, 5 G, 12 A, 17 P
Drafted: 2nd round, 41st overall in 2016
Bastian is putting up steady numbers in the AHL, and he’s on pace to increase his point total for a third straight season. He had 24 in 58 AHL games last season. He’s likely never going to be a major scorer, but he continues to work on being a physical presence in the offensive zone while playing in the dirty areas of the game.
Xavier Bernard, D (Charlottetown Islanders/Sherbrooke Phoenix, QMJHL)
2019-20 stats: 38 GP, 4 G, 9 A, 13 P
Drafted: 4th round, 110th overall in 2018
Bernard was traded within the QMJHL for the second time since being drafted by the Devils, heading from Charlottetown to Sherbrooke. The Devils have to sign Bernard to an entry level contract prior to June 1, or they will lose the rights to the 2018 fourth-round pick. They can still sign him afterward, but he would be free to sign with any NHL organization at that point. Considering the Devils have just three defensemen prospects skating in Binghamton, along with some older AHL veterans, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them get Bernard under contract to see what he can do as a pro in the AHL next season.
Brady Cole, G (Fargo Force, USHL)
2019-20 stats: 23 GP, 12-7-4, 2.93 GAA, .901 save percentage
Drafted: 5th round, 127th overall in 2019
Graeme Clarke, F (Ottawa 67′s, OHL)
2019-20 stats: 9 GP, 7 G, 2 A, 9 P
Drafted: 3rd round, 80th overall in 2019
Clarke has been out since October with a shoulder injury, and it carried a four-to-six month recovery time, so his status for the rest of the season is still up in the air. The same injury limited him to 55 games during the 2018-19 season prior to being drafted.
Evan Cormier, G (Binghamton Devils, AHL / Adirondack Thunder, ECHL)
2019-20 stats: 9 GP, 1-7-1, 3.61 GAA, .881 save percentage in AHL; 9 GP, 3-2-4, 2.79 GAA, .904 save percentage in ECHL
Drafted: 4th round, 105th overall in 2016
Cormier had a brief stay with the NHL club when Louis Domingue was hurt, but he never got into a game before Gilles Senn eventually took his spot. With Senn and Cory Schneider currently in the AHL, Cormier’s work will primarily come in the ECHL.
Brandon Gignac, F (Binghamton Devils, AHL)
2019-20 stats: 20 GP, 1 G, 6 A, 7 P
Drafted: 3rd round, 80th overall in 2016
After leading Binghamton in scoring last season, Gignac hasn’t been able to establish the same offensive impact during his third pro season.
Arseni Gritsyuk, F (Omskie Yastreby, MHL)
2019-20 stats: 40 GP, 19 G, 20 A, 39 P
Drafted: 5th round, 129th overall in 2019
Jeremy Groleau, D (Binghamton Devils, AHL)
2019-20 stats: 14 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 P
Matthew Hellickson, D (Notre Dame, NCAA)
2019-20 stats: 20 GP, 3 G, 7 A, 10 P
Drafted: 7th round, 214th overall in 2017
Mitchell Hoelscher, F (Ottawa 67′s, OHL)
2019-20 stats: 35 GP, 20 G, 21 A, 41 P
Drafted: 6th round, 172nd overall in 2018
Hoelscher has already set a career high for points in the OHL, surpassing the 40 he posted in 68 games last season. The 19-year-old has stepped into a bigger role and taken advantage.
Josh Jabobs, D (Binghamton Devils, AHL)
2019-20 stats: 29 GP, 2 G, 4 A, 6 P
Drafted: 2nd round, 41st overall in 2014
Mikhail Maltsev, F (Binghamton Devils, AHL)
2019-20 stats: 22 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 6 P
Drafted: 4th round, 102nd overall in 2016
Maltsev is still finding his way in his first North American season, but much like he did in the preseason with the Devils, he’s still showing off some incredible finishing moves.
Case McCarthy, D (Boston University, NCAA)
2019-20 stats: 17 GP, 0 G, 4 A, 4 P
Drafted: 4th round, 118th overall in 2019
Michael McLeod, F (Binghamton Devils, AHL)
2019-20 stats: 28 GP, 5 G, 11 A, 16 P
Drafted: 1st round, 12th overall in 2016
McLeod turned his play into a brief NHL call-up in December, where he recorded two assists in four games with the Devils. The Devils are committed to keeping him at center, so his next NHL opportunity hinges on a spot opening up down the middle.
Nick Merkley, F (Binghamton Devils, AHL)
2019-20 stats: 32 GP, 3 G, 15 A, 18 P (0 G, 2 A, 2 P in six games with Binghamton)
Drafted: 1st round, 30th overall in 2015
Danill Misyul, D (Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, KHL)
2019-20 stats: 19 GP, 2 G, 0 A, 2 P
Drafted: 3rd round, 70th overall in 2019
While continuing to play full-time in the KHL for the first time, the 2019 third-round pick also won a silver medal with Russia at the World Junior Championships.
Patrick Moynihan, F (Providence, NCAA)
2019-20 stats: 21 GP, 7 G, 6 A, 13 P
Drafted: 6th round, 158th overall in 2019
Nikita Okhotyuk, D (Ottawa 67′s, OHL)
2019-20 stats: 13 GP, 0 G, 7 A, 7 P
Drafted: 2nd round, 61st overall in 2019
Injuries have limited Okhotyuk to 13 games in junior hockey so far this season, but the Devils did sign him to his entry level contract in December.
