10/7/17 Game 1 Recap: Colorado Avalanche vs. New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils start off the 2017-18 regular season with a bang: a 4-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche in their home opener. 80 shots were made on goal, 39 of those belonged to the Devils; Jimmy Hayes and Taylor Hall had seven apiece, while Nico Hischier had six. Both teams won 50% of faceoffs, had 12 penalty minutes, and 30 hits. Will Butcher, Jesper Bratt, and Cory Schneider were the three stars of the game. Ben Lovejoy, Dalton Prout, and Miles Wood were healthy scratches.

All four Devils goals were scored by special teams. Adam Henrique scored the Devils’ first goal on the power play in the first period off of a really nice deflection; Butcher (his first career NHL point) and Kyle Palmieri picked up the assists. Henrique didn’t score a goal throughout the preseason but has gotten off to a good start.

Hayes then tallied his first goal as a Devil on the power play, again with assists from Butcher and Palmieri. Carl Soderberg cut the Devils’ lead in half with a power play tally for his first goal of the season, but Jesper Bratt quickly restored the two-goal lead (also a power play goal), his first career NHL goal. John Moore added a short-handed tally on an excellent play from Bratt.

Schneider looked phenomenal today. He stopped 40 of 41 shots on goal, posting a .976 save percentage. He stopped all nine shots he faced on the penalty kill and made huge saves throughout the game. He looks like he’s in vintage-Cory Schneider form and should get the start on Monday.

He also had a ton of help from the defense, who may not be as atrocious as fans were expecting. Damon Severson led all skaters with 22:12 of ice time. Mirco Mueller had three blocked shots. Moore had the short-handed goal.

All three Devils rookies looked great in their NHL debuts. Butcher tallied three assists, the first player in franchise history with three points in his NHL debut. He is also the first Devils defenseman with three power play assists since Bruce Driver in 1984 (and for those of you keeping track, he is on pace for 246 assists this season).

Bratt came close with two points, a goal and an assist, but was able to score his first NHL goal in front of his parents. If he continues to play like he has, the Devils will have no choice but to keep him around. Hischier also looked like the talented, skilled hockey player he is. He showed off his puck handling and skating skills in 15:44 of ice time.

Zacha also looked really comfortable on the ice. He had a great game; he had 19:08 of ice time, won 63.6% of faceoffs, and had a pair of shots on goal. But he looked like he belonged on the Devils and in the NHL. He wasn’t as “afraid” to take a shot or hit someone, and if he plays like he is, it’s going to pay off. Zacha’s buddy Stefan Noesen also looked good.

New Jersey did suffer a few injuries. Andy Greene and Drew Stafford left in the first period (Greene later returned to the ice), while Palmieri took a dangerous knee-on-knee hit in the second and did not return to the game. He looked like he was in a ton of pain and Erik Johnson received just a minor penalty. Hischier and Hall jumped in to protect Palmieri (Hischier has said he’d like to bring a more physical to his game) and that was nice to see. Both Stafford and Palmieri were evaluated with lower body injuries, and will be reevaluated tomorrow.

Special teams played a huge role in today’s game. Three of four Devils goals were scored on the man advantage and they killed all six of Colorado’s opportunities (I think; Soderberg’s goal may or may not have happened as the power play expired). They were able to kill off a double minor (awarded to Marcus Johansson for high-sticking). Bratt, Hall, and Hischier all looked excellent on the penalty kill.

The atmosphere at The Rock was infectious. The crowd chanted the entire game, gave the team a standing ovation for the last minute of regulation, and even started the wave. If the crowd can look and sound like that every home game, The Rock will become one of the most difficult places to play in the entire NHL.

And if the Devils play good hockey, the fans will come and they will come in droves. The team is exciting to watch again and has a ton of potential. They were tougher, they played as one cohesive unit, and they had each other’s backs. They looked fast and physical. They weren’t afraid to send pucks to the net and dumped the puck less. And I know it’s only been one regular season game, but these are good signs of things to come.

(I also wanted to take a second to apologize for not posting a game preview; I was out yesterday and this morning, and didn’t have time to schedule a post. Hopefully this makes up for it! I will hopefully be doing game previews from here on out.)

The Devils will be back in action Monday afternoon against the Sabres at the KeyBank Center; puck drops at 3PM.

Advertisements

New Jersey Devils Announce 2017-18 Opening Night Roster

Each team across the National Hockey League had to submit their 23-man rosters before the 5PM deadline today, Tuesday, October 3, and while a few teams announced theirs earlier in the day, the New Jersey Devils waited until 4:41PM to release theirs. Here it is:

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 4.42.32 PM

There aren’t a ton of surprises. Both Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid were expected to be in net for the Devils. Coach John Hynes mentioned earlier this week that they were trying to figure out if they should go with seven or eight defensemen, and they ultimately decided eight. No surprises there. Who plays opening night remains to be seen.

For the most part, the forwards are straightforward (ha). You have your expected top line of Taylor Hall, Pavel Zacha, and Kyle Palmieri, and then your projected second line of Marcus Johansson, Nico Hischier, and Drew Stafford. You then have a variety of forwards to fill out the bottom two lines.

