Look for Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt to have a breakout year offensively like Pavel Zacha did last season. Tomas Tatar has something to prove and will likely prove his worth in big minutes. Yegor Sharangovich will also keep sniping and scoring.
How will Dawson Mercer help the Devils in his rookie season? After a witnessing a promising preseason, he will undoubtedly bring that “can do” attitude and change the dynamics of the team.
All focus is on Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Graves. They will play big minutes and be expected to lead this revamped blue line. The Devils will likely start the season without Damon Severson and Ty Smith, who played big minutes last season. Key player to watch is P.K. Subban. He is in a contract year and without the pressures of a first pairing defenseman. Will he be a prized right handed defenseman on trade deadline day or an asset for the Devils down the stretch?
Goaltenders: Blackwood, Wedgewood, Bernier
Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier will start majority of the games in beginning of the season at the Rock. Goaltending was an issue last season but hopefully this is a thing of the past. There is something special about Blackwood and he is a tough kid. The Devils need him now more than ever to lead this team and make big saves in key minutes like he did against the Boston Bruins with that ridiculous game winning glove save in the final minute of the game. He has the ability to steal games. However, Mack Black’s vaccination status may become a team issue at anytime. And Jonathan Bernier and possibly Scott Wedgewood will be asked to step up if it does.
Injured Reserve: Thompson, Smith, Severson, Wood
Prediction: The Devils will be fighting to make the playoffs in a tough division. There will be exciting moments throughout the season.
I think the Devils will be in the playoff hunt for that last spot in the end of April. If the Devils penalty kill improves significantly, we most likely see playoff hockey at the Rock. If not, they will fall short.
I predict it will go down to the wire and the Devils clinch after beating the Detroit Red Wings at the Rock on April 29th.
Opening Night For A Pregame and Post Game Live Podcast: I'll be at Taj Lounge 973 (formerly known as P.J. Ryan's and Brick City Grill) for Let's Go Devils Game Day Live! and Post Game Live! It is across the street from the Prudential Center on 35 Edison Place. Come by and say hello!
Sam Woo is co-host and executive producer of the Let's Go Devils Podcast which can be heard live every Sunday at 9pm ET and Wednesday at 8:30pm ET.