Nikola Pasic, F (Bofors IK, Swe-1)
2019-20 stats: 28 GP, 7 G, 17 A, 24 P
Drafted: 7th round, 189th overall in 2019
Pasic played for Sweden at the World Junior Championships, where he posted one assist in seven games.
Nikita Popugaev, F (Adirondack Thunder, ECHL)
2019-20 stats: 28 GP, 4 G, 15 A, 19 P
Drafted: 4th round, 98th overall in 2017
Eetu Pakkila, F (Koovee, Mestis (Finland))
2019-20 stats: 18 GP, 5 G, 9 A, 14 P
Drafted: 7th round, 203rd overall in 2018
Brett Seney, F (Binghamton Devils, AHL)
2019-20 stats: 33 GP, 12 G, 11 A, 23 P
Drafted: 6th round, 157th overall in 2015
Seney cooled off a bit from his hot start to the season, but he continues to make an offensive impact in Binghamton, leading the team in goals.
Akira Schmid, G (Omaha Lancers/Sioux City Musketeers, USHL)
2019-20 stats: 6 GP, 2-2-1, 3.01 GAA, .901 save percentage
Drafted: 5th round, 136th overall in 2018
Schmid was limited to six games with Omaha due to a lower body injury earlier this season, and he was traded to Sioux City on Jan. 3. Schmid also went to the WJCs with Switzerland, though he did not appear in any games.
Nate Schnarr, F (Binghamton Devils, AHL)
2019-20 stats: 27 GP, 1 G, 11 A, 12 P (0 G, 3 A, 3 P in five games with Binghamton)
Drafted: 3rd round, 75th overall in 2017
Schnarr also joined the Devils in the trade sent Hall to Arizona, and he’s collected a few points in his first five games in Binghamton. He’s currently playing in his first pro season after finishing his junior career with a 102-point season with the Guelph Storm in the OHL in 2018-19.
Gilles Senn, G (Binghamton Devils, AHL)
2019-20 stats: 13 GP, 5-5-2, 2.95 GAA, .896 save percentage
Drafted: 5th round, 123rd overall in 2017
Yegor Sharangovich, F (Binghamton Devils, AHL)
2019-20 stats: 29 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 P
Drafted: 5th round, 141st overall in 2018
Colby Sissons, D (Adirondack Thunder, ECHL)
2019-20 stats: 32 GP, 2 G, 17 A, 19 P
Ty Smith, D (Spokane Chiefs, WHL)
2019-20 stats: 21 GP, 4 G, 13 A, 17 P
Drafted: 1st round, 17th overall in 2018
Smith hasn’t produced quite at the point-per-game pace like he did the past two seasons, but his offense has been just fine in Spokane. The biggest thing for his development is his play without the puck, so that’s what the Devils are watching from afar. He played a key leadership role for Canada en route to the WJC gold medal, where he had three assists in seven games.
Marian Studenic, F (Binghamton Devils, AHL)
2019-20 stats: 21 GP, 2 G, 4 A, 6 P
Drafted: 5th round, 143rd overall in 2017
Aarne Talvitie, F (Penn State, NCAA)
2019-20 stats: 18 GP, 5 G, 10 A, 15 P
Drafted: 6th round, 160th overall in 2017
Talvitie has stayed healthy and continues to play a big role on a ranked Penn State team. He missed the second half of last season due to a knee injury, but he’s played in every game so far in 2019-20.
Tyce Thompson, F (Providence, NCAA)
2019-20 stats: 21 GP, 15 G, 16 A, 31 P
Drafted: 4th round, 96th overall in 2019
Thompson’s terrific sophomore season at Providence has continued, where he ranks second in all of college hockey with 15 goals. He had eight goals and 25 points in 42 games as a freshman prior to being drafted in 2019.
Michael Vukojevic, D
2019-20 stats: 38 GP, 3 G, 16 A, 19 P
Drafted: 3rd round, 82nd overall in 2019
Reilly Walsh, D (Harvard, NCAA)
2019-20 stats: 14 GP, 4 G, 9 A, 13 P
Drafted: 3rd round, 81st overall in 2017
Walsh has been steadily producing points in his third season at Harvard, mirroring the production he showed as a sophomore. He will be a player to watch in the coming months, since the Devils could try to sign him to an entry level contract following his collegiate season. He could also elect to return to Harvard for his senior season in 2020-21.
Colton White, D (Binghamton Devils, AHL)
2019-20 stats: 27 GP, 0 G, 5 A, 5 P
Drafted: 4th round, 97th overall in 2015
White was briefly recalled by the Devils earlier this season, but he served as the team’s seventh defensemen and didn’t appear in any games.
Yegor Zaitsev, D (Moscow Dynamo, KHL)
2019-20 stats: 42 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 6 P
Drafted: 7th round, 205th overall in 2017
Fabian Zetterlund, F (Binghamton Devils, AHL)
2019-20 stats: 25 GP, 7 G, 4 A, 11 P
Drafted: 3rd round, 63rd overall in 2017
Zetterlund’s workload has steadily increased during his first AHL season after recovering from a knee injury during the offseason and early in the campaign. He’s now playing every game and both legs of back-to-backs, and he’s found his scoring touch a bit during his first pro season.
3.. PROSPECT REPORT: Vukojevic Developing Nicely
by Peter Robinson NJDevils / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com
It took just a few minutes during a phone conversation with Devils prospect Michael Vukojevic to show that the 18-year-old Kitchener Rangers defenseman has a balanced short- and long-term perspective.
Asked about his team’s eight-game win streak, at the time, he was quick to point out a minor detail.