The roster has several new faces, as well as three rookies (and potentially four): Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Will Butcher. Hischier and Bratt both had impressive preseasons and belong on the team; only time will tell if they can adjust to the NHL and play to their full potentials. Butcher has also looked good and will prove that he belongs in the big leagues.

Travis Zajac, Brian Boyle, and Michael McLeod are all listed as injured. Zajac is expected to miss at least 4-6 months, while both Boyle and McLeod’s expected return dates are a little less unclear. McLeod might get a chance with New Jersey before he gets sent down to the OHL for one more year.

The only surprise(s) would be Blake Coleman and Brian Gibbons. I’m a little surprised that both John Quenneville and Joseph Blandisi were sent down to the AHL with the strong preseasons that they had but they’ll get called up soon enough.

All-in-all, it’s not a bad roster. The depth on the blue line is there (even though many fans were rightfully worried) and the offense should put up more points than they have been. Along with solid goaltending, the team should take several strides forward.

The Devils open up the regular season on Saturday (four days!) at 2PM at the Prudential Center against the Prudential Center.

New Jersey Devils: 2017-18 Season Predictions

The 2017-18 regular season is almost upon us (finally). I wanted to take a look ahead at what the season might have in store for the New Jersey Devils. But without further ado, let’s get into it: my predictions for the Devils for the upcoming season.

Record: 44-28-10 (98 points). I know what you’re thinking and no, I did not pull these numbers out of an inappropriate place. But I did go through the regular season schedule and tried to pick which games the Devils could realistically win (on paper), lose in regulation (on paper), and lose in overtime (on paper). And maybe some of those choices were me being a little hopeful (sorry). If you must know, my initial record was 41-29-12 (90 points).

This record is a major improvement over last year’s record (28-40-14) but this is just on paper. The team that actually comes to play every night remains to be seen. Will the Top 6 contribute on a nightly basis? Will the Devils actually provide goal support for their netminders? Will the blue line actually defend? Will the team get faster and younger, and make fewer mistakes? Who’s going to have a breakout year? Who disappears off of the score sheet altogether? Based on an impressive preseason (the Devils went 5-1-1), the team has made plenty of strides into the future and should be much more fun to watch. But will they return to the postseason?

Playoffs?: yes. No, I’m not being biased (okay maybe a little bit). I know preseason isn’t a good judgement of how teams perform during the regular season but the Devils went 5-1-1 in the preseason, their only regulation loss coming to the Islanders. If the Devils can play as well as they look on paper, Cory Schneider has a good season, and the defense can play well in front of him, they should make the playoffs. They’re not contenders, by any means. If they do make the playoffs, it’ll be as a wild card team. The Metropolitan division is too stacked to think otherwise. The Devils playing in the postseason might not be 100% realistic but a girl can hope; if they finish with a 44-28-10 record (98 points) like I’m predicting, they won’t make the playoffs for a sixth straight years. 98 points won’t cut it.

Most Goals: Kyle Palmieri

Palmieri led the Devils with 26 goals last season, six more than Taylor Hall who also missed some time with injuries, and was tied for the team lead in goals with 30 (alongside Adam Henrique) in 2015-16. He’s proved time and time again that he is a goal-scorer and when he’s given capable linemates, defenders won’t be able to stop him from finding the back of the net. The 26-year old winger will once again lead the team in goals.

Most Assists: Pavel Zacha

Zacha is no longer a rookie. He opted to spend the offseason training in New Jersey and is all set to go. He had his fair share of bumps in the road last season but he looks like a much improved player on and off the ice thus far. He could have a breakout season and playing on the top line alongside Palmieri and Hall will allow him to contribute offensively and change the pace of the game.

Most Points: Taylor Hall

Echoing the last two, a top line of Hall-Zacha-Palmieri will do wonders for the Devils offensively. Hall and Palmieri led the Devils in goals and points last season, and have become leaders on this team. Their chemistry will carry over and adding Zacha into the mix will allow Hall (and Palmieri) to flourish and play their games.

Most Power Play Points: Pavel Zacha

As mentioned earlier, Zacha is going to have a breakout season. Of his eight goals during his rookie season, five came on the man advantage and he’ll play a critical role on special teams going forward.

Most Time On Ice: Taylor Hall

Hall will prove to be one of the biggest acquisitions in Devils’ team history this season. He’s already provided some hope for Devils fans in the future of their team but Hall will take another step forward this season and it’ll show in his time spent on the ice. He’s one of the team’s most talented, most dynamic forwards and no one else, other than maybe defenseman Andy Greene, will play as much as he does.

Most Goals By A Defenseman: Will Butcher

He might need some time to adjust to the NHL but he’s a Hobey Baker Award winner and NCAA champ for a reason. He has an offensive prowess that’s hard to match for a 22-year old defenseman. He scored just one goal during the preseason but I think he’ll flourish in the big leagues once he finds his rhythm.

Most Assists By A Defenseman: Damon Severson

Severson led all defensemen on the team in assists last season and there’s no reason to think he won’t do the same this season. He had 28, only trailing Hall and Travis Zajac. Playing on the top pairing with Andy Greene will allow him to keep dishing out assists without taking anything away from his defensive game.

