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Alex Holtz and Dawson Mercer Looked Great Last Night; So They’re NHL Ready, Right? Well...

The New Jersey Devils pair of promising draft choices from 2020 have both looked very good in recent outings. Today, however, we look at why starting them in the NHL this season might not be the best bet.

NHL: Preseason-New Jersey Devils at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

One preseason game down for our New Jersey Devils, and the immediate returns are extremely positive. The established youngsters who played last night (Yegor Sharangovich, Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes) all did well and contributed on the scoresheet. Damon Severson did his part contributing offensively as well, and his pairing with Jonas Siegenthaler, while they had some rough spots, looked pretty good overall. The cherry on top would be the Devils not only winning regulation, but also taking a 1-0 victory in the practice shootout at the conclusion of the game.

As for the young players fighting for roster spots? Well Dawson Mercer and Alex Holtz each made a good opening argument for their respective cases. Holtz put a laser past Washington goalie Zach Fucale halfway through the middle period while also setting up Sharangovich’s beauty of a goal in the first. Mercer meanwhile would wait until the Devils trailed in the third to slip (and I do mean slip) one past the Caps’ other goalie, Ilya Samsonov, to tie the game early in the third.

Holtz and Mercer, as I said, each looked great; heck, I’d go so far as to say they looked like they belong on the roster. So between last night and the second game of the prospect challenge they’re ready right? At least ready enough to start the season in the NHL?

While the optimist in me wants to say yes, and wants them to be meaningful contributors a mere two seasons after they were drafted by the Devils, I think a little brake pumping is in order here. I know that I’m not the only one who was encouraged by how both played and looked with the rest of the team last night, but oftentimes good results (even in a small sample size) results in fans jumping to conclusions. It’s okay, it’s natural; we want our highly touted prospects to turn into star players.

In these two cases though, I think it’s best that we sit tight and wait patiently on this pair. Again, the hype train getting ready to leave the station is understandable, but personally, no matter how well Holtz and Mercer do this training camp, I don’t want to rush them into NHL action this season. The only way they should make the roster is if they appear dominant in the later preseason games where team rosters are closer to what they will be for the regular season. Outside of a line or so and a defense pairing and a half last night, most of the players that Holtz and Mercer matched up against won’t be seeing regular play for the Capitals (or any NHL team) at least not in 2021-22.

I will close today’s piece by stating again that I’m very happy with how both of our 2020 picks have played against higher levels of competition so far. The goal now will be to see if this success is sustainable or not for one, or both of them to see if they belong in the NHL this season. I personally believe a full season (perhaps on the same line) in the AHL might be the best bet, but who knows? Sometimes there are players who do well in the AHL but don’t pan out in the NHL, and sometimes guys are average in the AHL but wind up being important NHL contributors. The fun will be in seeing what happens from here.

What are your thoughts as to what the team should do with Holtz and Mercer? Do you think NHL action would be best for their course of development? Would you rather see them dominate (hopefully) in the AHL for a full season? Are you more of the mindset that they should get NHL games, but only if they prove they’re ready for the rest of preseason? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!