“Well, it’s actually nine games,” he corrected his interviewer, before offering the wider view.
“I think we came into this year and we were considered a contender.
“Now, I think we are starting to show that. We went through a (tough stretch) when we lost 10 of 12 games but now we’ve won nine in a row so we are more the team we were (supposed) to be.
“I think we have an opportunity to do something special.”
Along the way this season, Vukojevic has been a leading contributor for the Rangers. The single biggest example was a four-assist game against the Oshawa Generals in which he was named first star in a 6-4 win. That victory over the Generals was just one of four wins that the Rangers have posted over nationally-ranked teams, including the London Knights and the defending Ontario Hockey League champion Guelph Storm (twice).
The Rangers, Guelph, and London, along with the Owen Sound Attack and Erie Otters, play in the OHL’s ultra-tough Midwest Division. A breeding ground of future pros, more than 50 graduates of those five major junior teams were on NHL teams’ opening night rosters.
But playing in the OHL wasn’t always the plan for Vukojevic. For a time, he was committed to the University of Michigan, the storied NCAA program, that in much the same way the OHL Midwest produces future pros, has a knack for churning out NHL defensemen.
Had things gone according to plan, Vukojevic may well have been the latest prized Michigan defenseman. But two years ago, while playing for the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL, he made the decision to return home and suit up for the Rangers, who had drafted him 33rd overall the previous spring.
“It was really his decision,” said Miro Vukojevic, Michael’s father.
Miro and his wife Ana are high school teachers in suburban Toronto, where they raised their three children, of which Michael is the youngest.
“He was set on Michigan but it really came down to him playing for Kitchener, who had drafted him.”
The elder Vukojevic can’t cite a magic elixir that set his youngest child down his current path. Miro Vukojevic was born in Croatia and came to Canada as a small child and has no background in hockey, save for one exception.
“I loved to collect hockey cards,” he said.
A physical, smooth-skating blueliner, Michael’s stride is as pretty as any picture on a hockey card; Miro’s youngest child also cuts a fine figure in the classroom, recently scooping up OHL academic player of the month honors. He’s currently enrolled at Wilfrid Laurier University, which is located just a few miles away from the Rangers home rink. His older brother Mathew recently graduated from that school and his sister Rebecca is also a student there.
A psychology major, Vukojevic doesn’t play any sort of mind games with what he wants to do with his immediate future.
He wants to be a pro hockey player.
His strengths are obvious. Blessed with good size, it’s the finer points of the game he needs to work on, such as puck skills and making decisions at high speed. There have been noticeable improvements so far this season with more room to go.
For now, Vukojevic wants to help the Rangers pile up wins well into 2020. If they can, Vukojevic should be able to reprise his performance from two years ago, when he played 17 post-season games as a 17-year-old OHL rookie as the Rangers made a run to the OHL’s conference finals.
Beyond this season, Vukojevic is eyeing his second Devils development camp this summer and then get on Hockey Canada’s radar again. He won a gold medal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in 2018 and was part of Team Canada’s fourth-place finish at last spring’s U18 Worlds in Sweden.
“Puck handling, the things you need to do be a good pro,” he said, when asked about areas of his game he’s working on. “This is what I want to do for a living. I don’t want to be just a good junior defenseman…there are things I need to keep working on now (in the short-term) for what helps in the long run.”
4.. PREVIEW: Devils at Rangers
by Catherine Bogart and Marc Ciampa / NewJerseyDevils.com
The Devils face off against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden tonight.
You can watch the game on MSG+ or listen on the Devils Hockey Network.
Read the game preview below and check back a few hours before the game for a full Pre-Game Report, lineup updates, videos and more.
YOUR GAME-DAY ESSENTIALS
GAME DAY VIDEO
COMING SOON – DEVILS:60 | Amanda Stein reports on the key storylines prior to tonight’s game
COMING SOON – Devils Pre-Game Interviews
COMING SOON – PRE-GAME RAW | Devils interim head coach Alain Nasreddine
BY THE NUMBERS
Stats Comparison: Devils vs. Rangers
Media Game Notes: Devils vs. Rangers
Devils Player Statistics
Rangers Player Statistics
Head-to-Head: Devils vs. Rangers
TV & RADIO
You can watch tonight’s game within the Devils region on MSG+.
You can listen to tonight’s game on the Devils Radio Network.
INSIDE THE DEVILS
Devils practice Wednesday and more news and notes from the past few days.
>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE DEVILS BLOG
NEW YORK, NY – Check back following Devils media availability two hours before the game for a full pre-game report.
— Catherine Bogart, NewJerseyDevils.com
DEVILS (15-20-7) vs. RANGERS (20-18-4)
TV: 7:00 p.m. ET; Televised on MSG+
Tonight’s game is the third of four meetings between the two teams this season.
The Devils won the first meeting of the season between these clubs back in October by a score of 5-2. The Rangers returned the favor on November 30, winning 4-0.
Matt Tennyson is the only Devil with more than one point this season against the Rangers, with two assists.
Jesper Fast leads the Rangers with two goals. Three other Rangers have two points: Mika Zibanejad, Brady Skjei and Jacob Trouba.
Devils team scope:
The Devils have picked up at least a point in five of their last seven games (4-2-1) and seven of their last 10 (5-3-2).
Over the last 10 games, three Devils have been playing at a point-per-game pace: Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri and Nikita Gusev each have 10 points. Sami Vatanen has 9 points in that time, ranked tied for sixth in the NHL in scoring among blueliners dating back to December 18.
