The New Jersey Devils midseason awards are off and running. This year the team finds themselves playing meaningful hockey in the new year and will be pushing for the playoffs. A lot of great things are happening with this team, and we examine some of the good and the bad so far.
Mid-Season Awards For the New Jersey Devils
⭐️⭐️ Hughes (5-2—7) recorded multiple points in all three outings for the @NJDevils this week while extending his goal streak to a career-best five games, with his latest marker serving as the tying goal in a comeback win in overtime Saturday.#NHLStats: https://t.co/0TssZwmvfa pic.twitter.com/DH78OSJV2a
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 9, 2023
This New Jersey Devils award is a no-brainer. What more can you say about the superstar centre in New Jersey? Jack Hughes has been special and was worthy of his All-Star nod by the league. As it stands now, in 40 games played, he has scored in 20 of them and has points in 30 of them. He has been a constant for the Devils, and as of late has been the most consistent scorer. Hughes has goals in five straight games and is on pace for 50 goals and 100 points. He has just earned star of the week and is leading the Devils with 26 goals, 23 assists, and 49 points. The superstar centre has already tied his goals total from last season and is poised for a career year. Hughes currently sits eighth in the league in points and sixth in the league in goals.
Most Improved Player
It sounds crazy when talking about your best defensemen, but that is indeed the case for Dougie Hamilton. Last year did not go as planned for Hamilton. A broken jaw and other nagging injuries saw him tally nine goals, 21 assists, and 30 points in 62 games played. But what a turnaround this year is. He truly looks like the number one defenseman they envisioned when they signed him. He is quarterbacking the first power-play unit (17 points) and has already surpassed last season’s point total in just half a season. Hamilton is nearly a point-per-game player with nine goals, 25 assists, and 34 points in 40 games played. What a massive turnaround and it is huge for the Devils as a whole.
The Biggest Surprise
One area of the ice that has been a surprise is the Devils’ goaltending. As dreadful as it was a year ago, it has taken an unexpected turn, and it is good to see. Goaltender Vitek Vanecek has played better than expected. He holds a 15-5-2 record and 2.34 goals against average, and a .914 save percentage (career-high). Vanecek has stopped 2.5 goals above expected and has been the clear-cut best goalie for the Devils this season. He will be a huge impact player for the team, aiming to make the playoffs.
The Biggest Disappointment
One player that has been disappointing thus far is Miles Wood. After missing the majority of last year, his presence was a boost to the lineup. But that has not been the case. Wood has the fifth-worst Corsi For (51.33), and has spent more time in his own zone than other areas of the ice. The one positive is that when he is on the ice, the team has scored 16 high-danger goals. But for him individually, it’s a down year. Wood has scored seven goals, nine assists, and 16 points.
X Factor In The Second Half
The prized acquisition for this season’s Devils team is a huge boost to the second half of the season. He has three goals in eight games played, and his two-way game and physical element are a boost to the top six. But there is a more significant reason why he is an X-factor.
It is an intangible effect, but his leadership and experience are huge going forward. For the first time since 2018, the Devils are playing meaningful hockey and making a push for the playoffs. Palat is one of the few players on the roster that have that experience. He is a 2x Stanley Cup Champion and has been on winning teams. That experience will help a young club grind in the second half of the season.