New Jersey Devils: 2017-18 Season Preview and Predictions

NEWARK, NJ - SEPTEMBER 18: Nico Hischier
NEWARK, NJ - SEPTEMBER 18: Nico Hischier /

After spending a season as the floor mat of the Metropolitan Division, the New Jersey Devils made huge improvements in the offseason to kickstart their offense and better their chances this season.

It has been a long and rocky road since 2012 for the New Jersey Devils. 2012 was a year where they made an inspirational run to the Stanley Cup Final and fell to the Los Angeles Kings in six games.

Since then, they have not made the playoffs and have spent recent years in the cellar of the Metropolitan Division, while foes such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and New York Rangers have been duking it out in the attic.

Last season, the Devils hit rock bottom, as they ended the season with an overall record of 28-40-14 for a measly 70 points, the least in the Eastern Conference.

It was viewed as a rebuilding year for New Jersey as they welcomed a new star in former Edmonton Oiler and the 2010 first overall pick in forward Taylor Hall after they traded for him the offseason prior.

More from Empire Writes Back

Hall ended the season as the team’s leading points scorer with a total of 53 as he tied the New Jersey native Kyle Palmieri, who has blossomed since he came home from the Anaheim Ducks.

The team was of course anchored by former all-star netminder Corey Schneider, who despite behind a tenuous defensive unit, continued to maintain respectable numbers with a .908 save percentage and a 2.82 goals against average.

It was clear the team lacked depth and struggled to produce offense. Fortunately for New Jersey hopefuls, their fortunes took a turn for the better thanks to a few bouncing ping pong balls.

The Devils caught their big break at the NHL Draft Lottery, when commissioner Gary Bettman pulled out a combination of ping pong balls with the numbers on them to grant Jersey the first overall pick in the draft.

General Manager Ray Shero went forth and snagged the young Swiss sensation in Nico Hischier, who scored 86 points in the QMJHL last year. Hischier gives the Devils some scoring punch while he is reliable on both ends of the ice and brings speed to the mix.

Shero landed some notable names when it came to free agency as well. The division playing field was evened out a bit more when Marcus Johansson of the Washington Capitals was traded to New Jersey for future draft picks.

Johansson is an enormous addition to the Devils as he comes over from a high-octane offense in Washington. He tallied 58 points last year on the league’s best regular season team and will play alongside Hischier in what should be a fun dynamic to watch develop.

Veterans Brian Boyle and Drew Stafford were reeled in as well. Boyle, who has made several trips to the Stanley Cup Final in the last few years is a huge presence on the bottom end of the forward depth. He is a huge body frame that is gritty, helpful on the penalty kill and can score when you need him to.

Stafford, who has also been around for some time, is a very similar player to Boyle. A large body with some scoring skill at times. He is mostly useful for the physical game that he plays.

A final veteran presence was added in Jimmy Hayes, brother to New York Ranger, Kevin, who made the team out of camp after signing a PTO. Hayes struggled massively with the Boston Bruins last year, and has a reputation of inconsistency, but seems to have made baby steps in the right direction in preseason.

Hayes is another big body with occasional scoring contributions that is known for his physical game. It seems like Shero is trying to form an identity for the Devils this season: size and strength.

The team will rely on the sophomore Pavel Zacha to produce more this season as well. The young Czech Republican finds himself in a pressuring situation as the team’s No. 1 center and must step up.

The Devils weakest asset is their defensive unit. It will be led by aging team captain, Andy Greene, who has been a Devil for over a decade now. Greene is the closest thing the Devils have to an offensive-defenseman who can run a power play and he finished last season with a stellar 13 points.

Behind him, there is the rising young talent in Damon Severson, who scored 34 points last season as he has a cannon shot from the point. He will be an asset to the Devils power play this season.

The remaining defenseman will have to step up to help out Schneider this year. Ben Lovejoy was underwhelming in his first year in the Garden State and I believe John Moore can produce more than 22 points with his skating and shooting abilities.

My predictions for the Devils this year are not very bold. I do not think they will be the bottom feeders they were last season but I don’t think we’ll be seeing red come spring time.

Next: Islanders season preview

Maybe they’ll climb a bit closer to the bubble region, but they are not a playoff team barring some kind of superhuman season from Schneider that will squeak them in come April, but it is highly improbable.

The Devils made some key steps in the right direction and this season should not be as insufferable to bear. They will have some satisfying wins at times and should even make the Metropolitan a bit more competitive all around, but the cranes are still on site in Newark as the rebuilding will continue.