Rangers team scope:
The Rangers have struggled a little as of late with only four wins in their last 11 games (4-6-1) and had dropped three straight before a 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.
Off-season free agent acquisition Artemi Panarin has been having an excellent season with 23 goals and 58 points. He ranks sixth in the NHL in points and ninth in goals.
Ryan Strome has been having a career season for the Rangers. After only 42 games, his 39 points is 11 away from his career high of 50 which was set when he was with the Islanders in 2014-15.
By the Numbers:
The Rangers have 44 points this season, three points ahead of their pace from last season. They also lead the NHL in penalty minutes per game with 11.9. Devils have the fifth most at 10.3.
Devils have won three straight games on the road. Rangers are 10-2-2 when leading after one period this season while Devils are 6-5-2.
Both the Devils and Rangers have collected 15 points in the standings since December 1: Devils are 6-8-3 and Rangers are 7-9-1.
Devils – Jack Hughes (upper body) is out; Jesper Bratt (lower body) is out; Mackenzie Blackwood (mouth) is probable
Rangers – Libor Hajek (knee) is day-to-day; Brendan Lemieux (hand) is out; Ryan Lindgren (upper body) is day-to-day
- BLOG: Devils Look Back on Blackwood’s Painful Save Last Night
by Marc Ciampa / NewJerseyDevils.com
After getting knocked silly by a Ryan Pulock slap shot on Tuesday night which caused some missing teeth and a bleeding mouth, Mackenzie Blackwoodmissed practice on Wednesday. He instead had a date with the dentist.
“A three hour appointment with the dentist, he had some work done,” said Devils interim head coach Alain Nasreddine. “He should be back with us (later) today.”
Nasreddine added that he hasn’t made a decision on whether to go back with Blackwood on Thursday night or to go with Louis Domingue. Domingue was recently recalled from Binghamton after playing a few games there following a stint on IR.
“My health is good,” Domingue noted. “Went down there and had two good games.”
Domingue added that he needs to be ready to play whether that be tomorrow night due to Blackwood’s condition or another game down the road, particularly with a back-to-back this weekend.
“Once you get your name called upon, you gotta be ready. So, that’s going to be my job.”
Miles Wood talked about Blackwood’s injury, noting that it reminded him of his injury last season.
“I had some flashbacks,” he said. “I remember last year, I think it was San Jose where Brent Burns stepped up and the puck just kinda chipped my first four front teeth there.
“That brought back flashbacks for sure, because I was on the ice when it happened to Blackwood. He took off his helmet and I was like, Oh, this is bad. ”
Wood added that the injury itself isn’t the worst part of it.
“The teeth getting knocked out, that’s the easy part. Being in surgery for five hours is the worst part,” he laughed.
- BLOG: Wood Reflects on Midway Point, Looks Ahead to Rangers
by Marc Ciampa / NewJerseyDevils.com
The Devils face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden for the first time this season on Thursday. Miles Wood said that it’s hard to believe that an entire half season has passed without a contest at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
“To be honest, it’s crazy fast how fast the first 42 games were,” said Wood. “Overall I’m super excited for tomorrow. you know, it’s a great place to play at. It’s one of my favorite places to play. I mean, just the history behind it, the team we’re playing against, and, the circumstances that we’re in.”
Wood added that the team needs to be mindful of the active Rangers blueline.
“Their D first and foremost,” he said when asked about what the team needs to be pay attention to. “They jump up in the play.”
He also noted that the Rangers are solid up front.
“They’re fast. The first line is pretty special over there,” he said. “Overall I think they’re a young, deep group and it’s going to be a good test for us. But we’ll for sure be up for it.”
3) TV/VIDEO LINKS –
- A sit-down with Cory Schneider – part two
by Nicole Menner, WBNG.com
- DEVILS NOW | Missing Teeth
- RAW | Nasreddine 01.08.20
4) RADIO LINKS –
- Year In Review – 2019-20 Episode 13
by New Jersey Devils Official Podcast
5) NATIONAL PRINT/WEB –
- Hischier Emerging as Devils’ Leader
BY ALEX CHAUVANCY, The Hockey Writers
A lot has changed for the New Jersey Devils over the last month. John Hynes is no longer their head coach after being fired on Dec. 3, and their best player, Taylor Hall, was traded to the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 16. There’s been a noticeable change in the Devils’ style of play since Alain Nasreddine took over as the interim coach, as they’re playing at a much faster pace.
There have been a few players who have stepped up in the wake of Hall’s departure, too. But it’s Nico Hischier who’s beginning to emerge as a star player and as one of the team’s leaders. He got off to a slow start, but his play had been coming along before Hall’s trade, and even before Hynes’ firing. After a recent stretch of stellar performances, it’s clear the 21-year-old center has become the centerpiece of a Devils’ team looking to retool for next season.
Hischier Playing His Best Hockey After Rocky Beginning
There was a lot of preseason hype around the Devils. They acquired Nikita Gusev and P.K. Subban in trades and drafted Jack Hughes first overall at the Entry Draft. But some of that hype was also due to a returning player like Hischier, who was going to play a significant role in helping the team take the next step forward. Unfortunately, he didn’t get off to a great start this season. He had just two assists in his first seven games, all of this while coming off the heels of signing a mega seven-year extension worth over $7 million annually.
But it didn’t take long for Hischier to turn things around. Since Nov. 13, he has 19 points in 23 games, which equates to a 68-point pace over 82 games. His underlying numbers may not be what we’re used to from him, as his five-on-five on-ice rates are hovering between 45-50%. With that said, his offensive production has taken a noticeable step forward.
