2022-23 New Jersey Devils Destined For Greatness

MONTREAL, CANADA - NOVEMBER 15: Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils celebrates his goal with teammates on the bench during the second period of the game against the Montreal Canadiens at Centre Bell on November 15, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, CANADA - NOVEMBER 15: Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils celebrates his goal with teammates on the bench during the second period of the game against the Montreal Canadiens at Centre Bell on November 15, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

Above & Beyond Expectations: 2022-23 New Jersey Devils Destined For Greatness 

Most New Jersey Devils fans didn’t expect this team to be 19-4-0 right past American Thanksgiving. Although most fans have felt to be cautious given the shock and heartbreak of the past seasons when the New Jersey Devils were consistently high in the NHL Draft Lottery.

Speed, Grit and Perseverance

For the past several seasons, the problem has been the grit and perseverance of this Devils team. It just wasn’t there. The Devils possessed some speed, but it was missing that something extra. Over the past few drafts, offseason and in-season acquisitions, and calls ups, the Devils have found a perfect blend of SGP to their game-day lineups.

Players like Miles Wood and Fabian Zetterlund brought that speed, grit, perseverance, and Sasquatch mindset to Head Coach Lindy Ruff’s lineup. Opposing teams like the New York Rangers thought in the first five minutes of the game that Igor Shesterkin thought he would play like a Vezina-caliber goalie again.

On the contrary, Tomas Tatar got a beautiful backhanded goal to cut the Rangers’ lead in half, and the Belarusian sniper Yegor Sharangovich tied it up with a quick wrist shot in the high-danger zone. That tied the game quickly in the first period. In the 14:16 mark of the second period, Newfoundland native Dawson Mercer snapped a Hail Mary of a pass to Devils center Jack Hughes to score his fifth goal in the past three games.

Rolling Multiple Lines

The Devils were able to lean on three of their four lines versus the Rangers and take over the game. This season, it’s been more of a score-by-committee. That’s been working for them. After starting another winning streak, they are now on pace for 112 total points per Money Puck.

Jonas Siegenthaler and Dougie Hamilton’s Expected Goals For of 19.5 is tops by a defensive pair. Brendan Smith and Damon Severson pair xGoalsFor are 11.8, while Ryan Graves and John Marino sit at 11.6.

What this really means is that the three pairs on the ice on the backend are looking to chip in as many golden opportunities for the Devil’s offense to remain very productive. As long as the forwards under coach Andrew Brunette can chip in key moments and Ryan McGill can get the big Sasquatch physical defense playing in synchronization every night, it’ll be a season to remember.

New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils defenseman Simon Nemec (5): Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports /

Farm System Depth

Per Hockey Prospecting, The New Jersey Devils have the 5th best prospect pool, with guys like Luke Hughes, Reilly Walsh, Simon Nemec, Seamus Casey, and Daniil Orlov currently waiting in the wings, among other top-notch players. What this does is simply add an extra layer of high-quality skilled players that can come up over the season (minus Orlov and Shakir Mukhamadullin currently in Russia’s KHL, and Russian farm systems) to fill in the gaps.

The Devils under GM Tom Fitzgerald and EVP of Hockey Ops Martin Brodeur keep adding more young talent and highly skilled players to the farm system. Most of that talent, like Nemec, will go through Utica in the AHL first.

New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images) /

Success(or) Plan

As Lindy Ruff gets closer to the end of his contract, it becomes clear the players appreciate their head coach. It was made clear this offseason with Andrew Brunette signing and looking to be “a coach in waiting.” Having Brunette looking to take over the helm of the ship in the 2023-24 season would be deemed appropriate. Ruff could be something like a skills coach or advisor on Tom Fitzgerald’s staff if Fitzgerald and Brodeur make him an offer.

The way the team is currently constructed, don’t look for the Devils to move too many pieces. Adding another big-bodied forward, like a Nick Ritchie or Brett Ritchie type, would fit just right. Adding that extra forward that plays with that burly man, physical edge hockey that can propel the Devils from the trade deadline and into the playoffs would be beneficial.

Goaltending depth with Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid between the pipes will keep the Devils winning. They also have another option in Nico Daws, who did rather well last season considering the circumstances. Daws brings in another fresh set of legs where Vanecek doesn’t have to lift a boulder but lifts more or so less than half of the workload.

Early Season Grade Since American Thanksgiving

To be honest, the Devils look like night and day compared to last year’s team. The forward core depth and skill are phenomenal due to the factors of drafting and developing players since Tom Fitzgerald was an Assistant GM.

Tom Fitzgerald keeping Paul Castron on his staff in control of the Amateur Scouting department has paid off massive dividends where guys like McLeod, Hischier, Hughes, and Bastian all play their own roles from the top line down with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier producing top-six numbers. Nathan Bastian and Michael McLeod have been producing rather well, with the two united again, then Fabian Zetterlund filling in for the time being. This core gets an A- overall.

New Jersey’s defensive core under Ryan McGill has been nothing short of amazing. Why is that? It’s due to the defensive system. It keeps offensive players limited to the high-danger scoring zone and more toward the mid and low-danger areas.

The Swiss Pikeman-styled defense keeps many offensive teams to very helpless areas where the Devils are far less likely to surrender goals. The Devils have been blocking shots more often this season, resulting in counteroffensives. This unit deserves an A+ due to its record.

dark. Next. Devils Do Not Need Josh Anderson

The Penalty Kill is a B overall, and the Power Play is a B-. Special teams is a work in progress, and many games to improve upon those two areas along with adding more size and grit. GPA it’s a 3.66 or an A- overall for this NJ Devils team so far.s