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Nick Lappin and the Fight for 4th Line Right

The Devils will have at least one roster spot needing to be filled for this season and the early favorite could be Nick Lappin.

NHL: Preseason-New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils
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Training camp the preseason are in their infancy for the 2018-19 season right now, but at least one New Jersey Devils player has already made an attempt to make his mark and earn an NHL roster spot. No, it’s not John Quenneville, Michael McLeod or Ty Smith (though they all did play very well on Monday night) but Nick Lappin who seems thirsty for more than a cup of coffee at the NHL level this season.

Lappin is no stranger to the organization as Devils fans know; he signed with New Jersey as an undrafted free agent after finishing his collegiate career at Brown University. He would debut with the then Albany Devils in March of the 2015-16 season before spending a large part of the 2016-17 season with New Jersey. Lappin did not stick however; his initial 35 games from the end of October until early January saw him contribute 4 goals and 3 assists in that time span. He would be sent back to the AHL only to return to New Jersey for 8 more games in March of 2017, though he would be held scoreless this time.

Last season would probably be considered a disappointment to Lappin, as due to improved depth (or at least the illusion of it at right wing) he would only see 6 games of NHL action where he would post a total of 1 goal. His time in Binghamton, however, would have to be considered a success. Lappin would score 31 goals in 65 games for what was a fairly disappointing team where he (and the few others who contributed on a regular basis) did not receive much help from the supporting cast. That total is reason to believe Lappin could help Jersey’s Team on a more regular basis.

Using the current NHL equivalency (0.47) for the AHL, dividing Lappin’s goals scored (31) by games played (65) and then multiplied over a full season (using the AHL season total of 80) and multiplied again by the NHLe gives a projected 18 goals in a season at the NHL level. That total would be higher than what Jimmy Hayes and Drew Stafford combined put up last season.

Now it’s technically true that Lappin may already have hit his peak as a player as he is 25, and will turn 26 this season, but all indications seem to point to him being more likely to contribute than both prospects (at least for now) and the aforementioned Stafford. His change in number (from 36 to 15) also makes it seem as though he and possibly the team are prepared to have him in the NHL this year; that could be a red herring, but with the Devils a number change has usually signified a player being main roster ready.

If Monday’s action was any indication, then Lappin definitely has the inside track on his competition; Stafford looked awful against the Montreal Canadiens, and honestly should probably not see another NHL deal at this point in his career. Quenneville looked good as well, but he’s a lefty, and probably better suited to play center or left wing, which the Devils may or may not have an opening at depending on how Miles Wood’s contract negotiations go. At this point, Michael McLeod is Lappin’s biggest competition, and McLeod being a center, and as such more versatile in terms of lineup positioning, could be a more attractive option. Time and more preseason games will certainly tell who makes the roster, but after his two goal performance against Our Hated Rivals, Lappin could be in the lead.

What are your thoughts on the seemingly open right wing spot in the Devils lineup? Do you think it’s Lappin with the edge or another player? Do you think Nick Lappin can contribute in a limited role, or does he need a top 6 role to be effective? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!