FanPost

Filling the Devils' 2021 Lineup Holes

After the Devils traded several players during their really bad 2019-20 season, they are left with several lineup holes.

Their current lines are

?-Hischier-Palmieri
Johnsson-Hughes-?
Gusev-Zacha-Bratt
Wood-Zajac-?

Who will fill the holes? I think the opening night lineup has a good chance to be this:

Gusev-Hischier-Bratt
Johnsson-Hughes-Palmieri
Sharangovich-Zacha-Kuokkanen
Wood-Zajac-Merkley
McLeod and and whoever is most impressive other than the already listed forwards in camp as the 2 scratches.
I think the Devils will rotate their scratched forwards more this season for development (more players get playing time and more players can sit and watch with Taylor) and injury/rest concerns, since the season is very likely to be squished.

Both Bratt (18-19) and Gusev (19-20) have produced at the NHL level at a 50+ point pace and I think they should start on the top line. Johnsson is a top 9 forward who will likely slot in at 2LW and Hughes finally gets a sniper who can take passes on his wing in Palmieri.

For the 3rd line, I expect Yegor Sharangovich to make the team and play his first NHL season. He has been good of late - 11 points in his last 10 and 16 points in his last 20 AHL games, 6 points in his first 7 KHL games, and is currently on a 4-game goal streak during which he has scored 5 goals, including back to back games with shorthanded goals, one of which was reminiscent of Coleman’s shorty on that dreadful night in 2019 against the Jets. He is also playing as an alternate captain, 20+ minutes a night, and in all situations with Dinamo Minsk.

Also for the 3rd line, I expect Janne Kuokkanen to finally get his first real crack at the NHL. He has shown he can produce in the AHL and it’s finally time for him to get NHL playing time. He should absolutely be in the NHL this season. So far on his loan he has 3 points in 6 Liiga games

Also making the opening night lines is Nick Merkley. He passed both the analytical and eye tests with flying colors during his stint last year, although it was quite short. He was very energic and all the possession/shot numbers were strongly on his side. I think he will start on a 4th line. With a squished schedule we might see a little less or Travis Zajac this season and more of Michael McLeod and I think a Wood-McLeod-Merkley energy line would be super fun to watch. So far on his loan he has 8 points in 10 Liiga games.

Lastly, I have Michael McLeod and anyone who impresses in training camp taking the final 2 forward spots. McLeod was, although bad, energetic and was hitting people left and right in his short stint last season and I think he should get a decent crack at the NHL this season. The days of Devils fans hoping he would be a 1/2C are over but I still think there is potential for him as an energy line 3/4C. For the final spot I can’t think of anyone in particular who is super likely to take the last spot and you never know what will happen in training camp, there could always be another Jesper Bratt, so I can’t name who I think would take the final roster spot.

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