Since Nov. 13, he’s tied with Nikita Gusev for the team lead in points. He has 55 shots on goal, and an individual expected goals (ixG) of 6.82, which is about level with the eight actual goals he’s scored. He’s also second on the team to Gusev in points per 60 minutes (points/60). But what’s most noticeable about Hischier is the way he’s creating chances. This phenomenal individual effort against the New York Islanders two nights ago would be one example.
There was some question to how Hischier would perform after Hall’s trade. The two had great chemistry together, and it’s close to impossible to replace Hall’s production overnight. But the Devils have found something that works by placing Jesper Bratt on the top line with Hischier and Kyle Palmieri.
Bratt, Hischier, and Palmieri have played just over 81 minutes together at five-on-five since Hall’s trade. And their numbers as a trio are pretty encouraging — the Devils have controlled 51.5% of the shot attempts and 59.33% of the expected goals. It’s a small sample size, but there’s no reason to break them up any time soon. Hischier’s stated he’s comfortable playing alongside Bratt, and they have positive results together since both players broke into the league in 2017 — the Devils have controlled over 53% of the expected goals with them on the ice.
For the second offseason in a row, significant changes are likely coming to the Devils’ roster. And that should be expected given their current record of 15-20-8. The Devils have a couple of notable pending unrestricted free agents (UFA) this summer, including captain Andy Greene. If he plans on playing another season, it’s hard to imagine it’s with a team other than the Devils.
But if Greene does decide to hang up the skates, that could pave the way for Hischier to be the Devils’ next captain. General manager Ray Shero wouldn’t have signed Hischier to a massive extension if he wasn’t a building block for this team. His on-ice performance was one reason to get him locked up long-term, but his budding leadership qualities are beginning to stand out as another.
Nico Hischier has taken on more of a leadership role since Taylor Hall was traded to the Arizona Coyotes
“He’s been more outspoken and you can really hear the confidence in his voice,” Wayne Simmonds said to Abbey Mastracco of northjersey.com. “The guys really listen and when you have a young leader like that on a young team, it resonates with the younger guys. They’re not listening to older guys like myself bark all the time, so to have someone in kind of your age group that has that leadership mentality, it’s a great thing for the team.”
It wasn’t long ago where it seemed like a Devils’ future built around Hischier, Hall, and Hughes was the plan. But things change in the blink of an eye in professional sports. The Devils got off to an awful start this season. And it became apparent by American Thanksgiving Hall wasn’t going to sign an extension during the season. He gets traded to the Coyotes, and so comes the end of a Devils’ era.
But there has been some good to come out of the trade. Hischier’s turning into a center whose linemates are becoming better players by playing with him. And that makes him the perfect person to help mentor and develop some of the team’s up-and-coming prospects. This is especially true given Simmonds’ comments about his voice resonating with younger players. And that seems like captain material to me, even if it doesn’t come until Greene’s time with the Devils concludes.
- 42 thoughts through 42 Devils games: How we got here and what’s on the horizon
by Corey Masisak, The Athletic
- Let’s start with final thoughts on the Devils’ coaching change. I’ve talked to a couple of other people about John Hynes since exploring the factors that led to his firing. As more time passes, it seems the rationale that the Devils needed a new voice is the popular way of viewing the decision. A few of the players have mentioned that the fresh start with Alain Nasreddine has allowed them to reset and release some of the tension the bad start engendered.
The “new voice” rationale is a little like the sports version of “it’s not you, it’s me.” The idea that coaches have a shelf life, particularly in the NHL, is always a popular theory.
- Hynes earned a reputation, from his days at the USA Hockey National Team Development Program and with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, as a demanding, detail-oriented coach. Honestly, I thought more players or people associated with the organization would point to his demanding nature — the hard practices, the fiery team talks (like the one in “Behind the Glass” last year) and the blunt evaluations — and suggest that some of his players tuned him out. That just hasn’t been the case.
- The coaching change hasn’t led to a lot of tactical changes, but the Devils looked smoother exiting their own zone. One of the big problems early in the season was the D-to-D passes, which are often the easiest to complete, particularly if the opposing team is pressing only with one forechecker. New Jersey was among the worst teams — not just this season, but in recent seasons — at completing passes between the two defensemen on the ice.
Part of that was players taking too long to make decisions and the forwards not supporting them properly to open up the right options. It would lead to a defenseman making a pass under duress that would be hard for his partner to handle.
Another big trouble area was with breakouts getting mucked up along the wall. One way the Devils (and many other teams) like to exit the defensive zone is by getting the puck to a wing along the wall and then have the center cut through the middle of the ice nearby. Too often, that part of the sequence has gone awry for the Devils — either a bad pass from a defenseman or the wing didn’t handle it cleanly — and messed up the entire operation.
Nasreddine’s time in charge presents a relatively small sample size, but at least by the eye test the Devils have improved in both of those trouble spots.
- Nasreddine’s message from the day he took over has placed an emphasis on skating. It’s not like Hynes didn’t want the same thing, but Nasreddine was able to offer a different voice and a clean slate. It’s also not just about skating fast when the puck is heading toward the offensive zone — a big part of the emphasis is about back-checking and skating hard when the Devils don’t have the puck.
One of the narratives about the Devils during the 2017-18 season was how hard they were to play against. They were fast and annoying, particularly when they didn’t have the puck. That summer Blake Coleman said other players told him, “It sucks to play the Devils.”
