Devils 2022/2023 Forward Lineup Projections

With training coming up very quickly, I felt that it was as good of a time as any to take a look at what the lines could potentially be for the New Jersey Devils for the 2022/2023 season. There will be a good amount of new players on this team, from free agents as well as trades to bring someone in, to rookies looking to get their first cracks in the NHL. The Devils have a good problem in a sense due to the depth the organization has throughout (nod to Tom Fitzgerald). Below, I will give you my line combination predictions for this team. I will also explain why I have them this way.

This is one of three projections for the roster I will do. First up, is the forward group:

Line #1: Yegor Sharangovich (LW) - Jack Hughes (C) - Jesper Bratt (RW)

I personally think these could be the most complementary line mates to Jack Hughes that he has had since he came to New Jersey. While Hughes can score in bunches, his passing ability is unreal. How he's able to find and set up people for goals is so hard for defenses to stop. Sharangovich and especially Bratt are scoring-first wingers who bring just as much speed as well as quickness that Jack brings. Having the best passer on your team dishing the puck to two guys on his wings that have a nose for the goal is the best combination you can get.

Line #2: Ondrej Palat (LW) - Nico Hischier (C) - Alexander Holtz (RW)

Now, I know that this line could potentially be controversial to some. I also recognize that this is with the assumption that Alexander Holtz makes the team out of training camp. When you look at this line, it is similar to the 1st line in the sense of putting two scoring wingers with a really good passer. Just like Hughes, Nico Hischier is more of a pass-first player as well as being very good at maintaining puck possession. He has good instincts to lead guys into the right position to score while also adding some scoring himself.

Ondrej Palat is not 100% a goal-first guy, but he isn't afraid at all to carry the load when need be. Palat, a decorated veteran, also playing on a line with the Devils' captain allows Nico to learn from him both on and off the ice what it takes to be more of a leader. With the championship experience as well as the ability to still play at a high level, Palat can be a very valuable piece to the Top six. He can bring a different dynamic, with a mix of everything you need in a winger that the Devils have been missing.

As far as Holtz is concerned, this has to be the year to make the team. It would make no sense and be a waste of time for all parties involved if Holtz played on the bottom six. He needs to take his game to another level and become the player we all expect him to be. Holtz needs to show why he feels he can be a guy like Alexander Ovechkin or David Pastrňák. Putting him on a line with Nico and a heralded vet like Palat will get his confidence up and help him mature even more.

Line #3: Jesper Boqvist (LW) - Dawson Mercer (C) - Fabian Zetterlund (RW)

I understand that this may seem like a slap in the face to Dawson Mercer after having a good rookie year playing in the top six. However, I think it would be better for him long term to play his natural position of center. I also think that playing on a third line with two young, fast-paced, and scrappy players creates a really different matchup for defenses to try to figure out. Now, Boqvist and Zetterlund have much to prove this upcoming season.

For Jesper Boqvist, it has been quite the journey for him since he was drafted 36th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. For his first two seasons of professional hockey, Boqvist struggled to find his footing. He would be productive in the minors, but when he got called up to the Devils, he never seemed to fit in well. Even for his first call-up this last season, #70 seemed lost in the shuffle. Then things changed completely for him when he was called up in November. He finally found a role on the team and began to have some success for the first time in his career as a Devil. While he played center mostly last year, I think he can benefit from going back on the wing and playing with a strong, speedy center in Mercer.

Fabian Zetterlund really showed us a lot in his short stint with the team. He brings energy, passion, confidence, and aggressiveness and he plays with an edge. He also just adds even more speed to a very fast forward core. The Devils need to add more grit and physicality to the team and Zetterlund brings that and more.. He brings a different style to the line than Mercer and Boqvist, making this line one that has so many possibilities when it comes to a third line. They can be a scoring line, a checking line, or even an energy line. There are endless opportunities.

Line #4: Miles Wood (LW) - Erik Haula (C) - Nate Bastian (RW)

This is definitely going to be the "bruiser" line for this New Jersey squad. Miles Wood and Nate Bastian's biggest traits are their physical presence. Neither are afraid to go into those corner boards and line someone up for a big hit. They also don't mind dropping the gloves. I really like the fact that they can create a big presence in front of the net. Wood's speed along with Erik Haula's creates mismatches for the other team's fourth lines.

Haula had a pretty good season with the Boston Bruins last year. He put up more goals (18), assists (26), and points (44) in 21/22 than he had in each of the past 4 years. Now, there is the factor of the guys he was playing with (Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Taylor Hall, and David Pastrňák). There also is the factor that Haula hasn't played for a team for more than one season since 2018/2019. However, Haula is a veteran guy who has played with players of all styles. He understands his role and does it well. He's another good voice in the locker room. He and Wood complete a forward group loaded in quickness and create a common trait throughout it.

Next week, we will focus on the Devils' strongest unit, its defence.

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