The New Jersey Devils are now expected to be playoff contenders. They are no longer considered the bottom-feeders of the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. After their surprise playoff appearance this past season, expectations from the fans as well as around the league are that they will be right back in that position not only next season but for the foreseeable future.
The team is, of course, going to be led by Taylor Hall, the crafty left-winger who has a fairly decent shot at taking home the Hart Memorial Trophy for the league’s most valuable player in a couple of weeks. 2017 first-overall selection Nico Hischier will be another year older and will be relied upon to build on his solid rookie campaign. Others youngsters such as Jesper Bratt and Miles Wood will also be expected to at least replicate their work from the past season. And, of course, veterans among the likes of Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac will look to provide steady production for the team’s offense.
On defense, the Devils have a few solid young players. Those include Damon Severson, Will Butcher, and Steven Santini. However, there were times this past year where they were inconsistent and showed their inexperience, and thus for the Devils to be a serious threat, they will likely need to add a top defenseman to complement Sami Vatanen.
In regards to goaltending, Keith Kinkaid help will this team to the playoffs with his terrific performances down the stretch, but ultimately it was Cory Schneider who regained the starting reins by standing on his head in the last three games of the series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Schneider, however, will likely be absent at the start of the season due to hip surgery that he will be recovering from, and so Kinkaid will have to hold down the fort until his return.
All in all, the Devils are a young, fast, exciting team who should be active in free agency given their ample available cap space and look to be a threat in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference for the years to come.