Putting an emphasis on skating and playing faster has to be, in part, an attempt to rekindle some of that team identity. It didn’t look like many teams thought it “sucked” to play against the Devils in the first couple months of this season.
- The Devils are creating more offense since the coaching change, with the caveats of the small sample size still very much in place. New Jersey was 27th in shot attempts per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 at the time of the coaching change and 30th in scoring chances per 60 minutes, according to Natural Stat Trick. The Devils are up to 14th in CF/60 (shot attempts) and 20th in SCF/60 (scoring chances) since Dec. 3.
They are also giving up way more at the other end. The Devils were 22nd in shot attempts allowed per 60 (CA/60) and 14th in scoring chances allowed per 60 (SCA/60) before the change. They’re 30th in both categories since the change and are yielding nearly eight more scoring chances per 60 minutes.
- The play certainly looks more exciting at times, and most hockey fans would rather watch games with more chances than fewer. Is that actually going to lead to more success? The Devils are worse in all of the percentages (CF%, SCF%, expected goals percentage (xGF%) except for goals for percentage (GF%) at 5-on-5, and that is solely because of Mackenzie Blackwood’s improved play.
Finding a way to stay aggressive on offense while limiting shots against Blackwood is going to have be a focal point in the future, either during the second half of this season or at the start of the next one.
- It’s been pretty quiet on the coaching front since Nasreddine became the interim coach. There are plenty of people in the organization who like him and saw potential as a future NHL head coach before the change, so giving him an extended chance to make a case for the job permanently seemed likely. It’s possible that could change now that Peter Laviolette is available, but Nasreddine keeping the job through the end of the season seems likely and beyond that is certainly a possibility.
- One of the themes since the changes has been that players feel more free to just play. A byproduct of changing the coach and trading the best player is the removal of expectations, to a pretty significant extent. Winning in those circumstances can also build confidence (see the 2017-18 season).
The next question is, what happens when the expectations return? That’s something the organization will have to deal with at some point in the future.
- 9. One of the few benefits from being stuck near the bottom of the standings (and making significant changes) is the perception of expectations from other teams can change, as well. The Devils went on a serious run of facing backup goalies after the Hall trade. While the Islanders essentially deploy a tandem, Semyon Varlamov has made five more starts than Thomas Greiss. So Greiss was the seventh backup the Devils have faced in the past 10 games, and they’ve now seen the No. 2 (or No. 3) goaltender in 22 of the 42 games.
- The league average for save percentage this season is at .908, which would be the lowest since 2008-09. Blackwood is at .907 for the season, but he’s at .920 in 14 games since the coaching change. He’s looked like the Devils’ best player on several occasions, and the more experience he banks at a league-average or better level, the more likely people around the league will view him as a viable starting goaltender in the NHL. It takes longer for goaltenders to earn that designation — 50 games, or even 100, can be misleading for a player at the position. Given his size and athleticism, Blackwood’s likely to have a long NHL career; consistency, both technical and mental, will determine where he settles in the league’s hierarchy.
- How many games should Blackwood play this season? He’s already appeared in 32 of the first 42, with 30 starts. The Devils have six more back-to-backs this year, but they won’t actually play Blackwood 34 more times … right? Nasreddine said they are taking a short-term focus with his playing time and don’t have a specific number in mind.
Andrei Vasilevskiy played 65 games in his age-23 season two years ago. He’s the only U-24 goalie with more than 56 since 2011, and that was Carey Price (Martin Brodeur holds the record with 77 in 1995-96). If Blackwood stays healthy and avoids a lengthy slump, it looks like he’s got a pretty good chance to reach 60 games, if not 60 starts.
The Devils want him to gain as much experience as possible without overworking him, of course. It would help if Louis Domingue or Cory Schneider could give the Devils enough confidence to not only substitute them in when Blackwood looks like he needs a break.
- Let’s say Blackwood does approach 60 games played. Will he be able to play his way into the Calder Trophy conversation? It depends on the definition of the conversation. It’s going to be nearly impossible for anyone to chase down Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes for the top two spots. The third spot, which makes someone a Calder finalist and earns them a trip to Las Vegas, could be up for grabs depending on how long Victor Olofsson is injured and how he plays upon returning.
No goaltender has finished in the top six of the Calder voting without a save percentage of .917 or better in the past 10 years. Steve Mason did win the trophy 11 years ago with a .916 save percentage. Blackwood, despite his surge over the past five weeks or so, is still just 30th in the league among qualified goalies. He’ll likely need to creep into the .915 range and get closer to the top 10 before he’s a serious threat to finish third. Still, playing a lot and having a league-average save percentage could get him comfortably inside the top 10.
- Nico Hischier has five goals and 10 points in the 10 games since Hall was traded. He had five goals and 16 points in 27 games before the trade. While he did look like the best player on the ice Tuesday night against the Islanders, all of his underlying numbers are down since the trade — shot attempts, shots, scoring chances, expected goals. The team is shooting nearly 12 percent when he’s on the ice at 5-on-5 and the team’s save percentage is way up.
- Expect those comparisons to continue through the season: Is Player X better or worse since Hall left? Is Player Y better or worse since the coaching change? There’s going to be a lot of noise in any such evaluation or declaration. There are some players on the team who were just going to play better because they are better players than what they showed earlier in the season, regardless of who the coach is or who is playing next to them. Hischier, in particular, was a great player before Hall and Hynes left, and he probably will be one for a long time.