Most Points By A Defenseman: Damon Severson

Again, Severson led all defensemen in points last season with 31 and he’ll do so again, especially if he racks up assists as often as he did last season.

Most Time On Ice For A Defenseman: Andy Greene

Andy Greene is both underrated and underappreciated. He does just about everything right and even though he’s hitting his decline, he is still a very capable defenseman. He will continue to lead Devils defensemen in time on ice and lead the team.

Most Penalty Minutes: Miles Wood

Ah yes. Miles Wood’s rookie season was filled with fights worthy of their own highlight reel and it seems that there’s no one in the league that Wood will refuse to fight, especially if it means protecting and defending his teammates. Expect Wood to rack up those penalty minutes this season as well.

Most Shots On Goal: Adam Henrique

You could definitely argue this one. I think everyone on the team should and will take more shots (after all, you can’t score if you don’t take shots) but Henrique took a bit of a step back last season but he’ll look to bounce back in a smaller role and do all of the little things right.

Most Valuable Player: Cory Schneider

Another underrated and underappreciated player, the Devils’ #1 netminder and starting goaltender Cory Schneider will have a bounceback season and will carry this team the way he always has. A good team starts with a good goaltender and the Devils are fortunate enough to have one of the best in the league.

Rookie of the Year: Nico Hischier

Yeah, remember how the Devils won the draft lottery and proceeded to select Swiss-born center Nico Hischier, and Hischier killed it during the preseason? Me too. Hischier will have an incredible rookie year. He may not impress as many as Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews have, or even impact the team as much as they changed theirs, but Hischier will help the Devils regardless and allow them to build their future.

Most Fun: all of them. When is the last time the team was this fun? That’s right: never.

And there you have it! My predictions for the Devils’ 2017-18 regular season are complete.

I also wrote recently on how I think the opening night lineup is going to play out now that training camp and the preseason have finished. Evidently, my lineup might need some updates. Don’t forget that the Devils open up the regular season on Saturday, October 7 at 2PM against the Colorado Avalanche at the Prudential Center and tickets are on sale!

New Jersey Devils: 2017-18 Preseason Recap

The New Jersey Devils played their final preseason game this past Wednesday, a 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals, and finish the preseason with a 5-1-1 record. Their only regulation loss came in a 3-0 shutout against the New York Islanders, while their overtime loss came against the New York Rangers. First overall draft pick Nico Hischier and free agent signing Drew Stafford led the team in points with seven apiece. There is a lot to discuss so let’s get right into it.

The Devils opened up the preseason at The Rock against the Capitals, also posting a 4-1 win. Hischier, Mirco Mueller, Stefan Noesen, and Kyle Palmieri all scored; Joseph Blandisi had a two-assist night. Goaltenders Keith Kinkaid and Scott Wedgewood split ice time and stopped 29 shots. The team did go 0-for-7 on the power play and allowed a shorthanded goal. But overall, they looked good. They had 36 shots on goal, won 53% of faceoffs (they had some fun in the faceoff circle), and had 26 hits.

They then faced their Metropolitan division rivals, the Rangers, and fell 4-3 in overtime. Pavel Zacha, Brian Gibbons, and Jimmy Hayes all scored goals, while Hayes and Drew Stafford each had two-point nights. Cory Schneider and The Devils scored just once with the man advantage despite having seven opportunities.

They traveled up north to face the Montréal Canadiens and defeated them 4-1. Mueller, Hischier, and Jesper Bratt (2) all scored goals; Noesen had a pair of assists. Kinkaid played the full 60 minutes and looked strong in net. The Devils did go 0-for-5 on the man advantage, notched 32 shots on goal, and won 54% of faceoffs.

The Devils then faced the Rangers in a preseason rematch, New Jersey coming out on top in a close 2-1 win. Blandisi had a power play goal assisted by Adam Henrique and John Quenneville while Stafford scored the game winner. They were better in the faceoff circle (55%), had 33 shots on goal, just 16 penalty minutes, but only managed to score once on a power play despite seven opportunities. Schneider played the full 60 minutes.

They suffered their only regulation loss to the Islanders next. They managed 25 shots on goal and failed to score on their lone power play. To be fair, one of the Islanders’ goals was a power play goal and the other was an empty-netter, and most of the projected opening night lineup was on Prince Edward Island playing the Senators.

That must have been a fun one to attend. The Devils joined the Senators for a preseason game played at PEI as part of #KraftHockeyvilleUSA and won in resounding fashion, scoring eight goals (five in the first 20 minutes) while the Senators scored just once. Zacha, Quenneville, and Stafford all scored twice while Hischier and Johansson also tallied goals. Zacha, Stafford, and Johansson all had three points on the night.

The Devils closed out their preseason on Wednesday against the Capitals, an emphatic 4-1 win. All four goals were scored during the first period (Hischier, Hayes, Stafford, and Will Butcher’s first). They managed to score three times on the man advantage (six opportunities).

