2016-17 New Jersey Devils Season Preview
By: Matt Giusti
New Jersey Devils
Head Coach: John Hynes
2015-16 Record: 38-36-8 84 pts ( 7th in the Metropolitan Division )
Playoff Result: Did Not Qualify
2015-16 Team Stats: 2.2 goals per game ( 3oth in the NHL ), 2.5 goals against ( 8th in the NHL ), 19.9 power play % ( 9th in the NHL ), 83.0 penalty kill % ( 8th in the NHL )
2015-16 Scoring Leaders: 1. Kyle Palmieri RW ( 82 GP-3o G-27 A ), 2. Adam Henrique C ( 80 GP-30 G-20 A ), 3. Travis Zajac C ( 74 GP-14 G-28 A ), 4. Lee Stempniak RW ( 63 GP-16 G-25 A ), 5. Mike Cammalleri LW ( 42 GP-14 G-24 A )
2015-16 Goaltending: Cory Schneider ( 58 GP-27 W-25 L-6 OTL-2.15 GAA-.924 SV %-4 SO ), Keith Kinkaid ( 23 GP-9 W-9 L-1 OTL-2.81 GAA-.904 SV %-2 SO )
Top Prospects: 1. Pavel Zacha C, 2. Steven Santini D, 3. Michael McLeod C, 4. Scott Wedgewood G, 5. John Quenneville C
Key Additions: Beau Bennett RW, Taylor Hall LW, Ben Lovejoy D, Luke Gazdic LW, Vernon Fiddler C, Brandon Gormley D
Key Departures: Adam Larsson D, Jordin Tootoo RW, David Schlemko D
Forwards: It’s really amazing to me how the New Jersey Devils were able to stay in the playoff race with how little they scored as a team. There were a few standout performances in the 2015-16 season, the biggest coming from RW Kyle Palmieri. The 25-year old finished his career year with 3o goals and 27 assists, while playing in all 82 games. The Devils have now gone out and traded for former Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall. The Devils gave up defensemen Adam Larsson in the deal and though Larsson was a solid defensemen, the acquisition of a goal scorer was a must for he goal starved Devils. Hall could also help last years other Devils 30-goal scorer Adam Henrique get even more production. The 26-year old enjoyed his best offensive season since he put up 51 points during the 2011-12 campaign.
The rest of the Devils forwards are guys that won’t jump off the page by their name, but don’t look past what these guys can bring to the table at both ends of the ice. A player like a Joseph Blandisi or a Devante Smith-Pelly could be huge keys for the Devils, even though they may not light up the scoreboard consistently. Add a youngster like the talented Pavel Zacha to this group and I see no reason why the Devils can’t easily top their offensive output from a season ago.
Defensemen: As has been the case for any New Jersey Devils team past and present, this team played great defense once again this past year. The Devils ranked 8th in the NHL in both goals against and penalty kill % in 2015-16. The heart and soul of the defensive unit is their captain, 33-year old Andy Greene. The Trenton, MI native had his lowest output on offense this year, but he plays big minutes and rarely makes a mistake when on the ice.
Two guys that the Devils need to stay healthy this year are Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas. This duo only played in a combined 81 games in 2015-16 and will be vital to the success of the New Jersey Devils defense. The Devils went out and added veteran Ben Lovejoy to the defense, after being a big part of the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. One name that could crack the Devils opening night roster is former Boston College defensemen Steve Santini, who actually didn’t grow up too far from the Devils home ice in Newark, NJ, hailing from Bronxville, NY. Overall as a unit, the Devils could have the most underrated defensive unit in the Eastern Conference and the play of that unit could very well propel them back into the playoffs this year.
Goaltending: The Devils look like absolute geniuses after they traded the 9th overall selection in 2013 to the Vancouver Canucks for goaltender Cory Schneider. The 30-year old from Salem, MA was once again an absolute beast in 2015-16, finishing in the top 5 in both save percentage and goals against average. The backup goaltending job should belong to 24-year old Scott Wedgewood, after impressing in 4 starts this past year. I think it goes without saying that the goaltending for the Devils will once again be a strength this upcoming year.
Season Prediction: It really is tough to predict what the New Jersey Devils will do this upcoming season. Logic says they’ll continue to play great defense, be better on offense and continue to get great goaltending. The problem is the Metropolitan Division is stacked and it may be tough for them to crack the playoffs. To me the Devils are still a fringe playoff team, that has potential to make it in.
5th in the Metropolitan Division