Can New Jersey Devils Finish Rebuild Before 2024-25 Season?

Alexander Holtz #10 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Alexander Holtz #10 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils rebuild has taken forever and the process has moved slower than molasses. Unlike the tasty thick brown sugar, it has been anything but sweet for Devils fans, who have been waiting patiently since 2015. When will the New Jersey faithful finally see a winning product on the ice? It may take till the 2024-25 NHL season before the Devils be a formidable playoff contender.

The rebuild officially started on May 4, 2015, when the Devils hired Ray Shero as their GM and started to usher out Lou Lamoriello’s 28-year run. At that time, the Devils were about three years removed from their magical Stanley Cup Final run and missed the playoffs three years in a row. It came as a shock to many as supposedly Lamoriello handpicked Shero.

For Shero, it was taking over a family business that had only one general in charge for nearly three decades with his hand in every cookie jar within the Devils organization. The Devils scouting department was gutted and a new emphasis on hockey analytics methodology was implemented. The Devils’ farm system was thin on talent and needed to be restocked through the draft. Moreover, a complete overhaul was needed and the team would change its philosophy and make shrewd trades, such as the infamous fleecing trade of the Edmonton Oilers that brought Taylor Hall to the Garden State.

By the time the 2017-18 NHL season rolled around, the Devils appeared to be on the upward swing with the combination of Taylor Hall’s MVP season and making the playoffs for the first time in nearly six years. But it turned out to be fool’s gold as the Devils have been consistently in the NHL draft lottery since.

There have been major hiccups along the way and it has been a rough ride. Taylor Hall was traded, John Hynes fired, and eventually, Ray Shero and the Devils parted ways. Current Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald took over in early 2020 with an interim tag and navigated the Devils through an uncertain time during the early stages of the pandemic. He hired Lindy Ruff as head coach and traded fan favorites like Blake Coleman, Travis Zajac, and Kyle Palmieri. It resulted in three extra 1st-round picks, giving the Devils five total 1st-round draft picks (three in 2020 and two in 2021).

Out of these draft choices, only Dawson Mercer is a full-time NHL player, while Alexander Holtz has split time between Utica and New Jersey. Shakir Mukhamadullin is playing in the KHL and progressing in his development while Luke Hughes is thriving for the University of Michigan and Chase Stillman playing in Canadian junior hockey. Keep in mind, we have yet to see these young promising prospects full time in a Devils uniform.

And by the time these young prospects are ready to make the big leap, the Devils’ AHL affiliate Utica Comets will be fully stocked with young NHL-ready talent. Currently, they have a 24-5-5 record with 53 points under head coach Kevin Dineen and already have learned how to win as a team. They have the best record in the AHL, which can only mean good things for the future of the Devils.

By the 2024-25 season, the Devils would be fully infused with this youth movement while Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier would be entering their prime. This will be a dynasty in the making. From conception to almost completion. You’re almost to the finish line Devils fans. So enjoy the last years of growing pains of the New Jersey Devils!