5 Players Who Brought New Jersey Devils To First Place

Miles Wood #44 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images)
Miles Wood #44 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images) /
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The New Jersey Devils are enjoying one of the best starts in franchise history. After sweeping their Western Canada road trip, they are 9-3-0. At the time of this writing, the Devils are sitting atop the Metropolitan Division. After the Carolina Hurricanes lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night, the Devils led the division by all metrics (points and point percentage).

This is a wild start to the season. After losing the first two games of the season, it looked like it was going to be just another Devils season. Then, the Devils won nine of their next ten games. Lindy Ruff went from hearing “fire Lindy” at home to saving his job. Ruff has done a good job righting this ship, but it comes down to the players. They are the reason the Devils won nine of their first 12 games. They are the reason the analytics are off the charts.

A few players are making a real difference on the ice. Some players have been waiting a long time to see something like this. Others are brand new to the franchise. The Devils wouldn’t be in this position without these five players.

New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes (86): Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

5. Jack Hughes

It sounds crazy that the Devils franchise player is only the fifth most important during a 9-3 start. That’s the situation for this team. Jack Hughes has been good, don’t get us wrong, but he hasn’t been, like, that take-over-the-world superstar that he’s been in the past.

Hughes has 12 points in 12 games. He is literally a point-per-game player, and fans are still saying Hughes hasn’t hit his ceiling. That’s mostly because we’ve seen Hughes at his peak, and this isn’t it. Hughes is eighth on the team in CorsiFor Percentage, fourth in first assists, and fourth in goals (all stats via Natural Stat Trick). He’s been good even at his counting stats, but his underlying stats are even better.

Hughes is first on the team in individual xG. He’s also second on the team in individual high-danger chances with 22. Only Nico Hischier has more. Despite maybe not being the most important player on the team like most would expect him to be, Hughes is still incredibly important to the Devils’ start.