New Jersey Devils: Overreaction Post To Team’s First Practice Lines

New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier (13): (Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports)
New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier (13): (Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports) /

Very important note to start this article, this is reacting to some pieces of information that are so early in the process of building a hockey team some might say it’s not worth it. However, looking at the lines the New Jersey Devils put together tells us what the team was thinking throughout the offseason. Will this be the lines on opening night? They almost definitely will not, but it’s still worth talking about as we try to predict what head coach Lindy Ruff is going to do.

The Devils broke down the lineup into three groups. For argument’s sake, let’s just look specifically at the forwards.

The first group consisted of:

Johnsson – Hischier – Bratt
Vesey – McLeod – Thompson
Greer – Schnarr – Zetterlund

It’s clear the Devils know who the long shots are. Recent PTO signing Frederik Gauthier is getting a shot, but it’s a long, long shot to make the team. Meanwhile, Jimmy Vesey was on a line with Michael McLeod, who is as close to a guarantee to make the roster as anyone. Unless he gets hurt or just completely falls on his face, his name will be mentioned on opening night.

Putting Andreas Johnsson on the top line with Hischier and Bratt is the one move that stands out the most. Hischier and Bratt are in the top six. Giving Johnsson a shot on that line shows the Devils haven’t lost faith in him after a rough first season in Jersey. That third line just feels like giving some older prospects a shot to play with NHL players.

The second group of lines were:

Wood – Zacha – Kuokkanen
Gamberdella – Jankowski – Holtz
Talvitie – Mercer – Clarke

There are a few overreactions we could have about Group B. Obviously, the first thing that stands out is that first line. Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha, and Janne Kuokkanen were very important to their lines last season. Now, they are on completely different lines. The Devils said they were going to try Zacha at center, and it looks like that is the original plan. He said earlier this week that he’s comfortable at center and on the wing. So, it gives Ruff some flexibility. It’s obviously easier to play the wing, so it makes sense that Ruff would start him at center.

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That second group has a lot of interesting parts. It’s really interesting that Ruff put Dawson Mercer and Alex Holtz in the same group but didn’t put them on the same line. Holtz got to play with some older players, and that might actually mean something in the long run. Mercer was on a “rookie” line, but that didn’t impact his compete factor. At first, Chase DeLeo felt like a player who could shoot for a surprise spot on the roster, but this won’t really build confidence in that theory.

Here’s the third set of lines:

Sharangovich – Hughes – Tatar
Foote – Boqvist – Studenic
Stillman – Schmelzer – Flynn

Tomas Tatar was predicted to get the first shot with Jack Hughes. He was their big forward signing from the offseason, so he will get the first shot at the top line. Hughes and Sharangovich are a pair that makes sense after Yegor showed he was becoming even more dynamic this offseason. This group makes the most sense on paper.

The Devils will try different lines, but the very first lines show what was in the coaches’ heads before training camp started. The first lines always tell a story. This one has some new pairings and some interesting pairings after what the team finished the season with last year.