3. Nathan Bastian
This one is a surprise on multiple senses. For one, Nathan Bastian wasn’t even on the team to start the season. Our very own Dan Rice did a piece on Bastian when the Seattle Kraken came to New Jersey and Bastian was enjoying a return to the place he once called home. About a month later, Bastian was on waivers, and he was reunited with his friend and linemate Michael McLeod.
He was clearly something the Devils desperately needed. Despite playing just 60 games with the Devils, he was by far the hits leader on the team. He had 194 hits in those 60 games, throwing his body around unlikely anyone else on the team. Second on the team in hits was Michael McLeod, who was obviously impacted by the return of Bastian.
The Devils were in desperate need of some toughness before Bastian returned to New Jersey. He brought a fire the team was missing, and they used that to turn around a mindset that was allowing too many chances overall. Teams were getting into the zone too easily.
Bastian didn’t have the offensive impact he had last season, but he was scoring goals at one point. He had 11 in 60 games with the season after only 3 in 41 games last season. He could keep growing on that number as the Devils look to become a contender eventually.