The 2016-17 New Jersey Devils have the talent to emerge as a dark horse in the Metropolitan division and make the playoffs. They have the combination of veteran talent and young stars that post-season franchises possess, and will look to shock many hockey fans this season. The Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall trade certainly gives the forward group a major spark, but leaves a few questions on the blue line. Cory Schneider is a top goalie and can give the Devils a chance at victory every night, provided he carries the success he found in 2015-16 to this season. Everyone likes an underdog story and the team to headline it in 2016-17 will be the New Jersey Devils.
2016-17 New Jersey Devils Are Playoff Ready
Point Producing Veterans
Mike Cammalleri and Travis Zajac have been the cornerstone forwards for the New Jersey Devils franchise and will look to bring that experience into 2016-17. Cammalleri missed half of the 2015-16 season due to injury but still managed 38 points with 14 goals. Now that he is healthy a big point season from the savvy veteran is not outlandish to see. He is closing in on 300 career goals, sitting at 277, and will play in his 800th career game at the beginning of December. Zajac was the Devils 20th overall pick in 2004 and will suit up in his 700th game on opening night. Last season saw him tally 14 goals and 28 assists for 42 points and similar numbers in 2016-17 are within reach.
Up and Coming Stars
Starting with the off-season acquisition of Taylor Hall, the Devils added a potential point-per-game player to their lineup. Last season with the Edmonton Oilers he racked up 26 goals and 39 assists for 65 points. He will have a great opportunity in New Jersey to further blossom into the star he is envisioned to be. Not to be forgotten, Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri both had 30 goal seasons last year.Henrique is showing to be a steal as he was taken 82nd overall in the 2008 draft and will aim for back-to-back 50 point seasons. Palmieri had a 57 point campaign and could eclipse 60 this year with the right linemates.
Rookie of the Year?
All the discussion around this is with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Austin Matthews. However, the Devils 6th overall pick in 2015, Pavel Zacha, may have something to say about that. The 19 year old from the Czech Republic will look to prove he is worthy of a top ten pick. In the one game he appeared in last season he tallied two assists and Devils fans wait with anticipation as to what a full season will bring. If paired with a top veteran like Cammalleri or Zajac, or an emerging star like Palmieri, he may have a 50 point rookie campaign.
Rounding out Up Front
Devante Smith-Pelly joined the Devils late last season and blossomed. In 64 games he registered 25 points. He will likely play on the third line, but gives them a potential scoring threat down the depth chart. Numerous youngsters will also look to produce for the 2016-17 New Jersey Devils and they include Joseph Blandisi, Reid Boucher, Jacob Josefson, and Sergey Kalinin. Josefson played the most games of this group in 2015-16 with 58, and the 20th overall pick of 2009 has the most to prove as well. Some nights they will spend in the press box, others on the third or fourth lines.
The Blue Line
This is where the question marks are raised. The forwards should be improved and put more pucks in the net, but can the defence support them. Veteran Andy Greene wears the C for the New Jersey Devils and will want to do it justice. He is not a point producing defenceman, few on this team are, but his 641 game experience is vital even if he only tallied 13 points last season. Newly signed, Kyle Quincey is the second veteran on this team with knowledge to pass along. He missed half of the 2015-16 season playing in only 47 games with 11 points. He may be able to tally 20 points over a full season, but again don’t expect a point surge.
Where the offensive presence is found on this team lies with John Moore and Damon Severson. Moore tallied 15 assists last season, his first with New Jersey, which set a new career high. The 25-year-old will look to build on the success and could be paired with Greene on the top line. Severson was the Devils 60th overall pick in 2012. He has emerged as a more than reliable blue liner for his franchise. He has progressed nicely to start his NHL career and will aim to crack 30 points this season. In his final junior season he recorded 61 points with the Kelowna Rockets. If he continues on this path, he could emerge as a top point-producing defenceman at the NHL level.
Between the Pipes
Cory Schneider is a top tier goalie. Period. He had an excellent season with a 2.15 goals against average and .924 save percentage. For the Devils to make a playoff appearance they will need Schneider to continue to be a top netminder.
The New Jersey Devils finished last season 38-36-8 and 12 points out of a playoff spot. They had the same amount of overtime losses as the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Although that may seem insignificant to some, turning those OT losses to victories and grabbing those extra points can be the difference between playing at the rink in May or on the golf course. The Caps and Pens are the one-two punch in the Metropolitan division. However, the Devils have the talent and drive to compete with the Rangers, Islanders, and Flyers for that third spot, or a wild card berth.
NEWARK, NJ – FEBRUARY 23: Adam Henrique #14 of the New Jersey Devils congratulates Cory Schneider #35 after Schneider shut out the Arizona Coyotes on February 23, 2015 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.The New Jersey Devils defeated the Arizona Coyotes 3-0. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)