Part one of a four-part series power ranking the New Jersey Devils roster before the start of the season.
The dog days of summer are in full swing with still over a month before training camp. The New Jersey Devils have done a great job constructing their roster over the years. In this exercise, we will be power-ranking the top 25 players on the roster.
Devils Top Player Rankings: 25-21
25. Chris Tierney
Forward Chris Tierney was signed on July 14 to a one-year, $775k contract. He spent last season split between the Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadians, and the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL. In 36 NHL games in 2022-23, he scored 10 points. However, he found success in the AHL, putting up 16 points in 20 games.
Tierney’s career has been on a downward slope since being a big piece in the Erik Karlsson to San Jose trade. His best season came in his first year in Ottawa, where he scored 48 points in 81 games. Since then his point totals have continued to decrease. Tierney figures to be a depth/veteran camp body, as shown by the low AAV the Devils gave him. There is plenty of competition in the bottom six, so unless he can stick out on the penalty kill, he’ll likely spend most of the season down in Utica.
Chris Tierney is a veteran depth forward. pic.twitter.com/uthjV7WI48
— Devils Insiders (@DevilsInsiders) July 14, 2023
24. Cal Foote
The Devils recently signed right-handed defenceman Cal Foote to a one-year, $800k contract. The 24-year-old and former first-round pick was sent to Nashville in the Tanner Jeannot trade in February. Across 141 NHL games, he’s scored 19 points, but most of his success has come in the AHL. Foote was once a top prospect playing for Kelowna in the WHL but has yet to stick for a full season. He was a part of Tampa Bay’s run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2021-22, playing 13 games.
Foote has the chance to play some time in the NHL the way the Devils roster is currently constructed. On the right side they currently only have Dougie Hamilton, John Marino and Colin Miller in the NHL. Training camp will determine if Simon Nemec will make the team, but if he doesn’t, I’d suspect he will spend the season in the AHL again. If that were the case, Foote can lock down a spot as the 7/8 defenceman or as the first call-up if there’s an injury.
The New Jersey Devils have signed Cal Foote to a one-year, $800K contract. He's just a depth defenseman. pic.twitter.com/GXiq9bx47D
— Andy & Rono (@ARHockeyStats) August 10, 2023
23. Nolan Foote
Next up is Cal’s younger brother Nolan. Nolan, who was acquired in the Blake Coleman trade, is coming off of a career-high year in the AHL. He registered 37 points across 55 games and in a brief stint in the NHL scored a goal in six games. Nolan has gotten a taste of NHL action over the past three seasons but has yet to stick. The big power forward also played for Kelowna and was taken in the first round by Tampa Bay in 2019.
Nolan Foote is one to watch coming into training camp. General Manager Tom Fitzgerald praised Foote at the end of the year as someone who could challenge for a spot. He is a big body with a heavy shot and it has taken him a while to settle into a more traditional power forward role. Foote will be part of the heavy competition for a bottom-six spot, but the team has invested heavily in him so don’t be surprised if he sneaks into the opening night roster.
Also asked Fitzgerald about a player that his staff is raving about in Utica:
Credited the coaching staff as well as the work Foote put in
— Ben Birnell (@BB_URSentinel) May 17, 2023
22. Curtis Lazar
Curtis Lazar came over at the trade deadline last year from Vancouver in exchange for a fourth-round pick. The former first-rounder has had a journeyman career so far, playing for six different NHL teams. Last season with the Devils he played in four regular-season games and six postseason games. He did, however, score the opening goal in game six against the New York Rangers. Lazar has two more seasons at $1 million per year left on his contract.
Curtis Lazar isn’t anything special but does provide some jam on their fourth line. During his brief time with the team, he filled in nicely on the bottom line, as well as contribute on the penalty kill. Lazar doesn’t bring much offense to the table but has the willingness ability to play a grinder-type game. The likelihood of him being an everyday NHLer is small, but he should be able to fill in admirably when called upon.
CURTIS LAZAR'S SECOND CAREER PLAYOFF GOAL OPENS UP THE SCORING 💪
📺: ABC, ESPN+ pic.twitter.com/vfof9plFzY
— ESPN (@espn) April 30, 2023
21. Brendan Smith
Brendan Smith signed with the Devils as a free agent before the start of last season and filled in nicely as a depth defenceman. played in 60 games last year, but despite only registering five assists, he was solid when called upon. Smith spent most of his career with the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers before playing the 2021-22 season with the Carolina Hurricanes. He has carved out a nice career for himself as a bottom-pair defenceman and has accumulated 631 regular season games and 59 postseason games.
Smith’s role in the upcoming season will likely diminish due to the emergence of Kevin Bahl. After starting the season on the third pairing, he ended up losing his spot a little more than halfway through the season to the younger Bahl. For Smith, he will play a big role as the Devils seventh defenceman and key penalty killer. He’s not flashy, but as far as depth defensemen go, it is harder to do much better than Smith.
Main Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Brendan Smith's presence is helping the young Devils during their Stanley Cup Playoff run.https://t.co/SHuEto3lqs
— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) May 10, 2023