NHL Projections: New Jersey Devils Lineup
The New Jersey Devils were a pretty average team last season and missed the playoffs by a lot. Not much seems to be different going into this season. New Jersey is going to struggle again, despite adding Taylor Hall in a blockbuster trade. Hall's time in Edmonton proved that just having him on a team does not mean they are going to make the playoffs, and while he will certainly add offense in New Jersey, his presence will not have a huge effect on win totals. I think the Devils will finish near the bottom of the conference again this year. They are not deep up front, and their defense is very mediocre. New Jersey is not a very good team. Here is what I expect their lineup to look like at the start of the season.
The Devils have a very interesting forward group this year. They have some really good players like Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri, but they also lack depth and secondary scoring. I like their first line, even though I think Adam Henrique is more suited to be a second line center, but after that their lineup drops off. Travis Zajac is getting older and his point totals are really dropping off. Devante Smith-Pelly is nowhere near a second line player, but he'll have to be in New Jersey. Pavel Zacha is just a kid, so who knows what you will get from him. The rest of the bottom six is really up for grabs. There will be a ton of competition in camp. No one really stands out as spectacular, and no one has their job secured. There could be any number of different combinations in the bottom six coming out of camp. Overall, the Devils have some good forwards, but the whole group is not up to playoff level yet.
The Devils have a very average defense core. It is nowhere near Boston Bruins bad, but it is a whole lot of average. No one really stands out as being that great. Their top pair is good, but not great. They have a rookie is Steven Santini likely taking the 6th spot. Jon Merrill and Seth Helgeson will also be in a tough camp battle for the last spot on the left side. Overall, this group is not terrible, but they're pretty average. That is not good enough in today's NHL.
The one position where the Devils are in great shape is at goaltender. Cory Schneider is a great goalie, that would be much more well known if he had a good team in front of him. He is without a doubt the clear number one in New Jersey, and he will play a ton of games this year. Keith Kinkaid is the backup, and also a decent goalie. He's not nearly at the level of Schneider, however. He will probably play between 20 and 25 games this year, but Schneider will get a bulk of the workload. It's a shame that New Jersey has been bad for most of Schneider's career because they are wasting a great goalie.