And now, after that super brief recap, it’s important to remember not to take too much stock in the 5-1-1 preseason record. Preseason usually isn’t an indication of how well teams do during the regular season. So it’s important to keep your optimism and hopefulness in check but it’s okay to look at the positives. The Devils do look younger and faster. They’re harder to play against. They’re doing the little things correctly. They’re playing as a team, as one cohesive unit. If those aspects of their game carry over into the regular season, the team, as a whole, will definitely improve. Whether or not that means playoffs remains to be seen.

Several New Jersey Devils had breakout performances and I’ll try and talk about each one at least a little bit. Let’s talk about first overall draft pick and rookie Nico Hischier. Where do I start?! He has looked as promising as fans thought he would be. He scored at least once in each preseason he played and finished with seven points. He skates well and plays a great two-way game. He’ll be a key member of the special teams. Many were worried that he wouldn’t make the team his first year but after watching him play during rookie/training camp and preseason, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t.

Who saw Jesper Bratt coming? Not many. But the sixth round, 2016 Devils draft pick is making a serious case for his place on the opening night roster. He tallied five points (two goals, three assists) in four games and has looked more and more like a draft steal.

Offseason signing Drew Stafford is tied with Hischier for the team lead in points and has played on a line with him and Marcus Johansson (six points); both Stafford and Johansson have had great preseasons alongside Hischier. All three are new to the Devils organization but that’s a line that looks like it will stick during the regular season. Scoring is not a foreign concept for both Hischier and Johansson, but Stafford has been a pleasant surprise.

Pavel Zacha has also had a great preseason, playing top line center in between Hall and Palmieri, and this line might carry into the regular season well. He also has five points (three goals, two assists) in four games and his offseason training in New Jersey looks like it paid off. He looks like a rejuvenated, much more comfortable and confident player, and should be set for a breakout during his sophmore season.

Jimmy Hayes has also made a serious case for a contract. He has three points (two goals, one assist) in five games and isn’t afraid to shoot the puck. He’s stood up for his teammates, even though there’s the possibility that they’re temporary.

Other honorable mentions: John Quenneville, Joseph Blandisi, Damon Severson, and the Devils “veterans”: Henrique, Palmieri, and Hall.

The Devils will head to West Point Academy for a team bonding trip starting Sunday. They open up the regular season against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, October 7 at 2PM at the Prudential Center.

Projecting The New Jersey Devils’ 2017-18 Opening Night Lineup

With less than two weeks remaining until the New Jersey Devils open up their 2017-18 regular season campaign against the Colorado Avalanche at the Prudential Center and training camp/preseason well underway, I thought it would be a good time to finally take a look at the Devils’ potential opening night roster. I’ve been wrestling with my picks for a while now (and this obviously doesn’t account for any injuries, etc. that might happen between now and opening night) but it’s a rough guesstimate (that’s a word, right?). The coaches are also slated to announce more roster costs today so this doesn’t reflect those. Without further ado, here is my projected opening night lineup for the Devils and a little bit about each player and line.

Forward Lines:
Hall-Zacha-Palmieri
Johansson-Hischier-Stafford
Quenneville-Henrique-Bratt
Wood-Boyle-Noesen

Defensive Pairings:
Greene-Severson
Moore-Mueller
Butcher-Santini
Lovejoy

Goaltenders:
Cory Schneider
Keith Kinkaid

Let’s start with the top line. After Travis Zajac’s injury/surgery/recovery period was announced, the biggest question became who would replace him on the top line alongside Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri for the four to six months he’s going to miss. The likeliest candidates included Adam Henrique, Marcus Johansson, and Pavel Zacha, who I think is going to take on the role for the time being. I would not be opposed to Nico Hischier eventually anchoring the top line but slotting him in right away (or even within the first couple of months) would be throwing him to the sharks. Zacha and Hall had some chemistry last season and seem to have found it again during the preseason, and we know Hall and Palmieri have chemistry from last season. They’ve played a few preseason games together and have done pretty well. The top line could have a monster season.

On to the next one. I’m hesitating about putting Hischier on the second line to start out with. He’s had an impressive training camp and preseason but he’s still just an 18-year old rookie who has yet to play an NHL game (or an AHL game). Hischier is also allowed a rookie learning curve despite being a first overall draft pick. There’s no way he won’t make the team out of training camp with the way he’s performed but his linemates Marcus Johansson and Drew Stafford will be able to complement him immensely. Johansson, acquired in a trade over the offseason, and Stafford, signed to a one-year contract, are both veteran wingers with strong presences on the ice. Johansson had a career year with the Capitals last season while Stafford picked up about half a point per game. These three have also played on a line together and could stick around for a little while.

Time for the third line. Adam Henrique is the obvious choice to center the line. Again, I’m still debating switching him and Hischier around mainly because I don’t think it’s fair to throw Hischier into the Top 6 like that. On Henrique’s left, we have John Quenneville, who’s had NHL experience and has been one of the better forwards for the Albany (now Binghamton) Devils. On his right, we have 19-year old Jesper Bratt. I know he’s young and inexperienced but he’s been consistent on the ice and so I think he gets at least a nine-game look. After that, who knows? I don’t see any reason for him not to stick around if he’s had as impressive a preseason as he has.

