Going into the offseason, the Devils had a few gaping holes in their lineup. Devils’ GM Tom Fitzgerald managed to patch up thanks to the acquisitions of Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Graves, James Reimer, and Tomas Tatar.
While the Devils’ top six and blueline seem to be set, there are still question marks surrounding their bottom six.
The departures of Nathan Bastian, Mikhail Maltsev, and Nick Merkley opened some spots on the 4th line for some new players to step into.
To plug the remaining holes, the Devils’ front office could either continue their free agency shopping spree and sign a few more guys, which is unlikely, or they could give some of their prospects such as Alexander Holtz, Dawson Mercer, Jesper Boqvist, or Nolan Foote a shot if they’re ready.
When examining the Devils’ projected roster for the 2021-22 season, their top six would consist of Jack Hughes, Yegor Sharangovich, Tomas Tatar, Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, and Jesper Bratt.
Leaving Janne Kuokkanen, Miles Wood, Mike McLeod, and Andreas Johnsson as forwards somewhere in that bottom six, meaning there are two vacated spots.
As I mentioned above, I expect the Devils to plug those roster spots with players already in the franchise and possibly players who have some experience playing in the NHL like Jesper Boqvist and Nolan Foote.
Boqvist, 22, an early second-round pick in the 2017 draft, has taken his fair share of trips between Newark and Binghamton since his rookie season. While his playing time in the NHL has not come consistently, his play on the ice hasn’t been either. To be fair, Boqvist began his career playing under John Hynes, so scrap that. As for this year, he logged on average only about 10 minutes a game and was stuck on the 4th line with players who aren’t still on the team.
The same can be said for Nolan Foote, 20, who had the same treatment as Boqvist in the six games he played with the Devils this past season. Bringing up 20-year-olds to bury them on the 4th line with no help isn’t the most successful way to develop prospects.
For example, during Jack Hughes’ rookie year, he produced at the worst rate ever for a 1stoverall pick because he was out on the ice with guys like Wayne Simmonds and Nikita Gusev.
Somewhere down the line, Boqvist and Foote may have a role in the Devils lineup, but as for this year, only stuff them in this bottom six if they’re ready, along with 2020 first-round picks, Alexander Holtz and Dawson Mercer, who both have been rumored to crack the opening night lineup.
My best guess is that Devils’ coaches will pick two of these four, and if they do, I hope they consider giving the Ty Smith treatment.
If they’re ready to play in the NHL, give them a shot, but if not, don’t throw them into the fire.
Let them return to whichever league they were playing before to develop their game and blossom into a star.
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