Leading up to the start of the NHL season, analysts and fans love to drop their predictions and expectations of how each team will fare in their upcoming seasons.
Whether it’s a power ranking, playoff prediction, or season preview, there’s always an article out there that’s discussing expectations. Hockey is only a month away, which means players will be reporting to training camp, and fans will be reporting online to read Devils’ articles.
The New Jersey Devils arguably had a better offseason than anybody, thanks to the additions of Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Graves, Tomas Tatar, and James Reimer. With those acquisitions, fans probably wonder what the Devils’ season will look like from a success standpoint.
Will this decade-long nightmare known as Devils’ hockey finally come to an end, or will the Devils once again be on the outside looking in come playoff time?
Well, I’m here to tell you that I expect them to make the Eastern Conference Finals with my biased Devils’ fan opinion.
Predictions have the 2021-22 New Jersey Devils in the midst of a playoff hunt this season.
Will they make it? Maybe, but I expect them to finish from the 4th to 6th seed in the Metropolitan Division this upcoming year.
This season, a playoff appearance for the Devils is in range for them, but before they make the playoffs, this young and inexperienced team has to learn how to win games. What I mean by that is learning how to hold leads, closeout games, not be bombarded by shots in the 3rd period when attempting to hold the lead, and learning how to battle back when trailing.
Not that the Devils had many opportunities to learn how to play with a lead this year, or really in the last decade, this past season, young players made strides in learning how to battle back from deficits.
Of the many things the Devils have been missing for a while is a confident team.
With Jack Hughes taking a huge step, having a fresh, young captain in Nico Hischier, and adding a top-five defenseman in the league in Dougie Hamilton, it’ll do wonders for a team that lacks confidence, leadership, and skill. This season, all I can ask for from this New Jersey Devils team is to learn how to win games. Last year was a success in the fact that Devils fans got to witness young players begin to take the next step in their game. This year, it would be a victory for them to learn how to win games (especially shootouts).
When it comes down to what needs to go right for a Devils playoff berth, there’s a lot, but as I’ve mentioned in a prior article, this team will go as far as Nico Hischier takes them. We know what Hughes and Hamilton will do, but the only question is whether their captain is ready to be an all-star. A healthy Nico whose game finally takes a jump to all-star caliber, this Devils team makes the playoffs. However, that’s a lot to ask, mainly because the Devils play in the toughest division. The blueline will take a massive jump in play, which will make it easier on 1A goalie Mackenzie Blackwood and 1B goalie James Reimer. Their backend will be playoff-caliber; what it comes down to is having enough guys who know how to put the puck in the net.
With the addition of Tatar, the improvement of Pavel Zacha, and the explosion of Yegor Sharangovich, the Devils may have multiple 25 goal scorers on their team, something they haven’t had since the season they made the finals, back in 2011-12. Tatar has gotten to the 25 goals mark a few times in his career, and whether he is on a line with Hughes or Hischier, it’s possible to reach that mark again. As for Zacha, a guy who has heard it throughout his short career had burst onto the scene last year, leading the team in points and scoring at a 27 goal pace over 82 games. If we see centerman Pavel Zacha next year, I believe we see a digression in his game. However, if it’s winger Zacha, I anticipate him being on a line with his buddies Hischier and Bratt and that line doing damage.
As for Sharangovich, the kid is a wildcard, a former 5th round pick who went over to Russia, played in the KHL for a year came back with a scoring touch. Him being on a line with Hughes next year allows for the sky to be the limit and gives him a chance to break 30 goals next year, but there’s also a chance that he crashes back down to earth.
Ultimately, I expect the New Jersey Devils to finish 5th in the metropolitan division with 90 points. As for all the players I discussed, I can’t predict whether Nico stays healthy or not, but if he does, both he and Hughes top 60 points next year. When it comes to goal scorers, I think Tatar and Zacha will fall short of 25 goals, while Sharangovich goes over the mark.
In any other division, the New Jersey Devils make the playoffs this year, but in this division, you can make an argument for six other teams in it to finish higher in the standings than the Yankees.
I know you’re tired of being told to be patient, so I am, but what the Devils front office is building here is going to be worth it, and if the Devils are in a playoff hunt down to the wire, this season isn’t a failure, not a success, but not a failure.
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