And ah yes, the fourth line. Brian Boyle was the first to be slotted on the fourth line and I sincerely hope that he’s able to play opening night and throughout the season. Miles Wood is the obvious choice to slot in on the left side. He’s fast and has some NHL experience under his belt. If he can learn to control his speed and maybe not fight as often, he has the ability to be a constant scoring threat. On the other side, I’ve picked Stefan Noesen. He’s also had a strong training camp and will help the fourth line score more.

This would leave Joseph Blandisi and whomever else as extra skaters. Blandisi’s had an impressive preseason and there’s no reason for him to go down to Binghamton (AHL). The only question is where he would fit in. (I’ll get to Michael McLeod and Blake Speers in a minute).

Now on to the defensive pairings. These were actually a little trickier. The top pairing is the easiest: Andy Greene and Damon Severson. They play well together and are two of the more well-seasoned defensemen on this team. I don’t think anyone is going to question this top pair.

Determining the second and third pairings is slightly harder. John Moore is the obvious choice to play on the second pairing but who he plays with remains to be seen. I’d like to see Mirco Mueller play alongside him and he’s been consistent throughout the preseason as well.

The third pairing is (hopefully) going to be Will Butcher and Steven Santini. I don’t see any reason for Santini not to make the team out of training camp. Butcher has said that he wouldn’t be opposed to spending some time in the AHL for conditioning and a little extra seasoning but at this point in time, that doesn’t make much sense.

And in net, we have starting goaltender Cory Schneider and backup Keith Kinkaid. There isn’t much room to disagree (although you could and I would hear you out). Schneider is still the #1 goaltender on this Devils team although Kinkaid will probably get a decent amount of playing time this season. Unless one of them gets hurt, I don’t see Scott Wedgewood making a significant number of starts. MacKenzie Blackwood, Ken Appleby, and Evan Cormier are all still too young; Blackwood and Appleby have both played just a single season in the AHL. Schneider should have a bounce back season after last year’s slight dip; the Devils’ goaltending has been one of the only reasons preventing them from consistently finishing at the bottom of the league.

Some additional notes (because you’re probably a bit confused (as am I)): yes, Michael McLeod is not in the lineup. I think he still needs another year in the OHL. He’s fast but still needs some conditioning despite his insistence that the OHL no longer has anything for him. McLeod did leave the game last night with a lower body injury and was noticeably limping so here’s to hoping that he’s okay. Blake Speers has also not been noticeable this training camp; the only upside with him is that he can play in the AHL instead of being sent down to juniors.

This lineup is also assuming that Brian Boyle can play come opening night. In addition, this assumes that Bratt will play (at least) his nine NHL games and that the Devils don’t sign Jimmy Hayes (and I don’t think they have to).

And there you have it, my projected opening night lineup for the New Jersey Devils. If you have any questions or suggestions, or think I messed something up horribly, let me know in the comments. I’m all ears.

The Devils open up their 2017-18 campaign against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, October 7 at 2PM at the Prudential Center; tickets can be bought through TicketMaster.

New Jersey Devils: 2017-18 Theme Nights/Promotions

As the New Jersey Devils’ preseason gets underway, here’s a complete list of their theme nights and promotions for the upcoming 2017-18 season. Most of the blurbs underneath are taken directly from the Devils’ website. (And I apologize for not being as active as normal and for lacking preseason coverage; my family is in the midst of a move and my senior year of college is kicking my butt).

Don’t forget to check out a list of games that (I think) you should circle on your calendars.

10/7 – Opening Night (vs. the Avalanche at 2PM)

There will a Devils Red Carpet, on which the players and coaches will arrive, beginning at 11AM. Fans usually get a chance to secure autographs and photos on the Carpet. Fans will also receive a commemoratory 35th Anniversary Patch to represent the team’s 35-year anniversary in New Jersey.

11/9 – First Annual WWE Night (vs. the Oilers at 7PM)

World Wrestling Entertainment will take over The Rock with an immersive wresting experience for fans all night, including special appearances by WWE personalities on the concourse, a one-of-a-kind opening video moment, musical tributes and in-game features highlighting past and current WWE Superstars. Special ticket packages will be made available and include a unique WWE-Devils t-shirt.

11/11 – Military Appreciation Night (vs. the Panthers at 7PM)

On this highly anticipated night, the Devils will honor America’s heroes with a Veterans Day game recognizing local retired and current military personnel throughout the night. The team will wear military-themed warm-up jerseys that will be auctioned off following the game to help raise funds of military charities.

11/24 – Hockey Fights Cancer (vs. the Canucks at 7PM)

Prudential Center and the Devils will support the National Hockey League and NHL Players’ Association’s annual Cancer Awareness Month initiative with a variety of pregame, in-game and concourse activities throughout the evening, including HFC merchandise for purchase, to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. Devils players will wear special lavender warm-up jerseys that will be auctioned off in support of the Valerie Fund.

12/8 – Third Annual Star Wars Night (vs. the Blue Jackets at 7PM)

The Force will be strong this season when the Devils Star Wars experience returns to The Rock featuring dozens of characters on the concourse, theme music and in-game graphics. Special ticket packages will be made available and include an exclusive Star Wars-Devils t-shirt.

