2. Dawson Mercer, Forward, 21
Early in his career, Dawson Mercer has made huge strides towards becoming a star. He’s a quick, smart player who handles the puck well. Mercer started out as a center in his rookie season, but he was eventually shifted to primarily a winger. His first season in 2021-22 was generally productive, showing he was someone to keep an eye on.
Mercer’s second NHL season saw many exciting and special moments. He set a Devils record and an NHL 2022-23 season record with an eight-game goal streak, a franchise record twelve games for the longest point streak for a player under 22, and he now holds the Devils’ record for the most consecutive games played to start an NHL career. Oh yeah, and he had his first career hat trick on April 4th. Phew, what a season.
It’s hard to top all of that, but Mercer has the skills and now the confidence needed to bring his game to another level. He’s capable of becoming a 30-goal scorer, falling just short with 27 goals and 29 assists in his second season. Mercer will be in the final year of his entry-level contract next season. A strong 2023-24 season that builds on 2022-23 would go a long way in contract negotiations.
Mercer made an impact in his first playoff run, although he wasn’t as consistent as the team would’ve liked. There were some games where he was a ghost and others where he showed flashes of brilliance. He had three goals and four assists and finished with a -1 +/-. Mercer earned three of those assists in the Game 3 blowout against Carolina. It was his first go around in the playoffs, and like Schmid, who also struggled with consistency, time and experience will help Mercer reach the next level.
It’s abundantly clear that Mercer loves being a Devil. His letter to Devils fans at the beginning of the playoffs in The Players’ Tribune gave goosebumps. He pumped up the fans with a plea to “feel free to absolutely lose your minds when that puck drops.” Mercer credits Captain Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes with helping their teammates take a step forward in 2022-23. Hopefully, Mercer will be a Devil alongside them for years to come.