The New Jersey Devils were a surprise to all last season. Not only did they finally make the playoffs for the first time in five years, but they had the third-best record in the NHL and they beat the New York Rangers in the playoffs. It honestly could not have gone better.
So many players answered questions in 2022-23. Jack Hughes showed he was a true superstar and one of the best players in the league. Nico Hischier was a Selke Trophy candidate who hit 80 points for the first time in his career. Dawson Mercer avoided the sophomore slump, Jesper Bratt answered the bell, and the Devils added grit along with scoring in Timo Meier. None of these players have any question marks heading into 2023-24.
There are plenty of players on this team that aren’t in the same position. There are huge question marks surrounding this roster as they try to find the most trustworthy lineup. We know about the stars. Let’s take a look at some of the players who we aren’t so sure about.
As always, let’s start with the obvious. Alex Holtz isn’t even a lock to make the NHL. The former seventh-overall pick isn’t a bust yet, but he has to prove something this season to show he’s part of this team’s future.
Here’s the thing, the Devils could absolutely use a huge Holtz year. With Bratt and Meier playing on their next contracts and the addition of Tyler Toffoli, the wingers have become expensive. So, if Holtz can be a legit top-six winger, the Devils would be getting a player who can contribute on the cheap.
Holtz appeared to be an NHL forward at the start of last season. He was incredible in the preseason. He had two goals and two assists in three preseason games. His pairing with Hughes and Ondrej Palat looked like a match made in Heaven. Then, he just didn’t click in the regular season. It didn’t help that Lindy Ruff gave him a short leash.
The leash won’t be long this season, and the Devils front office wants something out of him to move forward. Not only is the team trying to find who will be their core, but the team needs to figure out the salary cap table for the next five or six years. Should they save money for Holtz, or is he going to be a player close to the minimum if he even sticks around?