12/29 – Martin Brodeur Commemorative Stick Giveaway Night (vs. the Sabres at 7PM)

1/13 – Glenn “Chico” Resch Commemorative Stick Giveaway Night (vs. the Flyers at 7PM)

1/25 – Rock The Rock Night (vs. the Predators at 7PM)

Presented by the GRAMMY Museum Experience Prudential Center, which opens to the public on October 20, the night will celebrate all things rock, from doors open to the final horn. Special ticket packages will be made available and include a unique Devils Rock t-shirt.

2/1 – Pride Night (vs. the Flyers at 7PM)

The Devils kick off “Hockey is for Everyone” Month with the second annual Devils Pride Night. Exclusive Devils Pride t-shirts will be on sale throughout the night with a portion of proceeds benefiting LGBTQ non-profit organizations.

(On a side note: I’m really looking forward to Pride Night; the Devils did a great job last year.)

2/11 – Kyle Palmieri mini-bobblehead giveaway (vs. the Bruins at 7PM)

2/24 – Patrik Elias Jersey Retirement Ceremony (vs. the Islanders at 7PM)

3/4 – Brian Boyle mini-bobblehead giveaway (vs. the Golden Knights at 5PM)

3/24 – Marcus Johansson mini-bobblehead giveaway (vs. the Lightning at 7PM)

Keep in mind that all giveaways listed are for the first 9,000 fans in attendance at The Rock. Tickets for individual games can be purchased via newjerseydevils.com/tickets.

New Jersey Devils: 2017-18 Training Camp Roster, Preview

It’s the most exciting time of the year (officially). Hockey’s back, baby.

Training camp for the New Jersey Devils and across the National Hockey League gets underway today as the team works toward making improvements (both on offense and defense) and inching closer to a playoff berth. The team didn’t announce their complete training camp schedule and will only release the day’s schedule the morning of. They did release their camp roster yesterday:

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 11.31.10 AM

There aren’t any surprises on the roster. Steven Santini changed numbers from #34 to #16. Damon Severson is on the roster; he signed a new contract on Monday. There are, however, a ton of new faces. The Devils had one of their busiest offseasons in franchise history and it’s reflected in the roster. You have center Nico Hischier, the Devils’ first overall pick in the 2017 entry-level draft, and defenseman Will Butcher, whom the Devils signed not too long ago to a two-year contract. You have ex-Bruins Jimmy Hayes and Drew Stafford, Mirco Mueller, Brian Boyle, and Marcus Johansson just to name a few. Nikita Popugaev, Marian Studenic, and Jocktan Chainey are also representing the 2017 draft class at camp.

The Devils are almost 100% healthy to start camp. Travis Zajac, one of the longest-tenured Devils, will miss about 4-6 months after undergoing pectoral surgery. John Quenneville took a puck to the face during the Prospects Challenge but should be good to go.

Some younger players will be looking to crack the opening night lineup, including Michael McLeod, Blake Speers, Nathan Bastian, and potentially Jesper Bratt, who had a strong showing at the Prospects Challenge. Last year’s rookies (Pavel Zacha, Steven Santini, Miles Wood, among others) will be looking to cement their place on the Devils roster. Zacha opted to stay in New Jersey this summer in order to train during the offseason and I’m excited to see how he’s improved, both on and off the ice.

It’ll be fun to see how training camp plays out. Zajac is a huge loss. He’s a well-seasoned, veteran center who can play a strong two-way game and had one of the best seasons of his career last year, playing alongside Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall. The most likely candidate to take Zajac’s spot on the top line would be Adam Henrique but there are spots open on the remaining three lines. Boyle would likely center the fourth line. If Hischier or McLeod (or both) have strong showings and make the opening night roster, they could play on the second or third line to start out. But there are an abundance of centers on the roster so keep your eyes out for them.

We’ll also get to see how the situation at wing plays out. Will someone who normally plays center hop onto the wing? Will any true wingers switch sides? It’s an interesting predicament. The Devils tried to address the gaping need at right wing by signing Drew Stafford and bringing in Jimmy Hayes on a PTO.

The blue line competition will also be one to watch. Andy Greene, Damon Severson, and John Moore are all but guaranteed to make the team. Ben Lovejoy, Steven Santini, Dalton Prout, and Michael Kapla all saw some time with the team last year. Then you have your new faces in Will Butcher, Mirco Mueller, Tim Erixon, and Brian Strait, and the defensive prospects round up the group.

The team will (hopefully) look different from last year’s. They’re aiming to get younger and faster, and GM Ray Shero did a decent job to address some of those concerns on the offense and specifically at wing, but the blue line still remains a predicament. Most of the organization’s offseason moves were short-term ones but they’re a start. The team has plenty of expectations going forward.

Today is Media Day so be sure to follow the Devils on Twitter (@NJDevils), Instagram (@NJDevils), and Snapchat (@devilsnj), as well as Amanda Stein (Twitter/Instagram: @amandacstein) for Behind the Scenes and exclusive content. A few of the Devils reporters and media team are tweeting photos/quotes as well.

