With the Devils playoff chances virtually nonexistent, fans are starting to point fingers at individual players.
Sure, the lack of goaltending and injury to Taylor Hall hurts, but that’s not the whole blame. Anyone who knows the game of hockey can see the Devils are missing pieces on Offense, Defense and Goaltending. So, let’s put this season behind us and look at potential players we may see on the team next year.
Let’s start with goaltending. The organization is obviously looking at Mackenzie Blackwood to be the future of the team. Already playing in 13 games with the big club this season including two shutouts Blackwood has a 2.37GAA. After his second shutout a 4-0 victory over Vancouver on December 31st Coach Hynes said in an interview “You can see he has the talent. Now it’s about living the right way to give himself the best opportunity to perform.” Coach Hynes has also come out and said they plan on getting Blackwood some more NHL playing time this season, it’s just about waiting for the right moment.
When it comes to upgrading the defense, the answer is obvious. 17th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Ty Smith. Ty Smith came into Devils training camp prior to the 2018-2019 season and almost made the team. John Hynes spoke highly of Ty Smith throughout training camp. “The thing we’ve really liked about him is that he finds a way to adjust,” Hynes said. “If he has a rough period, the rest of the game he can figure out and adjust and I think that’s part of his learning is the intensity level and how quickly he needs to do things at this level versus the other levels.” Fans got a look at the Devils training camp on the show “Behind the Glass”. That’s where it was shown how much Ty smith means to the future of this team, you could see how hard it was for the team to send him back to Spokane. That may have been the right move though to help further his career. In 44 games so far this season with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL Smith has recorded 6 goals, 52 assists and has a +6 rating. Ty Smith should get every opportunity to make the team, if he has another stellar training camp.
Another potential upgrade on defense would be 2016 draft pick Jeremy Davies. In 26 games played this year with Northeastern university Davies has 5 goals and 17 assists totaling 22 points. Davies has posted similar numbers each season going back to 2014 when he played for Bloomington in the USHL. Playing in the NCAA and being unsigned Davies may not get all the attention, if the Devils were to work something out, he could potentially provide a boost on the defense.
When Devils fans talk about the 2017 draft, all conversation goes directly to Nico Hischier. In the second round New Jersey selected forward Jesper Boqvist. Currently playing in the SHL with Brynas IF, Boqvist has posted 11 goals and 16 assists in 40 games played. New Jersey scout Paul Castron described Boqvist as a “very skilled player, really good speed and puck skills”. Since 2017 Boqvist has played on numerous different teams between his SHL, juniors and tournaments. What Jesper lacks in scoring he makes up for in skill. If you could get him into the Devils organization playing the same style of hockey on a consistent basis, you’ll see an increase in his potential.
When it comes to the young players in Binghamton everyone is familiar with the names such as, Blake Pietila, Michael McLeod and John Quenneville. One name that you rarely see is Marian Studenic, who was another draftee from 2017. Mostly playing on the 2nd or 3rd line Studenic has put up 12 goals and 14 assists in 43 games this season for Binghamton. More than likely UFA forwards such as Drew Stafford and Kurtis Gabriel will not return for the 2019-2020 season, that could leave a potential spot for Studenic on the 3rd or 4th line.
Once the offseason begins and we begin to see changes to the roster, we’ll then get a better idea of where some of these players may fit into things. As stated, earlier fans were teased with a playoff push last year, raising hopes higher than they should’ve been.