NJ Devils: Picking Linemates For Ondrej Palat When He Returns

Ondrej Palat #18 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Ondrej Palat #18 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

This season, the New Jersey Devils have experienced incredible highs and valley-like lows. Most expected the results of New Jersey’s play this season would have a lot to do with the play of veteran forward Ondrej Palat. He was their free agent prize.

After signing a five-year $30 million contract with the Devils this summer, many anticipated that Palat would be a significant contributor and a big reason behind any potential team success. While the Czechia native would score three goals in his first six games as a Devil, a groin injury kept him out since October 24th.

Since his exit, the red and black have experienced both a 13-game winning streak and a six-game losing streak, bringing up the burning question…

Where does Ondrej Palat not only play but fit following his inevitable return?

Before his injury, Palat was featured on the top line with team captain Nico Hischier and fan favorite Jesper Bratt. Since then, head coach Lindy Ruff has manipulated his rotation quite a bit, and all four lines have a completely different look. While Hischier still centers the top line, Bratt has shifted to “line two,” where he’s seen a lot of time with Jack Hughes and first-year Devil Erik Haula.

When Palat takes the ice for the first time in over two months, it’s essential he plays with an elite passer, someone who can help give him the best scoring chances and quickly get back to scoring goals like he was signed to do.

Jack Hughes is one of the best passers on the team this season that could contribute to that need. Hughes is currently tied for the team lead in assists with 21 and provided an apple to Palat’s first goal of the season in the team’s first win against the Anaheim Ducks.

Additionally, Hughes has proven to be an uncanny passer during odd-man rushes, and it’s very easy to imagine both forwards developing lots of chemistry on high-danger chances. Meanwhile, Jesper Bratt has plenty of experience playing with Hischier, so sending him back to the top line, for the time being, shouldn’t remotely be an issue.

As for who Palat replaces, the leading candidate would have to be Alex Holtz. In just 14 games this year, the former 7th overall pick has just recorded 2 points (2 goals and 0 assists) and is not seeing consistent enough playing time that will allow his game to truly develop. Plus, this would allow Miles Wood to move back to the 4th line, where he saw a lot more success than his production on line three.

Next. Watch: Luke Hughes Scores In World Juniors Debut. dark

In reality, Ondrej Palat is good enough to produce regardless of where you put him. However, it would be really hard for Devils fans to deny that they’d want to see what a line featuring him and Jack Hughes could produce game after game.