Don’t forget to check out blog posts on the Devils’ preseason schedule and their regular season schedule; I also wrote a couple of blog posts on (regular season) games that could make or break the Devils’ season along with games that you should probably mark on your calendars for the upcoming season. Hypothetically, within the next week or two, I’d like to post a projected opening night lineup and roster, among a few other pieces. And just as a side note, I’m beyond excited to write about the Devils for my first full season. It’ll be great.

New Jersey Devils Re-Sign RFA Damon Severson To A Six-Year Contract

The New Jersey Devils finally, finally re-signed defenseman and restricted free agent Damon Severson to a new six-year, $25 million contract. The news broke earlier this morning, courtesy of TSN’s Bob McKenzie, just as my intermediate microeconomics class began so I apologize for this blog post being just a little late. Severson’s entry-level contract expired over the summer and a new contract did not get worked out until this morning.

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 11.27.29 AMScreen Shot 2017-09-11 at 11.27.43 AMScreen Shot 2017-09-11 at 11.28.05 AM

Here’s CapFriendly’s breakdown of Severson’s contract:

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 11.25.46 AM

McKenzie did also point out that it’s very similar to the contract that the Devils signed current Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson to a few years ago, without the modified no-trade clause. There is the fear that the Devils might decide to trade him for more offensive production in the future if their current crop of prospects doesn’t pan out but he should hopefully stay.

I like the contract for both parties. The Devils re-sign one of their best and youngest defenseman, while Severson gets paid (what he deserves). The team has several problems with their defense but Severson has been one of the bright spots on what is otherwise an abysmal blue line.

With Andy Greene on a decline, Severson is one of the more experienced defensemen on the team (despite only having three years of NHL experience). He’ll really be able to stabilize the chaotic blue line. He’s been with the organization since he was drafted in 2012 and he’s only 23 years old; he’ll be 28 (29?) when the contract expires.

Severson scored a career-high 31 points (three goals, 28 assists) last season and played all but two games; he led all defensemen in points and assists. He also tallied a career-high 58 penalty minutes and played an all-around more physical game. He has 69 points (nine goals, 60 assists) in 203 career games with the Devils. He has plenty of time to grow and develop and learn and mature as a player, and will continue to be one of the most consistent defensemen on the team.

Here’s a link to the nhl.com article, where there is a quote from GM Ray Shero:

“We are happy to have Damon under contract through the 2022-23 season,” said Shero. “Damon brings an important dimension to our hockey club and he is a young defenseman that we are excited to work with. This deal shows our ownership’s commitment in what we continue to build here. We look forward to helping Damon continue to grow and develop as a player.”

Devils fans are also looking forward to watching Severson continue to grow and develop as a player, hope he stays with the organization for a very long time.

New Jersey Devils: Third Annual Prospects Challenge Roster, Preview

The New Jersey Devils are set to participate in their third Annual Prospects Challenge this weekend, hosted by the Buffalo Sabres alongside the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins, a new addition this year. I wrote a blog post when the Challenge was initially announced with a complete schedule. The Devils play the Sabres tonight at 7PM, the Penguins on Saturday at 3:30PM, and the Bruins on Monday at noon.

The Devils announced their roster on Tuesday; it consists of 27 prospects (15 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goaltenders).

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 7.42.59 PM.png

Here is the complete roster:
Forwards: Nico Hischier (13), Nick Lappin (36), Michael McLeod (41), Nathan Bastian (42), Blake Speers (46), John Quenneville (47), Brandon Gignac (51), Brandon Baddock (52), Ryan Kujawinski (54), Jan Mandat (37), Austin Cangelosi (61), Nikita Popugaev (62), Jesper Bratt (63), Marian Studenic (67), Nicolas Guay (78)
Defenseman: Will Butcher (8), Michael Kapla (32), Steven Santini (34), Joshua Jacobs (45), Yaroslav Dyblenko (48), Jacob MacDonald (53), Colton White (68), Colby Sissons (71), Jocktan Chainey (73)
Goaltenders: Ken Appleby (55), Evan Cormier (60), MacKenzie Blackwood (70)

Many of the Devils prospects participated last year, including all three goaltenders, Santini, Lappin, McLeod, Quenneville, Baddock, Kujawinski, Mandat, Jacobs, Bastian, White, Sissons, and Speers. A few of those prospects also participated the year prior.

Hypothetically, all three goaltenders will get time this weekend. Many of these prospects have a shot to crack the opening night roster. Kapla, Santini, Speers, Quenneville, and Lappin all spent time with both New Jersey and Albany (AHL) last season. Speers also spent the season captaining the Greyhounds (OHL). The Devils might also incorporate some new faces into their roster this season, notably Hischier, McLeod, and Bastian.

This will also be the first time that Devils fans get to watch 2017 Hobey Baker Award winner defenseman Will Butcher in action. He signed with the team as a free agent not too long ago and I took brief look at his actual play.

I’m excited to see a few of this year’s draft picks in action once again (Hischier, Popugaev, Studenic, and Chainey). Additionally, the Devils signed Cangelosi and Guay to contracts, and they’ll both get another opportunity to show up their skills.

