New Jersey Devils: 3 Options To Replace Nico Hischier For Now

Jack Hughes #86 and Nico Hischier #13 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Jack Hughes #86 and Nico Hischier #13 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes (86): (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports) /

Move Jack Hughes, And Everyone Else, Up One Line

Let’s start with the most obvious choice. Jack Hughes is the two of the “one-two punch” for Devils centers. He was expected to slide right into the second-line center spot in an offense that should work a lot better with his skill set. With a now-NHL experienced Nikita Gusev, a newly-acquired Andreas Johnsson, and a few other supremely skilled options on his wing, Hughes looked like he was primed to come back in a big way.

Now, the pressure is back on for Hughes to step up. The Devils will look to make their 19-year-old top pick their top center a lot sooner than they probably hoped.

Still, putting Hughes there is not where the Devils have an issue. It’s the other three lines where things start to get hairy. The reason the Devils have a shot to be at least competitive has to do with two factors; the top two centers and the two goalies. Taking one of those factors out, and it’s basically up to Mackenzie Blackwood and Corey Crawford to carry the team on a nightly basis.

In this scenario, Travis Zajac has to move up to the second line. Pavel Zacha would likely move up to the third line. Then on the fourth line, the Devils are probably forced to give it to Michael McLeod no matter what. Hey, it’s not a terrible thing to have four 1st-round picks playing center, but Devils fans will tell you, this isn’t the way. It might be the only way, though.