After two successful season for his rookie and sophomore year, bigger expectations were placed on the shoulders of New Jersey Devils forward Dawson Mercer prior to 2023-24. Having not missed a game since arriving on Jersey’s roster, the now 22 year old had steadily improved throughout those first two campaigns. His rookie season saw him score 42 points (17 goals, 25 assists) and he improved upon that with 56 (27 and 29) last season. While the hope would be to see him exceed those totals, most Devils fans would have wanted to see him at least repeat last season as a solid contributor.
Alas, 2023-24 has not been the Season of Mercer.
Right out of the gate, Dawson struggled, with zero points in the team’s first 10 contests. For a young player who had performed so well the first pair of seasons, this was extremely troubling, and resulted in Mercer being shifted around the lineup quite a bit. He did start to recover a bit after that, and in the other 38 games that the team has played so far, and that he has appeared in, Mercer has contributed 24 points. If we were to pace out his scoring from those 38 across a full season, he would be in line to score 52, which is roughly in line with his scoring from last season. As of right now, he’s only on pace to score 41, which is a step back to around his rookie totals.
As a big part of the Devils’ future, Mercer needs to step up going forward. Yes, the Devils should be buoyed by the return of Jack Hughes in the coming days, but the Devils still need more. Mercer is an all situations player, and the Devils are more dangerous as a team when he is scoring in all situations. He also has earned his reputation as one of the hardest working Devils every game; even when he was colder than the ice the team plays upon to start the season, I don’t think anyone was questioning his effort, or claiming he was floating. The more Mercer has continued to work this season, the more results he has gotten, such as his goal on Tuesday against Colorado.
It’s still important, however, that Mercer catch fire this season like he did in 2022-23. Remember, from February 16th to March 3rd last season, Mercer scored 10 goals in eight straight games. A streak like that could go a long way to helping the Devils continue to climb back into the playoff picture. Additionally, it could take the weight off of some of the team’s top scorers, such as Hughes, Jesper Bratt and Tyler Toffoli. While his 14 goals are good for fourth on the team, there are other players that the team needs to score that aren’t doing so. Maybe Mercer even finds a little bit of consistency and chemistry with another Devil and starts picking up more assists, as that is really where his numbers are down this season. Being tied for 12th in assists with Curtis Lazar (no offense to Lazar who is having a great season in his role) and the even worse struggling Timo Meier isn’t exactly a stat to be happy about.
For perspective, again, Mercer is only 22 and might be hitting a slump for the first time in his career this season. He still hasn’t reached his full potential, an again his production after those first 10 games has shown he can recover. With the Devils pushing to get back into a better spot in the standings, they just need Mercer (and probably a couple of other players) to get going on a regular basis. It will take the load off of the big names, and make the team that much more dangerous as a whole.
What are your thoughts on Mercer’s 2023-24 so far; do you think the Devils need more out of him? Have you been happy with his production since his initial 10 game scoreless streak? Are you okay with Mercer’s performance and more concerned with other Devils instead? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!