And while New Jersey has a ton of forward depth, they haven’t had too many eye-opening defensive prospects. That could change as the franchise moves forward with the signing of Butcher and defensive draft picks. The Devils will have nine defensemen representing the team this weekend, compared to seven (each) both years prior.

The other teams in the Challenge have also released their rosters: BuffaloBoston, and Pittsburgh. Boston’s prospects are attending the Prospects Challenge as part of their rookie camp.

DI_Gey7W4AAl5vP.jpg-large

The Devils games will be live streamed through newjerseydevils.com and will hopefully be archived for future viewing and analysis. The Sabres games will be live streamed through their official website as well so theoretically, fans will be able to watch every Prospects Challenge game (except for Pittsburgh vs. Boston, unless one of those teams is also live streaming).

Hockey is back, everyone. Time to enjoy (and stress).

Taking A Look At The Devils’ Newest Defenseman, Will Butcher

The New Jersey Devils announced yesterday that they had signed top NCAA free-agent defenseman and 2017 Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher to a two-year contract. Butcher has played college hockey at the University of Denver for the past four years; he was named Captain his last season and helped lead the team to a NCAA championship. Butcher caps off an impressive offseason for the Devils (and a full recap should be posted just before training camp).

Butcher prides himself on being an offensive, puck-moving defenseman. Here are some of his stats:

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 5.06.57 PM.png

Butcher’s had an impressive four years at Denver. He’s tallied 103 points (28 goals, 75 assists) in 158 NCAA games. His last two seasons, in particular, are of note. He scored 37 points (seven goals, 30 assists) in 43 games during the 2016-17 season, and 32 (nine goals, 23 assists) in 39 games during the 2015-16 season.

Here is a full list of accolades for Butcher from his player profile over at the UDenver’s website:

Became second student-athlete in DU program history to win the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player on Apr. 7… Named USA Hockey’s College Player of the Year on May 23… Received the prestigious Pioneer Award as the “individual who best exemplifies the Pioneer spirit in their efforts on campus and in the local community” from DU on May 19… Named DU Male Athlete of the Year on May 8… Named NCAA (West) First Team All-American on Apr. 7… Also named USCHO & CHN Player of the Year and captured the Bill Masterton Award (Team MVP) at the DU Hockey Awards Banquet on Apr. 14… Finished second in the nation in scoring by a defenseman (43GP-7G-30A-37P) and T-3rd in plus/minus (+27)… Earned All-Tournament Team honors at NCAA Midwest Regional, tallying 2GP-1G-0A-1P-4SOG, +3 rating in wins over MTU and PSU… Named NCHC  Player of the Year & Offensive Defenseman of the Year on Mar. 16… A Top 10 Finalist for the Senior CLASS Award… Earned First Team All-NCHC honors after finishing first in the conference in scoring by a defenseman (3G-22A-25P, 24GP)… One of Denver’s 16 Academic All-Conference honorees… Won NCHC Defensive Player of the Week Award six times… Recorded 100th career point on Mar. 4 at Omaha (assist)… Pre-Season CHN All-American & NCHC All-Conference Team pick… Named Denver’s Captain on June 2, 2016.

Butcher spoke to the Devils on a conference call today. He mentions the influence that Coach Hynes had on his decision: “I hit it off with Coach Hynes. He’s a strong hockey mind and a strong coach.”

On his future in New Jersey: “I thought it was the place to grow and develop, not just for two years but also for long term.” (Note: Butcher was drafted by the Avalanche at the Prudential Center in Newark back in 2013 but doesn’t know a whole lot about the city and state.) His first impressions? “It looks like a great place to be so I’m very excited about it.”

On the direction the Devils are headed: “Seeing where the young team is going was something that I felt compelled to be a part of.”

On his hockey future: “I think my game is NHL ready. I like to play an uptempo game.”

And after watching some highlights, I would agree.

Butcher is a bit on the smaller side, especially for a defenseman, clocking in at 5′ 10″ and 190 pounds, but he makes up for it with his offensive skills and his ability to play a two-way game. He’s a quick skater and has good hockey sense. He’s been excellent on the power play at Denver and isn’t afraid to put shots on net. He’s also had good showings at multiple World Juniors tournaments, representing Team USA.

He’s compared himself and his style of play after Duncan Keith, Torey Krug, Tobias Enstrom, and Devils Captain Andy Greene. During his conference call, he said, “Andy can be a great mentor to me. He plays the power play and all situations.”

Butcher also has a good chance of making the team out of training camp. The Devils don’t have a ton of depth on the blue line but with additions like Mirco Mueller and Michael Kapla (and Steven Santini), the Devils’ defense is getting younger and faster. Butcher will have the chance to make the Devils’ Top Six alongside Greene, Santini, Damon Severson, John Moore, and Ben Lovejoy. He is one of the Devils’ best defensive prospects and he’ll participate in the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo next month. The number he’s going to wear has yet to be decided. He wore #4 in college but because the Devils retired the number in honor of Scott Stevens, he’ll have to choose another number.

No one’s asking Butcher to come in and immediately save the Devils defense but he can most certainly help out, especially on the power play and penalty kill (and he can chip in offensively every now and then). Devils fans might just see him play on opening night at The Rock against the Avalanche, the team that drafted four years ago.