- When the Devils drafted Jack Hughes with the No. 1 pick and became one of the big “winners” in the offseason, the prevailing theory was that Hughes wouldn’t have to deal with the same level of adversity and tumult that others drafted that high typically encounter. Well, it turns out he has — coach fired, losses mounting, etc. It’s certainly been a new experience for him.
- The Devils have moved Pavel Zacha back and forth between center and the wing a lot this season after playing him almost exclusively at center before that. He didn’t nail down the No. 2 center spot in either of the past two seasons and, now with Hischier and Hughes around, he doesn’t need to. Still, is he the team’s No. 3 center of the future, a second- or third-line wing or a candidate to be traded? That’s something for the Devils to figure out, but not necessarily this season.
Zacha’s best underlying numbers have come playing with Hischier, and they’re pretty good next to Hughes, too. But the production hasn’t been there. Hynes was intrigued by the idea of Zacha playing next to Hughes before the season and tried it out a little. Where Zacha plays the rest of the year will be something to monitor.
- The best development for the Devils since the season began is how well the line of Blake Coleman, Travis Zajac and Nikita Gusev have played together. Putting Gusev with the team’s two best defensive forwards has helped him unlock his offensive capabilities, and both of those players have enough offensive skill to complement him, as well.
- If the Devils do want to tinker later in the season or in the future, Hischier is probably a better fit next to Gusev than Hughes for the same reasons that he and Zajac work. If Gusev stays with the Devils beyond this contract, he could end up on a second line with Hischier, assuming Hughes ascends to No. 1 center status.
- P.K. Subban’s underlying numbers were not that bad in the first 30 or so games. His salary and the expectation that he would be a clear upgrade as the team’s No. 1 defenseman were working against him early on and he ran into plenty of bad luck on the offensive end. Five points in the past nine games has helped the traditional numbers look a little better. Nasreddine said Subban tried to simplify things after the bad start, and he probably went too simple. Now he’s found more of a balance and is shooting the puck more, which has helped his overall game. He’s probably not going to get back to No. 1 defenseman-type production, and paying $9 million for a solid second-pairing guy is not ideal, but the Devils will be happy with that for now.
- Sami Vatanen continues to produce like a top-pairing defenseman. His 22 points places him inside the top 40 at the position. He’s made a strong case to be the top rental defenseman on the trade market. Given that there has been little movement on a potential contract, and given that the Devils still need more young talent, taking advantage of Vatanen’s potentially robust market seems like an easy decision.
He is featured prominently on Craig Custance’s first NHL Trade Board of the season.
- Wayne Simmonds and Andy Greene have different circumstances and the decision to trade or keep them might not be that simple. On the one hand, the Devils need to keep building and replacing the second- and third-round picks they don’t currently have in the 2020 draft (or adding prospects of similar value) should be a top priority. On the other, both Simmonds and Greene are valued veteran leaders for a club that has lost many in the past few seasons.
The Devils won’t likely want either player back next season on such large contracts, but both could be intriguing on lesser deals. Acquiring talent and maximizing value would mean trading both and worrying about the future (such as signing one or both of them in the offseason) later.
- The Devils ate half of Hall’s salary in the trade with the Coyotes. They should absolutely try to do the same with two more trades (the limit for retaining money is three contracts at one time), and doing it with two of the pending UFAs would allow them to reset and retain money again in the offseason, if needed. Adding Vatanen, Simmonds or Greene for less than $3 million in cap space could expand their group of suitors and increase the return.
- On a related topic, the Devils should try to bring back Greene next season if he wants to keep playing. It doesn’t have to be with a contract extension now. It could be after he joins a contender for a playoff run. And not because he’ll likely play his 1,000th game next year — he can still be a valuable player as a third-pairing defenseman and an anchor on the penalty kill.
- If the Devils do trade Greene before the deadline, the possibility of him returning next year could delay a decision on who the next captain is. And if he does return, it would give the club another year before needing to make what could be a tricky decision. At this point, the obvious candidates are Hischier and Kyle Palmieri, who has one year left on his contract. Hughes could also be part of that discussion. Being able to wait one more year to see if he is going to be a captain-type in the NHL, or if Palmieri is going to around beyond next season, could make the decision a bit easier.
- Fabian Zetterlund has the highest upside of any prospect currently in the system … I think. There isn’t a forward, and that includes the young players on the NHL roster, under the age of 25 who is a lock to be a top-six guy on a Cup contender beyond Hughes and Hischier in the organization right now. Bratt has the best odds, but among the guys in the pipeline, it’s Zetterlund because of his shot, size and his (pre-knee injury, at least) skating ability. He needs more time to recover from the injury and adjust to the North American game before we have a better understanding of his NHL ceiling.
- One benefit of a trade or two involving a forward on the NHL roster should be an increased role for Zetterlund in Binghamton. Right now, he’s mostly playing on the fourth line and second power-play unit while the organization manages his minutes/games played after the injury. Some of the older prospects getting promoted could help him log some PP1 time later in the season. He has seven goals in 25 games. If he gets to 18-20 in about 60 games, that would be a huge success given his role and the injury.
- Michael McLeod looks like a contender for most improved prospect in the system (an honor that either went to his buddy Nathan Bastian or Blackwood last year). He played much better in his brief stint with the Devils, and has been more consistent for the B-Devils.
- McLeod still profiles as a fourth-line center in the NHL. Given where he was drafted, that will initially be held against him. He has made strides from the past two seasons, when there were times where he didn’t look like a future NHL regular. Given the way he plays, just a little more growth on the offensive side of the puck could lead to a long NHL career. Once a player gets to 500 or 600 NHL games, that number becomes more important than draft position.
