Who stays, who goes? Part 1
I placed each New Jersey Devils forward in a tier based on age, performance, contract status, and more.
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Tom Fitzgerald and the New Jersey Devils are heading towards a pivotal off-season.
Once a perennial contender, the team has been anything but for a while now. The Devils have won just one (1) playoff game since I graduated from high school in June of 2012.
It feels fair to say ownership, and (especially) the team’s fanbase, are heading towards a boiling point. If the team doesn’t enjoy at least some level of success sooner than later, Fitzgerald is not going to be the one steering the ship when they finally do.
More changes are coming this summer.
With that in mind, I thought it’d be fun to take stock of the roster.
Which players are untouchables? Which players are almost certainly staying? Which players could be sent packing? Which players should be sent packing?
I’ll do my best to answer all of that in the first part of this mini-series.
Jack Hughes - The 2019 1st overall pick looked very good as a sophomore but, for one reason or another, that didn’t necessarily translate to production. It was a much different story for Hughes in Year 3.
He was an absolute monster from start to finish, looking as dynamic as almost anybody in the league when healthy. Hughes was a zone-entry machine, he dominated the puck on a shift-to-shift basis, and he was an extreme threat as both a passer and a shooter.
note: data from 5v5 play.
Hughes piled up 26 goals and 56 points while appearing in just 49 games. That equates to ~45 goals and 94 points over a full season; pretty good! Hughes is the team’s most important player and has already signed what looks to be a very team-friendly extension. He’s not going anywhere.
Nico Hischier - I don’t think Nico gets enough credit for the season he put together. He set new career highs in goals (21) and points (60) while driving play against top, top, competition on a nightly basis. He did this despite, at times, dragging along the likes of Jimmy Vesey and Nathan Bastian at 5v5. There wasn’t a competent power play to help inflate his totals, either.
He is a great player, a great leader, and the kind of guy you want young players in the organization to model themselves after.
Jesper Bratt - I personally would consider Bratt untouchable. He’s a point per game winger who drives play, creates for his linemates, and can beat you as a passer or a shooter. Those players don’t grow on trees.
The reason I have him listed a tier below is because, at times, things have been sticky during his tenure in New Jersey. He has been healthy scratched by multiple coaches, his last contract negotiation was not exactly a breeze, and the one he’s heading for might not be either. When all is said and done, I’m confident he’ll sign a long-term deal to remain a fixture of this team; but I’m not 100% certain.
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