It’s been a season of many successes so far for the New Jersey Devils. A couple of Ray Shero acquisitions combined with an injection of young blood has thrust the team into the midst of the Metropolitan Division playoff race. While we sit at the midpoint of the team’s season (and in the boring, Devils Hockey-less bye week), I thought it would be fun to give each Devil a quick report card grade with comments as to how they’ve done so far.
Brian Boyle: A
Being 7th on the team with 17 points in 31 games while winning 50% of his draws is impressive enough; doing so while going through treatment for leukemia makes his effort almost Herculean. Boyle has been effective for the Devils and worth every penny they spent on him this summer.
Jesper Bratt: A-
One of the talented youngsters infused into the lineup this year, Bratt finds himself tied for 2nd on the team alongside his line’s center in points with 26. He has been a bit streaky with his contributing and I would like to see him put up points with more consistency in the 2nd half.
Blake Coleman: B+
Coleman is another player who has burst onto the scene in a big way this year, at least in terms of intangibles. I personally believe with a bit more luck, he would have more than 11 points, but his defensive prowess and penalty killing abilities have aided the team greatly.
Brian Gibbons: A
As far as I’m concerned, Gibbons could go without a point for the remainder of the season, and still be considered a success story. With 22 points in 41 games played in a bottom 6 role. Gibby is one of the major reasons that the Devils are performing as well as they are.
Taylor Hall: A+
Hall is the Devils lone All-Star Game representative and leads the team in scoring (by a wide margin) with 42 points in 39 games. His totals would be even higher if not for having a point or two unfairly taken away on overturned goals. He gives his best effort on a nightly basis; what more can you ask for from your team’s star?
Jimmy Hayes: D+
The Devils signed Hayes after a good training camp showing, but he hasn’t shown that much since. In 23 appearances, Hayes has tallied 9 points, while being slow and not a spectacular defender. He could find himself on waivers at some point if the Devils have to activate or call someone up.
Nico Hischier: A-
The team’s first ever first overall pick has made an NHL impact much sooner than expected; with 26 points (again, should be more if goals were not overturned) in 41 games, Nico is on pace for a very respectable rookie season as a (just turned) 19 year old.
Marcus Johansson: C
Johansson has put up a decent 11 points in 23 games after seeing much of his first half derailed by injuries. I would like to see him remain healthy in the second half and contribute a bit more offensively.
Stefan Noesen: B-
For a player who is expected to be in the bottom 6 and has been yo-yoed in and out of the lineup unfairly, I think that 12 points in 33 games is a good total for Noesen at the midway point. He is not a liability on the ice, and I wonder why there aren’t other underachievers that get yanked out of the lineup before he does at times.
Kyle Palmieri: B
Palms has missed a chunk of games due to injury, but has still put up 6 goals and 14 points in 22 games. His shooting percentage is also pretty low right now; when (if?) that equalizes, the points will start piling up for him as they have in the past.
Drew Stafford: D
While Stafford started the season off well, he has no points in his last 16 appearances, and if he’s not scoring he’s not contributing much else. He has been relegated to being a regular healthy scratch as a result.
Miles Wood: B-
Wood has already eclipsed his 8 goals and 17 points from last year at the halfway point of this season. He continues to pester other teams and use his speed to his advantage while still appearing to search for that next gear in his overall game.
Pavel Zacha: D+
Disappointing would be the best word to describe Pavel Zacha’s season so far; after an impressive preseason, Zacha has only totaled 11 points through 34 games. The Devils need more from a former high first round pick; thankfully, Zacha is still young enough that he has enough time to put it all together.
Travis Zajac: C-
Zajac has had a rough go of it this year; he missed training camp and the start of the season due to injury. He looked awful in his first few games, but has slowly been reverting to having defensive performances of old while contributing some more points as well. Hopefully, this is just a case of a slow start due to injury and Travis continues to contribute in the 2nd half.
Will Butcher: B+
Butcher has been a revelation on the blue line, providing a number of good passing plays that have helped to spark New Jersey’s offense. He has been somewhat limited on the defensive side of the puck, though hopefully he will improve with more experience.
Andy Greene: C
Captain Greene seems to have lost a step this season; he has made some bad plays and other missteps this season while not contributing much in the offensive end. The concern of regression for Andy is real.
Ben Lovejoy: C-
In his limited appearances, Lovejoy hasn’t been all that bad this season, but he also hasn’t done anything to make me say, “Wow, this team needs more Ben Lovejoy!” He’s been a healthy scratch most of the season and rightfully so with the team having better options on the back end.
John Moore: B-
Moore has been decent for the Devils this season, and finds himself with 6 each of goals and assists for 12 points. I still have issues with his defensive play and positioning, and at 27 years old, he is essentially what he is at this point; better defensive play would have earned him a higher rating.
Mirco Mueller: INC
Mueller only had the chance to play 13 games with the team before going down with a collarbone injury. With the team still shaping itself up until that point, I don’t think Mueller can be fairly assessed just yet.
Steven Santini: C+
Santini has been tasked with playing some tough minutes for the Devils team this season, and he has done an alright job of it. There are times where he hasn’t been particularly effective in his own end, though the potential to improve still exists given how young he is.
Damon Severson: B
Despite his healthy scratches this season, I still think Severson has been one of, if not the best defender on the team. He makes the occasional mistake, but what player doesn’t? Sevs contributes, moves the puck up ice, and facilitates the team; there’s no reason he should ever be out of the lineup unless he’s hurt.
Sami Vatanen: B
Since coming over from Anaheim, Vatanen has spent a lot of time on the ice for New Jersey. In 17 games he’s got 1 goal and 6 points; not exactly eye-popping numbers, but he’s been looking better (Dallas game aside) after his initial adjustment period. I expect a big second half from Vatanen.
Keith Kinkaid: C-
Kinkaid has been a mess this season with a save percentage of .896 through 11 appearances. The Devils will need better, more consistent play from their backup in the second half should they be serious about a playoff push.
Cory Schneider: A-
Schneider has returned to form this year, posting a save percentage of .918 so far this season. Has he been perfect? No, but he continues to give the Devils a fighting chance to win when he is in net.
Now as always, this is all just one writer’s suggestions/opinions, and I would like to hear your thoughts on how the Devils have performed so far this season? Which grades would you assign to the players? Any of my assessments that you agree or disagree with? Leave any and all comments below and thanks for reading!