- Joey Anderson has been productive for Binghamton, but probably needs 20-25 games with New Jersey to see what kind of progress he’s made. Like McLeod, he’s got to find a way to have more impact at the offensive end when he plays in the NHL. There are other players coming behind him with similar NHL potential, so the sooner the better for his next chance with the big club.
- The Athletic’s Corey Pronman named Ty Smith as one of the disappointmentsat the world junior championship. He did win a gold medal with Canada, but he and fellow returnee Jared McIsaac did not have the impact Pronman was expecting. The start to Smith’s Spokane season has also been a little disappointing.
This is the time for Smith to make his move for next season, though. Don’t be surprised if he returns from the WJC with a boost from winning gold and returns to being one of the most dominant defensemen in the WHL.
- This could change in a few months, but my best guess at this point is that either Aarne Talvitie or Tyce Thompson signs with the Devils and skips his final two seasons in college, but not both.
- Akira Schmid is getting (another) fresh start with Sioux City in the USHL. Expect him to play a lot in the second half of the season. All signs point to him signing with the Devils and playing for Adirondack or Binghamton next year.
- Don’t expect the Devils to be in the Braden Holtby or Jacob Markstrom sweepstakes this offseason. Blackwood has played well enough to this point to have earned at least a 1B in a tandem situation. New Jersey won’t likely be desperate enough to want to sign a goalie to an expensive, long-term contract to pair with him.
- If Schneider doesn’t return to the Devils and put together a string of effective starts by the end of the year, a buyout this summer seems likely. It would cost the Devils $2 million per year for the next four seasons and they would likely look for a veteran goalie on a short-term contract to pair with Blackwood and give him another season or two with some help before deciding the long-term future at the position.
- The top 10 prospects list is in flux right now, partly because there could be another addition or two between now and the end of the season — and also because it’s a muddled group after Smith. He’s clearly No. 1, but any one of 4-5 prospects could end up at No. 2 by the end of the year.
Here are the players in contention for a top-10 spot:
Forwards: Zetterlund, Thompson, Talvitie, Nick Merkley, Graeme Clarke (McLeod should graduate)
Defensemen: Daniil Misyul, Kevin Bahl, Reilly Walsh, Nikita Okhotyuk
Goaltender: Schmid, Giles Senn
- The Devils are actually thinner at forward than defense and goaltender in the pipeline now, at least when it comes to potential impact players. If the Devils pick first, second, third or fourth, they’ll likely go with a forward (No. 5 could be where goaltender Yarsoslav Askarov and defenseman Jamie Drysdale are in play). Even if that first pick in June is Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield, Alexander Holtz or Lucas Raymond, the Devils could use another forward or two in the first few rounds with legitimate top-six potential.
- Goal of the season?
It’s going to be tough for anyone to beat Blake Coleman’s one-handed effort on opening night.
The emergency dental work that he had just moments before scoring that goal only add to the legend. That said, the prettiest goal of Jack Hughes’ NHL career to date is a fine contender for the No. 2 spot.
Also, an honorable mention to Mikhail Maltsev’s beauty in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden:
- Moment of the season?
The first Hughes vs. Hughes battle in the NHL. Jack and Quinn had several dozen family members at Prudential Center, and many of them were wearing custom T-shirts with both players’ numbers and team logos on them.
And Jack scored his first NHL goal, the only tally in a 1-0 win for the Devils.
Playing against his brother Quinn, Jack Hughes scored his first NHL goal.
What a moment.
- Performance of the season?
Let’s call this one a three-way tie, all on the same night. Coleman had the Devils’ only four-point game of the season, Gusev had a breakout game with three primary assists and Blackwood set a career-high with 44 saves in a 6-4 win at Montreal on Thanksgiving night.
- Here are some of my favorite Devils stories from this season:
How NHL players navigate the real estate market in the New York City metro area
What’s that chirping going on in the Devils’ locker room? It’s the team’s fantasy football league
‘You work hard, good things happen’: Travis Zajac embodies everything he loves about his hometown
‘That’s where Taylor became Taylor’: The backyard rink and the Calgary stairs that forged a future MVP
Helicopters, seaplanes and cycling down a volcano: How the Devils spent their summer vacations
The reasons — both spoken and unspoken — that led to John Hynes’ downfall
- Thank you to everyone who has read the stories, participated in the live Q&As and, most of all, subscribed to help keep our vision alive. It’s been a frustrating, trying season for Devils fans, especially after all of the preseason hype, but there should be plenty of storylines to monitor the rest of the way and there are some I’m really excited about coming later this month (and beyond).
- 42. One last thought: How quickly the Devils can become a consistent playoff contender and compete for a fourth championship hinges on many different factors. One of the most intriguing to me is the group of young players on the roster right now that aren’t Hughes and Hischier.
Everyone is confident Hughes can be a star player in this league, and Hischier is already there (at least in terms of actual value, if not unquantifiable “star power”). The 2020 first-round pick will be critical, but how players like Bratt, Boqvist, Zacha, Butcher and Severson develop over the next season or two is equally as important.
The Oilers, Sabres and Panthers are all franchises that had many high picks and couldn’t turn them into consistent success. The biggest reason was not (always) the high picks, but the other young prospects not growing into supporting core player roles. New Jersey needs players like Severson and Butcher to take one more step forward, even if it’s a small one, and the Devils need to figure out if Bratt, Zacha and Boqvist can be more than role players on a contending team.
This franchise has a lot of work to do before it is back among the ones that can dream of playing deep into May and even June.