Preseason hockey has kicked off, which means we’re getting closer to the Devils home opener on October 15 against the Blackhawks. If what a team does in the preseason is a good tell for how they’ll play in the regular season, then Devils fans should have high expectations for their club.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that, and preseason doesn’t count for anything, but regardless, Devils fans should be loving what they’ve watched in the games the team has played.
The Devils’ first preseason contest was a slugfest against the Washington Capitals. It was a back and forth game, up until Nico Hischier netted the game-winning goal on the powerplay with just over a minute remaining in the game. Other than some shaky defense that led to giving up four goals, everything that you wanted to see as a fan occurred, as Sharangovich, Hughes, Holtz, Mercer, and Hischier scored the five goals.
No better script could have been drawn as the five kids who you hope will take their game to the next level and develop into star players for this franchise played fantastically. Sharangovich looked confident with the puck, and his shot hasn’t missed a beat; Jack was doing Jack like things when he stole the puck and went bar down on a beautiful backhand; Holtz let a wrister fly that traveled faster than light (ask the Capitals goalie), Mercer’s all-around game looked great, and he was a pest, and the captain netting a game-winner thanks to some silky hands in front of the net.
As for game two against the Rangers, you really couldn’t have scripted anything better as it was a 7-1 beatdown. Dougie Hamilton looked like himself as he had two assists and controlled the power play. Tomas Tatar let a beautiful one-timer fly while getting his first taste of the rivalry as he got into it with Jacob Trouba. Mercer’s making a serious case to be on the opening night roster as he scored again, and this time, it was on a breakaway. The Devils put up four against the Rangers starting goalie Shesterkin while on the other side Jonathan Bernier stood strong in goal, giving up only one blast from Mika Zibanejad, which no goaltender around would have been able to stop.
In a much more boring game than the other two, the Devils won in overtime thanks to a wicked wrister let go by Sharangovich, which beat former Devils goaltender Cory Schnieder. Also, in this game, Hughes left early with an apparent injury, but when asked, Coach Ruff said he doesn’t expect him to miss anytime, so nothing to worry about on that front.
There aren’t many question marks regarding who will and won’t make the roster, but none bigger than if Dawson Mercer and Alex Holtz are going to be in the lineup come the 15th. With what I’ve seen from Mercer and knowing where his all-around game is at, I expect him to open as the team’s third center.
As for Holtz, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him playing on the first line with Hughes right from the jump, but I can see a world where they let him play a year in the NHL to develop his game.
I’m not sure if they have guys like Vesey or Boqvist over him, but Holtz already has the best shot on the team and if you put him and Sharangovich flanking Hughes, watch out.
I also expect to see Holtz’s name on the roster for opening night.
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