As the New Jersey Devils' pre-season training camp starts up there is a lot of internal competition for ice time this season. This will be one of the most important seasons for a lot of 1-year deal players going into New Jersey Devils preseason games to see who will end up staying in The Garden State.
Most people will think it’ll be the same New Jersey Devils' system of defense. Not exactly, on the other hand of the equation GM, Tom Fitzgerald made an important hire. His name is Ryan McGill. McGill was a key cog in leading the Las Vegas Golden Knights to having 4 of 5 of their seasons into the playoffs. Former defensive coach Alain Nasreddine wasn’t renewed after the season's end.
The Devils have a lot of defensive prospects over in North America now that can make the jumps, minus the KHL overseas where Shakir Mukhamadullin is on loan with Salavat Yulaev. The North American players I’m talking about are Reilly Walsh, Michael Vukojevic, Kevin Bahl, and Nikita Okhotiuk who should be fighting for the last few spots out of camp. Luke Hughes the phenomenal agile, and swift defenseman will play out his year with the Michigan Wolverines in the NCAA D1 ranks as an alternative captain.
Simon Nemec however doesn’t need to make it out of training camp to be a stud. This breed of right defenseman can take his time a bit in Utica and get acclimated into playing with Utica before making the big jump
Typically if you don’t make it out of camp doesn’t mean if someone doesn‘t perform or doesn’t feel well doesn’t mean some young man can take that player's spot. A great example last season in net was Nico Daws proving he could win 10 games and dominate at times in net. His track record has proven he can not just be a 3rd option in net, but being utilized down the road when he’s ready to fight Vitek Vanecek and Blackwood for ice time Later this season.
Guys like Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Yegor Sharangovich, and Dawson Mercer come to mind but you never know if a guy likes Ondrej Palat. Palat will be a leader on and off the ice teaching guys like Miles Wood, Nathan Bastian, and maybe Fabian Zetterlund how to score clutch goals, and create bedlam in the dirty ends of the crease, and slot.
With that kind of offense being around, this is where snipers like Sharangovich and Alexander Holtz can make their mark. If Holtz comes onto the scene with Sergei Brylin coaching him, and coach Andrew Brunette with Lindy Ruff I see these guys having career years with Jesper Bratt in a prove-it contract year. Bratt is gonna perform and become an All-Star winger and possibly the new Swedish phenom of the 2020s.
The New Jersey staff has a Jack Adams finalist in Andrew Brunette who helped the Florida Panthers to go on and have a big year in winning the regular season. Can Brunette help light a fire under head coach Lindy Ruff so he can make the right advised decisions come game time? Maybe so, but as I mentioned earlier about McGill having success in Las Vegas with their defense,
it’ll improve the goalie situation more frequently and become a lot less faulty. Dave Rogalski is responsible for handling Vitek Vanecek and Mackenzie Blackwood this season in net. If both goalies go on to have career highs, this Devils team can jump into the top 4 of the Metropolitan and jump to an 8-5 playoff seeding.
This offseason is not like any other with the moves like moving on from Pavel Zacha for Erik Haula via trade this will help add more veteran leadership voices in the locker room.