New Jersey Devils: Ondrej Palat Should Easily Bounce Back This Season

Ondrej Palat #18 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Jaylynn Nash/Getty Images)
Ondrej Palat #18 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Jaylynn Nash/Getty Images) /

Just about everything went right for the New Jersey Devils last season. Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier found their peaks at the same time. Jesper Bratt showed he wasn’t a one-hit wonder. Vitek Vanecek was the regular-season answer in net. They were mostly healthy.

We say mostly because there were a few players who dealt with long-term injuries. Nathan Bastian never looked the same after he missed a few weeks with his injury. The same can be said for John Marino, but it would have been hard to hit the heights he hit in the beginning of the season. Then, there’s Ondrej Palat.

In the preseason, Palat looked like a perfect fit. His line with Jack Hughes and Alexander Holtz had a special chemistry that doesn’t happen often. It fizzled almost immediately, which was just bizarre. Lindy Ruff didn’t give the line another chance to find its rhythm, and then Palat got injured. He tore his groin in late October and had surgery a few days later.

We wouldn’t see Palat again until after the New Year. Just six games into his Devils tenure, a mere months after signing a five-year contract, Palat was on the shelf and may never be the same.

However, it’s easy to see why this could be a whole new world for Palat. He was used to making deep playoff runs, and he might have been close to breaking in one way or another. It just happened to be his groin to go. That is usually an injury that happens due to overexertion.

This season, Palat will come into the season close to one year removed from the surgery. He will have a full offseason to rest and recover. That should show Devils fans a new side of him.

On top of being fully healthy, Palat will be in year two within the Lindy Ruff system. He will be used to the speed and expectations. His expectations are also lower. With the addition of Timo Meier and Tyler Toffoli, Palat is expected to excel on a line with Erik Haula and not Hughes. That takes a lot of pressure off of him.

Palat is used to high-pressure situations. He was on a top line with Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay. Now, as he transitions to a different point of his career, he can transition to a third-line role. Playing with Haula and possibly Dawson Mercer gives him the opportunity to play his game more often than adjusting to Hughes.

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This should be a much better season for Palat. Even on a per-game basis, Palat was not good enough (23 points in 49 games). If he doesn’t, then the Devils might have a decision to make on the final three years of his contract.