Three reasons to be optimistic about the New Jersey Devils in 2023-24
From improved finishing, to the promotion of one of the best prospects in hockey, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the Devils next season.
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Expectations are sky high for the New Jersey Devils in 2023-24 – and for good reason.
Tom Fitzgerald has done a great job of adding impact players to surround his young core without sacrificing depth, or long-term success, in order to do so.
From added finishing ability, to the promotion of one of the best prospects in hockey, let’s take a look at a few of the many reasons to be optimistic about what the Devils can accomplish next season.
The Devils were one of the best offensive teams in the league last season, ranking 3rd in goals at 5v5 and 4th across all gamestates. They were nearly impossible to slow down; and it had little to do with finishing ability.
Believe it or not, the Devils ranked 16th in shooting percentage at 5v5 and 15th overall. Teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes – no, I’m not kidding – put pucks in the net on a higher percentage of their shots.
The Devils didn’t score goals in bulk because they were opportunistic. They scored goals in bulk because they spent so much time on the front foot, and created so much volume, that it often didn’t matter how clinical they were.
Still, there were plenty of nights where putting teams away – or getting that decisive goal – was a lot more difficult than it needed to be. Personnel was a big part of that.
For a large chunk of the season Erik Haula was attached to Jack Hughes, one of the very best offensive facilitators in the league, and he couldn’t put anything in the back of the net.
It felt like every night Tomas Tatar would be involved in some netfront scramble where he had a golden opportunity with a yawning cage and would fire it wide or into traffic. And those two players were staples in the top-6.
This season – by and large – they’ll be replaced by Timo Meier and Tyler Toffoli. Meier played with the Devils down the stretch, of course, but he spent the majority of his 40-goal campaign in San Jose and was somewhat slow to get acclimated in New Jersey. Getting a full season out of him will make a difference.
So, too, will the addition of Toffoli. The veteran right winger has averaged 36 goals per 82 games over the past three seasons. If we were playing NHL 2004, he’d have the target icon attached to his name. He can snipe.
It’s downright exhilarating to think about how good the Devils’ offense can be with goal scorers Meier and Toffoli on the receiving end of tons of chances from Hughes, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and the team’s top passers each and every night.
It’s certainly within the realm of possibility the Devils jump to the top-10 in finishing rate next season. With the shot and chance volume they generate, that could lead to a boatload of goals.
Power play prowess
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