New Jersey Devils 4th Line Deserves Credit For Team’s Success

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) /

When the 2022-23 NHL season got underway, the hockey community questioned how successful this current New Jersey Devils could be. It is the franchise’s 40th season in the Garden State. Despite that issue, players like team captain Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, and early Hart Trophy candidate Jesper Bratt gave Lindy Ruff’s squad a chance to do something special this season. While the three forwards have played well so far this season, the team’s 4th line deserves major props for New Jersey’s 9-3 start.

All three players contributed to the Devils’ best start to a season since 2012.

Nate Bastian

A little over one year ago, it seemed as if Nate Bastian’s short Devils tenure would end after just 48 total games in the NHL. After the league introduced the Seattle Kraken as its 32nd team, Bastian was selected in the expansion draft. After scoring a goal and assist in 12 games for the Kraken, Seattle decided to waive him. It was pretty clear the Devils wouldn’t let him pass through waivers. They claimed him, and he played 60 games to round out the season for New Jersey.

So far this year, Bastian has six points, bringing him a third of the way to his season-high of 18. While the two goals and goal assists this early on can be considered shocking, it hasn’t stopped Bastian from being the brute force, currently standing at 2nd on the team with 25 hits (right behind Brendan Smith, who has 27).

While Bastian has been a fourth-line guy his whole career, this is the most we’ve seen him thrive in his five NHL seasons.

Miles Wood

While the Devils had a surplus of problems last season, one thing fans could point their finger at was the season-long absence of Miles Wood. He was one of the many injuries the Devils suffered, which had a significant impact. Wood had hip surgery in November. After returning late in the year, he only lasted three games before the Devils shut him down again.

Now in his eighth season (all with the Devils), Wood has always been known for his speed and ability to create separation up and down the ice. Many fans questioned Wood’s role on the team, considering the influx of young talent coming from the Utica Comets on the horizon and the mystery regarding his capabilities following his injury.

Wood has been having a ton of success, scoring five goals (tied for the team lead going into Tuesday night’s tilt with Calgary) and adding three assists. This is what the Devils wanted from Wood. This is one of the best stretches of his career and has been monumental to what the Devils are doing offensively.

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Michael McLeod

Michael McLeod appeared in 77 games last season with 20 points. This year, McLeod is on pace to shatter last year’s point total and collect a new career high after collecting 5 assists and 1 goal. That goal came on the road in what could be argued as the team’s best win of the season so far against the Edmonton Oilers.

McLeod has been a great net-front presence and compliments the speed of his linemates very well. While the 24-year-old may not be exactly living up to his draft status, it seems like he’s finally establishing himself in a true role on this Devils team.

For the Devils, the 4th line has been one of the more pleasant surprises you could ask for. McLeod, Bastian, and Wood accounted for eight of the team’s 44 goals (18.1%) and are all on pace for career years. While it’s hard to imagine this line staying at this same pace concerning points, it’s undeniable that they are a major reason New Jersey currently has one of the best records in the entire league.

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This line will eventually cool down, and some big-money players will steal the spotlight again. However, let it be known that if this team goes anywhere this season, the 4th line deserves a good portion of the credit.