At 5 PM ET, all 32 National Hockey League teams were required to submit their initial rosters. They needed to be cap and roster compliant. The New Jersey Devils did just that and about 100 minutes after the deadline, they released their initial roster for the 2021-22 season.
Forwards (13): Johnsson, Hischier, Vesey, Sharangovich, Mercer, McLeod, Zacha, Gauthier, Kuokkanen, Bratt, Studenic, Hughes, Tatar
Defensemen (7): White, Hamilton, Graves, Geertsen, Siegenthaler, Subban, Jaros
Goaltenders (3): Blackwood, Wedgewood, Bernier.
Injured Reserve (4): Thompson, Smith, Severson, Wood
Amanda Stein followed up this announcement separately noting that Ty Smith, Damon Severson, and Miles Wood were all eligible to be activated prior to Friday - which is the home opener against Chicago. Thompson is designated as a non-roster player on IR. What this means is that this roster is likely going to change by the end of the work week.
The name you do not see here is Alexander Holtz. He was sent down to Utica this morning. The 19-year old winger had a great preseason. He demonstrated his fantastic shot, produced in games, and kept up with the likes of Jack Hughes and Yegor Sharangovich. However, in the practices that followed preseason, Holtz ended up on the fifth line and not on any power play unit. That was a sign he was on the outside looking in and, in retrospect, it turned out to be right. Given that the roster spot available at forward was for the bottom-six, it is likely better for Holtz to go play prime minutes in Utica, lead their power play, and look to produce quite a bit there rather than get minimal action in New Jersey. Combined with the need to make the 23-man roster and his ineligibility for waivers, the demotion at this time makes sense. I think we will see Holtz in New Jersey in the near future. (Also not here is Tyler Wotherspoon. It appears he has been released from his try-out.)
On a more positive sign, I am pleased to see Dawson Mercer’s name here. I figured he would show up to camp, have some nice flashes, and then go somewhere else to develop. No. He earned opportunity after opportunity and it ends with him in Newark, New Jersey for Friday night. Mercer’s play with and without the puck showed a level of intelligence you would expect from a veteran, not a 19-year old player. His blend of skill on the puck, awareness without it, and speed in general was apparent in the preseason games. He’s earned this roster spot. And I think there is a good chance he stays with New Jersey for the whole season. Congratulations on making the team.
There are a few surprises on this roster in my opinion. Marian Studenic made the team. I did not think he was particularly impressive in his limited preseason time. But with Tyce Thompson hurt, others not making the most of their chances, and Studenic being waiver-eligible, he ends up making it. I did not expect to see Gauthier listed here as he cleared waivers this afternoon. I think he will be demoted if/when Miles Wood is activated. I have a feeling Studenic will not necessarily be the one to be sent down since Gauthier could. I would anticipate Colton White and Mason Geertsen to also hit the waiver wire if/when Smith and/or Severson return to action. (I would prefer Geertsen to be demoted first, White second.) Lastly, I think Scott Wedgewood is still here because Jonathan Bernier has had some “maintenance” days and Mackenzie Blackwood’s lack of vaccination (one of 5 in the league per Bettman) makes his availability a wildcard. Once either is settled, I think Wedgewood goes through the waiver process to be sent down.
Will this all be done by Friday? Not entirely, but some of it might be. Per Amanda Stein, Lindy Ruff said that Bernier should be available for practice on Thursday. Stein also reported this morning that Bernier, Thompson, and Severson were on the ice prior to practice. A returning Severson would require someone else to be demoted. So keep an eye out at 2 PM for whoever is placed on waivers for the next few days. That may indicate a return of a regular player.
Now that the initial roster is announced, I want to know what you think of it. Even if it is likely to change in the next few days. Are you looking more or less forward to the 2021-22 season by Friday? Who do you think will impress among this group? How big of an absence is Smith, Severson, and/or Wood in your opinion? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the initial roster in the comments. Thank you for reading.