Over the past several months, with the NHL on pause, the Last Word on Hockey staff has brought you different series. One of those series was a team of the decade series. In that series, the staff dove into the best player at each position for each of the 31 teams in the NHL. Along with memorable moments associated with that franchise. One of the teams featured was the New Jersey Devils. Originally that post had the future of each position. Unfortunately, that had to be cut for length. However, not all is lost. In this post, we are going to going to project the best player at each position will be for the next decade. Let’s dive into the 2020s New Jersey Devils decade team.
Projecting The 2020s New Jersey Devils Decade Team
The future is bright for the Devils at that position with players like Nikita Gusev and Jesper Bratt. Gusev is an unrestricted free agent heading into the 2021-22 season. While it took Gusev some time to adjust to the North American game, he has become one of the best passers the Devils have on the team. His vision is second to none. You can see why he led the KHL in assists before coming over to the Devils. It would make sense for the Devils to sign Gusev to a long-term extension. He is an essential player the Devils need on the team to be a successful team in the future. If they do sign him he will be a staple at that position.
In addition to Gusev, there is Jesper Bratt. Bratt is a restricted free agent at the end of this season when that will be. While he had his ups and downs during his first couple of seasons with the Devils, he has established chemistry with Nico Hischier. The thing that Bratt will need to do is get more consistent with his game. When his game goes south, he is usually taken out of the lineup. However, that usually does him some good, because he comes back with a vengeance. Bratt may have overachieved in his first season in the league, but that 2017-18 season when right for the Devils. The Devils need Bratt to be one of the players they can count in the future.
Who knows maybe players like Fabian Zetterlund and Mikhail Maltsev who are in the system playing down on the farm system push there way into the lineup. The wild card in all of this is Nolan Foote. Foote was part of the trade that saw Blake Coleman go from the Devils to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Foote has an excellent wrist shot and a very quick release. It will be interesting to see how he develops in the Devils system. If he can turn into a player like James Neal, then the Devils have got two left-wingers they can rely on.
Speaking of the future for the Devils. Just like with the left-wing position, the future is even brighter for the New Jersey Devils decade team at the centre position. Nico Hischier has turned into a great leader for the Devils in only his third season. His talent is really on display as his body has matured. He was rewarded with a new seven-year contract and went to his first NHL All-Star game this year. The future is with Nico. Of course, everyone expects big things for Jack Hughes. The Devils picked Hughes number one overall in 2019. His rookie season has not been up to his standards, but with another year of development, look for the kid to shine. Then there is Jesper Boqvist, who can also play the wing. He came over from Sweden, started with the big club and is in the minors honing his skill and adapting to the style of play. The team is in good hands.
The future is a little uncertain here as the Devils do not know what they have in Joey Anderson and Nick Merkley. Anderson is a Devils draft pick and highly touted prospect out of college. He has spent time in the minors developing his game. Merkley, on the other hand, was part of the Hall trade with the Coyotes. Both have looked good when called upon, but the real question will be can these players do it consistently. Another player that has potential is Nathan Bastian. He has shown potential to be that he can be that physical winger the Devils need. Bastian and Michael McLeod are showing promise down in the AHL, the Devils can only hope that translates to them being at the NHL level for a long time. However, Bastian is progressing more than McLeod and has the opportunity to do well with the big club.
The future is bright for the Devils on defence with Ty Smith and Kevin Bahl. Smith has been to Devils camp the past two seasons and proved he can play in the big leagues. Even though he had to go back to junior, development is key which will only make him better. Just look at Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes. Not saying Smith will be on that level, but they developed which may their transition easier. But Smith could have played this season for the Devils. If he was eligible to go to the AHL, that is where he would have gone to develop instead of junior.
Bahl was part of the Hall trade from Arizona. He is another solid defensive prospect. Both Smith and Bahl were part of Team Canada that won World Junior gold and played an integral role. Like Smith, Devils fans can see Bahl sometime in the future. It may not be next season, but if he keeps progressing, he will be there the following season.
Like with the left side, the right side is bright with guys like Will Butcher and Reilly Walsh. Butcher is already with the team and is going through his ups and downs. However, he is a player they will need going forward. One player fans can look forward to his Reilly Walsh. Walsh is currently playing at Harvard. And he has plans to stay there one more season for development. That will only make him better once he does joins the Devils. Another player on the horizon is Daniil Misyul. He is a defenceman who can hit players with much force but also has the ability to show some offensive power
Just like how the future is set at the centre position, so too is the goalie position. MacKenzie Blackwood is the guy going forward for the Devils. In his second season and the first full season with the Devils, Blackwood has become the number one guy. Before the season was suspended, Blackwood was close to passing Brodeur’s rookie record for wins in franchise history. He is the real deal, but the Devils will need to find someone to ease some of the workload going forward or else Blackwood will be burnt out.
There has been some talk of Giles Senn coming up to the NHL sooner rather than later. He has been solid down on the farm. The Devils do have goaltending depth and someday in the future, the duo of Blackwood and Senn will be guiding the Devils, but for that will be later in the decade.
Let me know your thoughts on the players being projected for New Jersey Devils decade team in the 2020s.
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