Top 3 New Jersey Devils players who surprised us in 2023-24

The New Jersey Devils may have missed the playoffs, but it doesn’t mean there haven’t been at least a few surprise players this season amidst the madness.
Pittsburgh Penguins v New Jersey Devils
Pittsburgh Penguins v New Jersey Devils / Adam Hunger/GettyImages
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Nico Daws fared better than you may have thought

While it’s true Nico Daws struggled in the net this season, we also need to consider the overall scope of his performance, and it was rather encouraging. Sure, he won just nine games in 20 starts and 21 appearances, he never recorded a shutout, and had a save percentage of 0.894 and a GAA of 3.15, but he also hit the 0.500 mark in quality starts. 

In a way, Daws reminds me of Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who had an ultra-trying season in 2022-23 when he registered just an 0.891 save percentage, a 3.61 GAA, no shutouts, and a 0.406 quality starts percentage. This season, it was a different story, and Luukkonen finished with a 0.910 save percentage, a 2.57 GAA, five shutouts, and a 0.667 quality starts percentage. 

As you can see, Daws enjoyed a better 2023-24 season than Luukkonen had in 2022-23. This was also Daws’ second season in which he played in 20-plus games for the Devils, and he improved in a few categories. He slightly edged out his save percentage from 2022-23, his percentage of quality starts skyrocketed from 0.304 to 0.500, and he also allowed roughly four goals more than expected at even strength, compared to roughly 8.5 last year. 

And remember, this all came with inconsistent play in the defensive zone, foreshadowing another year of experience and better defense could lead to better results for Daws if the pending restricted free agent returns.