New Jersey Devils: 5 Things We Learned About This Roster In 2020-21

Miles Wood #44 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Miles Wood #44 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils left wing Jesper Bratt (63) and goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (29): (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports) /

There’s A Core Here, We Just Don’t Know Who

Obviously, we know Hischier and Hughes is part of the core. Fitzgerald said he considers Ty Smith part of the core, too. That’s great, but let’s see him do it for one normal season first. He looks really good, but he needs to prove it one more time.

Outside of Smith, Hughes, and Hischier, there are ten players who could theoretically be part of a really good core for a playoff team. However, only about three or four of those players will actually play consistently enough to stay on this team long term. Jesper Bratt and Pavel Zacha seem like the most obvious options at this point. They both have shown flashes in previous seasons, and they were more consistent this season. There is still more we’d like to see from them, but this is a good start.

Then, there’s Miles Wood. He led the team in goals this season, but he was maddeningly inconsistent the two seasons prior. Did he just learn how to fix his mistakes and grow up, or was this another outlier season like 2017-18?

The young players are in different tiers, but they could all be franchise greats or one-hit wonders. Yegor Sharangovich is the obvious case of curiosity. He dominated the KHL before coming over to the NHL and looking like a legit top-six winger. Out of nowhere, the Devils issues on the wing are a little less dire. Janne Kuokkanen finished the season on the top line. While nobody wants that to be where he ends up, he did just fine in that role.

Lesser players like McLeod, Nathan Bastian, Nick Merkley, Mikhail Maltsev, and Nolan Foote all showed different levels of promise to be core pieces, but there are still a lot of questions to answer. This is without even considering players who didn’t play this season like Alexander Holtz or Dawson Mercer.