New Jersey Devils: 5 Reasons For Optimism Ahead Of Season

(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The preseason is now complete and the October 6 opener against the Edmonton Oilers looms large on the horizon. As the New Jersey Devils make final preparations to embark on their 82 game season, there are at least five reasons for optimism.

I must note before getting to the topic of this article that, as a rabid soccer fan, yesterday’s final preseason game against SC Bern was both unique and entertaining. Watching the two captains exchanging pre-match gifts, seeing a standing supporters section with singing and giant flags and listening to Steve Cangialosi referring to “Champions League Hockey” was an amusing confluence of the two sports.

I’m optimistic about the upcoming season.

But now with the various oddities of the once-in-a-lifetime preseason behind us, it is time to shift our gaze to the regular season. Based on the various pre-season matchups, I see five reasons for optimism for the New Jersey Devils this campaign. And without further ado, here they are:

Will Butcher‘s Athleticism

Last year, I think it was safe to characterize number 8 as a cerebral player who lacked a bit of speed and strength at times. The early returns this year, however, are encouraging. There’s a bit more closing speed on pseudo breakaways and much more power on his shot. The Denver University product looks to have stepped things up a bit.

Nico Hischier Too

I think we can say the same thing about Mr. Hischier as well. I saw no signs of fatigue during overtime sessions. His speed and strength carrying the puck are a touch improved. And, although it is not evident to a fan watching on television, there are lots of stories about the time our overall #1 pick has spent in the gym in his home country. Lots of very encouraging signs. All signs point to an even better season with a points total perhaps north of 60 this season. That would be good for Nico personally and would better complement his linemate Taylor Hall as well. Some very good stuff here.

Flipping Mirco and The Captain

No doubt about it, Andy Greene is a solid defenseman. I like him a lot. But at his age, we have to accept the fact his endurance is not what it once was, and he may have lost a half step. Mirco Mueller, by point of comparison, has the size and skating ability one expects in a top flight blueliner in today’s NHL. From an age and maturity standpoint, he should now be coming into his own. Will number 25 work out in that role? Too early to tell, but it’s awesome to see John Hynes show a bit of faith in the lad to see if he can do it. It clearly is a plan with a higher ceiling for the club if Mueller can handle landing in the number one pairing role.

The Composure Of Jesper Bratt

People love to kill this guy. I don’t get it. He has great puck skills, is a slick passer and does an awesome job on the halfboards on the power play. Very confident in possession and does a really nice job on his offensive zone entries making sure the Devils can keep the puck and start an attack. On the PP this preseason, we’ve seen a sick backdoor pass to Andy Greene and a bevy of possession with quick passes and puck movement peppered throughout the offensive zone. Assuming Bratt has grown into his body a bit and won’t wear down like during the 2017-18 season, I can see him and his puck skills easily holding down a Top 6 attacking forward role on the Devils.

A Full Year of Kyle and Marcus

Last year, we got 62 games from Kyle Palmieri and a mere 29 from Marcus Johansson. Perhaps I’m guilty of being an eternal optimist, but I’m hoping for 70+ games and 25+ goals from each winger this year. Palmieri is a solid producer and number 90 sure looks the part with his strong puck possession game whenever he hops on the ice. Something in the neighborhood of 50 goals from these two with another 50-60 from Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier has the makings of a potent, well-balanced attack for Jersey’s Team.

Next. Devils Play Entertaining Game. dark

What Do You Think?

Okay Devils fans, do you agree? I certainly hope so. I didn’t even touch what I feel are expected improvements from Pavel Zacha, Miles Wood and (cross my fingers) Damon Severson. With a little luck, we might enjoy a terrific winter at The Rock this season!