The New Jersey Devils are in a fortunate position going into this season, as they have had an influx of talented players added during the summer that should help the team improve in more ways than one. The high-end scoring could improve, as could the depth scoring; the defense also should see improvement. With better personnel available, another area that could see improvement is the team’s power play units.
The man advantage wasn’t fantastic last year, but the injuries that befell the team didn’t exactly aid the number of goals scored. This season even if a few injuries do hit the team, there should be enough NHL level talent to step up and fill the gaps. So who could we be seeing on the power play and who should we be seeing? Let’s take a look today.
Nico Hischier, Taylor Hall, Jesper Bratt, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac, Blake Coleman, Pavel Zacha, Miles Wood, Jack Hughes, Wayne Simmonds, Nikita Gusev, Jesper Boqvist*.
Will Butcher, Damon Severson, Sami Vatanen, P.K. Subban, Ty Smith*
*= If player makes the team
I elected to not include players with more limited offensive skill sets, such as Andy Greene, and MIrco Mueller; even with exclusions, there’s still 12 forwards who could find themselves receiving power play time and only 10 spots! So who should be receiving the most minutes in these situations? Let’s start with the incumbents who haven’t been upgraded upon:
Returning to the Power Play
Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri
Arguably the team’s top two goal scorers; if you remove either one, the scoring is bound to drop or, at the very least, be less consistent. This pair is 100% safe.
Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier
Despite Nico not being used very often until injuries occured, he and Bratt should both be fixtures this season. Even with more players coming in, both of these guys have enough offensive flare to merit consistent spots.
The back end power play specialist, Butcher is arguably the best puck mover on the team, aside from Hall. He should be running one of the units, though his spot on the top unit might be usurped.
I think these are the only five spots that are truly “safe” (meaning all but a guarantee) to receive consistent man advantage time going from last year’s roster to this year’s.
Gusev has been an assist machine throughout his KHL career; judging by highlight videos that showcase his puck-moving ability, he should have no problem fitting in. I would pair him with Bratt or Hall to have each on their off hand side for one timers.
Subban has run power play units wherever he has gone throughout his NHL career, and his cannon from the point can be put to good use in New Jersey. I definitely see him running one of the units, but it remains to be seen if he takes the top unit from Butcher or inherits the second.
He’s too talented not to be playing these minutes; while I fully expect Hughes to be on the second unit to help ease him in, he still deserves time.
For better or for worse, the Devils like to have a net front presence on at least one unit, and Simmonds has been successful with this in the past. While his game may be declining, I expect the team to start him on the second unit as the goalie screener/rebound scorer.
The Last Spot
For the final spot, I think it will rotate between two players depending upon the situation. If the team is looking to keep four forwards on the unit, I think Travis Zajac gets the spot to help insulate Hughes and win faceoffs. If the team decides to go with two defenders on the second unit, I think Damon Severson gets the last spot, as he’s been successful on the team’s power play in the past. Ironically, if the Devils have a late lead with a man advantage, Zajac still might be the better choice to ensure the opposition not scoring short handed, but I digress; I see these two players being the best choices available (at least to start the season) for the final spot.
The Odd-Players Out
This isn’t to say any of the initially listed names wouldn’t be acceptable choices, but Pavel Zacha and Miles Wood have produced limited offense (Wood more so last year than the one prior) and if you want to roll with most dynamic players on the team, leave these two off at least to start their year. Both players have strengths this team can use, but they’re better served at even strength (Wood with his speed) or on the defensive end (Zacha on the PK) of the ice.
Coleman is a name I would not be disappointed to see get some time due to his excellent 2018-19 season; just with roles of players on the ice, I see him as the true odd forward out here, but he would probably be the player I’d be most comfortable inserting in case of injury or a player struggling.
Vatanen has had power play time in the past, but I feel as though the other defenders listed are upgrades on his offensive capabilities. I could see Sami also logging a lot of penalty kill time this year due to the departure of Ben Lovejoy, so Vatanen falls off the power play list.
Smith and Boqvist don’t make my cut here either simply because there’s no guarantee they make the opening night roster. Smith seems as though he should, but easing him in and letting the veterans picked play on the power play over him could aid in his long-term success.
At least to start the year, based on my above justifications, the Devils’ power play units would be:
Hall - Hischier - Gusev
Butcher - Palmieri
Hughes - Zajac - Simmonds
Bratt - Subban
The second unit would be moved about on the ice after the draw to maximize each player’s ability and potential, but I have it listed as is due to Zajac being best suited to take draws with Hughes coming in if he’s tossed from the dot.
I’ve listed who I think would be the best fit to start the year on Jersey’s power play, but now I’d like to know who would you like to see on each unit? Do you agree or disagree with any of my justifications? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!