2017-18 will feel like a fresh start in many ways for our New Jersey Devils; the team had a 1st overall pick for the first time since they’ve moved to Jersey, and the hope is that Nico Hischier can play an important role right away to aid the Devils in restoring their former glory. Additionally, a number of common names (Michael Cammalleri, Devante Smith-Pelly, Jon Merrill, and Jacob Josefson) from the past couple of seasons are no longer with the team. Youth is the future for the Devils, with only 5 players over the age of 30 now, with the elder being 34 year old Captain Andy Greene.
With all of the roster moves throughout the offseason, and after reading reports about how players performed at the team’s 2017 Developmental Camp, I decided to try and piece together and early idea of what I think the Devils’ roster will look like when they open the 2017-18 season. Without further ado:
Taylor Hall - Travis Zajac - Kyle Palmieri
Adam Henrique - Nico Hischier - Marcus Johansson
John Quenneville - Pavel Zacha - Michael McLeod
Joseph Blandisi - Brian Boyle - Stefan Noesen
Miles Wood - Blake Speers
I don’t think I have too many surprises in this section, although maybe the surprises are just where I have players slotted in. The Devils have a wealth of options who can play center, but one of their weak links is a lack of right shooting forwards (from the above list only Zajac, Palmieri, McLeod, Noesen and Speers are righties) so I had to get creative. Ray Shero stated he says MoJo/MarJo as a C or LW, but we have a glut of talent on the left side, so in my lineup he slots to the right. Pairing him with Hischier and Henrique should not only help Nico get adjusted to the NHL, but should also help Rico, as Johansson is more of a playmaker and we all know Adam can pot some goals.
McLeod is on my roster almost out of necessity, but I think he’s got the talent to gel with other youth movement members Zacha and Quenneville. I like Blender better as a pest than Wood, though I think having them both on the roster will help with matching up against speedier teams; perhaps Noesen or Boyle get scratched for those games. Speers gives the team another speedy, talented youngster to rotate in who now has another year of experience under his belt. Last year’s top line remains together for now, but can be split once the team sees how the other players produce.
Andy Greene - Damon Severson
John Moore - Steve Santini
Mirco Mueller - Yaroslav Dyblenko
I guess this is the section where I technically make a bold prediction for opening night; the Devils defense is the other weak link of their lineup. In a perfect world, Moore would be on the third pairing because at least he brings offense, and Lovejoy wouldn’t be on the team because he is declining and doesn’t bring much of anything anymore. The top 4 I have listed are essentially locks to play in my opinion, but I’m sure Devils management will have The Reverend in the lineup over one of the guys I have listed on the right.
Mueller will make the roster in my opinion simply because the team wouldn’t have traded two draft picks for him if they didn’t see him making the big club. Dyblenko is my dark horse/bold prediction to be on the main roster at the start of the season. From what I’ve read, he looked very good at the team’s developmental camp; one of he or Mueller would be playing their off side with this roster, but again, I’d rather see some youth out on the ice growing their game instead of Ben Lovejoy screening Cory Schneider and helping the other team score.
I don’t think anyone will be surprised here at all; MacKenzie Blackwood and Ken Appleby are both in the system, but neither is ready for NHL action just yet. Scott Wedgewood is a huge question mark with his injury concerns over the past couple seasons, so unless he has a stellar camp and Kinkaid falters, I just don’t see him winning the backup job. Either way, just as they did last season, the Devils will have to expose Kink or Wedge to waivers, though I don’t see either being claimed.
As we usually do here, I’d like to open up the floor to you our fans in the comments section; what are your thoughts on my projected roster? any players you would include that I did not? Who would you remove from my roster to fit them in? Feel free to post your rosters and/or thoughts below and thank you as always for reading!