Another Devils season has come and gone, and the team’s golfing. Once again, the Devils missed the playoffs by a large margin and have netted top five odds to win the lottery draft.
While there was a lot of losing this season, there were tons of positives to take away. Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, and Nico Hischier take a huge step in their development. At the same time, guys like Yegor Sharangovich and Dawson Mercer displayed that they too can help get this team to the promise land.
Some Devils forwards had great seasons, but the team also won 27 of 82 games and accumulated 63 points, meaning most players struggled mightily.
Report Card for Devils Forwards:
Nico Hischier: A
Halfway through the year, it seemed like another stereotypical Nico Hischier year. He was on pace to land in the 50-point range and miss a handful of games due to injuries. Then at the beginning of February, he was thrown on a line with Bratt, and the two clicked. Hischier went on to produce at over a point per game stretch for the next 31 games, finishing with 35 points in that span and a career-high 60 points in 70 games.
Pavel Zacha: D
It is very likely Zacha has played his last game as a Devil, and what a tenure it was. This season was a microcosm of his tenure, he had high-level play at times, but for the rest of his play, he was never giving 100%. Devils fans had hoped the breakout was coming after he recorded 35 points in 50 games last season, but he managed to get one more point in 20 more games this year.
Jesper Bratt: A+
Not much more can be said about Bratt. Everyone knew his skating ability was off the charts, but this year he was able to combine it with elite scoring ability. Bratt may have fallen short of the point per game pace he maintained for most of this year, but he still crushed his career-high in points by almost 50 points. (13-22-35 in 74gp his rookie year and 26-47-73 in 76gp).
Jack Hughes: A+
He was every hockey analyst’s top breakout candidate coming into this season for a reason. Two seasons being removed from the lowest point total for a first overall pick in his rookie year, the former “bust” put his superstar abilities on display this season. While half of his season was cut short by injuries, every time he was on the ice, he gave Devils fans hope.
Tomas Tatar: D-
The Devils brought in Tatar to fulfill the top 6 forward they were missing. Instead, he matched his point total from last season, although having 26 more games played. If there was a forward who was as invisible during games as Zacha, it was Tatar. Unless there was a puck bouncing off of Tatar in the crease, he wasn’t scoring. And when the opportunities were there, he’d miss the net. Tatar has another year remaining on his deal.
Yegor Sharangovich: A
The former 5th-round pick replicated his rookie season; he started off slow and had gotten scratched, then he was thrown on a line with Hughes and clicked. Sharangovich had just six goals before the new year, and he finished the season with 24. It would have been nice for the Devils to not have blown a 4-goal lead so Sharangovich could enjoy his first career hat trick. Regardless, he’ll be enjoying the fact that he’s proven himself to be a top 6 winger on this team.
Andreas Johnsson: D+
Man, did Johnsson have Devils fans looking like idiots after the first two months of this season. After a horrid first season, he was the butt-end of every joke. The analytic people swore to everyone it was just some bad luck, and he’ll bounce back next season. Through 20 games, Johnsson had 18 points at the end of November. He went on to score 17 points for the next five months. He’s got one more year left before becoming a free agent.
Dawson Mercer: A
He started this season as a 19-year-old rookie who had played 32 games in the QMIJHL last season. Mercer was the only Devil to play in all 82 games this year. Say what you will about the point drop-off in the second half of the season, him playing every game was an impressive feat. Expect a big year out of him, regardless of whether he’s on wing or center next year.
Nate Bastian: A
This season, Big Nate took a step toward becoming the Devils’ Pat Maroon, a big man who has some grit, size, offensive skill, and can be parked out front of the net on the powerplay. The Devils need more big bodies, and Nate helped them accomplish that.
Jimmy Vesey: B+
Vesey did everything the Devils asked him to do this season. He was a solid bottom-six forward who was an above-average penalty killer. The Devils finished in the middle of the pack in penalty kill percentage, but before Vesey got hurt, they ranked 10-12 for most of the season. I’d be fine with it if the Devils decided to resign Vesey to play the same role.
Michael Mcleod: C+
After a solid season last year, Mcleod didn’t build off it. He only added five more points, although having 25 more games at hand. Maybe this was because he didn’t have Miles Wood on his side, but I’m not sure Mcleod has a spot on this roster next season, depending on what they do with Mercer.
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