The final part of a four-part series power-ranking the New Jersey Devils roster before the start of the season.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve power-ranked the Devils roster from 25-21, 20-16, and most recently, 15-11. In this last part, I threw the entire top 10 into one group. All 10 of these players will play a monumental role in bringing a Stanley Cup back to New Jersey.
Devils Player Rankings 10-1
10. Tyler Toffoli
The tenth player on the Devils player rankings is a big time acquisition. Tyler Toffoli was the Devil’s big addition this offseason. After coming over from Calgary via trade, the 31-year-old winger is coming off of a career year. On a middling Flames team, Toffoli registered career highs in goals (34), assists (39), and points (73). He does however come to New Jersey in the final year of his contract, earning $4.25 million.
The goal-scoring winger comes to an already loaded Devils forward group, looking to take them over the top. Toffoli brings something the Devils lack, right-handed shooting. Dawson Mercer is currently the only player who can be penciled into the top nine who shoots righty. Alexander Holtz could help fill that hole, but there’s no guarantee he will make the team. The Devils likely won’t need him to carry the bulk of the scoring like Calgary did, but he should bring in much-needed secondary scoring.
The New Jersey Devils have acquired Tyler Toffoli from the Calgary Flames in exchange for Yegor Sharangovich & 80th overall draft pick. That's another great trade by Fitzgerald, who is definitely TOP5 GM in the NHL in our eyes. Toffoli is a legit TOP6 winger with great cap hit. pic.twitter.com/zXV226JvgZ
— Andy & Rono (@ARHockeyStats) June 28, 2023
9. John Marino
Our next Devils player ranking paid huge dividends the moment he put on the jersey. Since coming over via trade from Pittsburgh, John Marino arguably has been the Devils most underrated player. He scored 18 points in 64 games and the team was considerably better with him in the lineup. His two-way play and partnership with former Devil Ryan Graves solidified one of the better second-pairings in the NHL.
Marino enters the 2023-24 season in potentially a massive role. The likelihood is high that he will be paired with Luke Hughes to start the season. Lindy Ruff should lean heavily on him to take some of the defensive burden off of Hughes early on, as well as play major minutes on the penalty kill. His numbers won’t be flashy, but Marino could end up being the most valuable defenseman on the team by the end of the year.
Standout shift from John Marino on the Devils' penalty kill pic.twitter.com/uAWsaIE5pM
— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) November 16, 2022
Jonas Siegenthaler put in a career year in 2022-23, as his role on the Devils continues to grow. He put up career highs across the board in games (80), goals (4), assists (17), and points (21), all while being the team’s steadiest defensive defenceman. Year after year Siegenthaler has been given a larger role and cemented himself as a top-pairing defenseman in the league.
Siegenthaler will yet again be given the role of being the defence-first partner for Dougie Hamilton. A role that he has played extraordinarily well since coming over from Washington in 2021. He’s not a player who gets you on the edge of your seat, but his steadiness and composure on the backend are more valuable than any counting totals. I’d suspect another season of quietly shutting down opposing teams’ top lines is coming from “Siegs”.
Jonas Siegenthaler's rocket puts the Devils in front. 😈 pic.twitter.com/yiTThDZDQb
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 25, 2023
Our next player on the Devils player rankings has made a name for himself on the team. After a solid rookie season, 2022-23 was Dawson’s breakout year. In all 82 games, he scored 27 goals and 29 assists. Most impressively, he had an eight-game goal-scoring streak and a 12-game point streak. Mercer found his stride playing as a top-six winger after being moved around his rookie year and early parts of last season.
The breakout of Mercer gives the Devils yet another weapon for teams to worry about. His goal-scoring and point production is great, but it’s Mercer’s work ethic and engine that stands out. He’s often the first one in on pucks, blocks shots, and gets to the crease to score the dirty goals. As he continues to mature and get stronger, the sky is the limit for Mercer. With the way he plays the game, a 30-goal season is reasonable for the 21-year-old.
Dawson Mercer pots a short-handed goal to give the Devils a 3-0 lead‼️
📺: ESPN2 pic.twitter.com/osvjGzSzTp
— ESPN (@espn) April 28, 2023
It was a tale of two seasons for Vitek Vanecek in 2022-23. After coming over from Washington, the Czech put up solid numbers as the team’s starting goalie. In fact, Vanecek is the only goalie not named Martin Brodeur to win 30 games in a season. However, his abysmal playoff performances left a bitter taste for many fans. After a wave of rumours suggesting the Devils are after another goalie, 2023-24 is a pivotal season for Vanecek.
With no goalie trade on the horizon, Vanecek is in line to be the team’s number-one netminder heading into next season. How his workload will be split with Akira Schmid is yet to be seen, but a strong regular season last year should have Vanecek primed for the starter’s job. In addition, Vanecek put up all career highs last year, after spending the beginning of his career as a backup. He may not be a future Vezina winner, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the past two Cup champions, it’s that you don’t need an elite goalie to win it all.
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) January 16, 2023
Year 11 was the biggest of Dougie Hamilton’s career. He blew all his previous career highs out of the water in 2022-23, with 22 goals, 52 assists, and 74 points. It hasn’t taken Dougie long to cement himself as the leader on the backend after signing with the team in 2021. Hamilton was asked to play big minutes in all situations and was the team’s time-on-ice leader, averaging 21:46 minutes per game, according to StatMuse.
Dougie Hamilton enters this season as the Devils undisputed number-one defenceman. He and Jonas Siegenthaler formed a well-balanced top pair that anchored the d-core. The biggest question will be if he can repeat his production from last season. Hamilton and Luke Hughes will be looked at to provide offense from the backend, but expectations should be hampered early on for the 19-year-old Hughes. If Hamilton can put up similar numbers as he did last year, he may begin to sneak into the Norris conversation.
— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights & News (@HockeyDaily365) April 23, 2023
4. Timo Meier
The Devils arguably made the biggest trade in franchise history since the Ilya Kovalchuk trade when they acquired Timo Meier in February. The power forward winger was renowned for his goal-scoring ability and size, something the Devils lacked. Before coming over Meier had 31 goals and 21 assists in 57 games in San Jose. After the trade he registered nine goals and five assists in 21 games, as well as two goals and two assists in 11 playoff games. The production wasn’t fully there following the trade, but his impact on the ice away from the score sheet was something the Devils desperately needed. It was enough for him to earn a massive contract extension and be a new addition to the team’s young core.
Meier’s playing style alone should be enough to get Devils fans are excited. In both the Rangers and Hurricanes series he was a physical presence and played with the type of grit you need to win in the postseason. Add on top of that 40-goal potential and he can be the biggest weapon on the team not named Jack Hughes. With a full offseason and training camp with the team, he should be fully integrated with the play style and be more comfortable in the Devils system in 2023-24. With consistent top six and power play time, Meier could likely reach the 40-goal mark multiple times in this Devils high-flying offence for years to come.
The New Jersey Devils have re-signed Timo Meier to an eight-year extension with an AAV of $8.8M. Meier is a legit 1st line winger. This is a fair cap hit for player like him in our eyes. The Devils are going to be so good for many years! pic.twitter.com/P2BGZjEIIZ
— Andy & Rono (@ARHockeyStats) June 28, 2023
3. Jesper Bratt
It was another stellar year for Jesper Bratt in 2022-23. He matched his career high of 73 points, but for the first time broke the 30-goal mark. And after multiple summers of contentious contract negotiations, Bratt finally signed a team-friendly long-term deal. The big question will be if he can continue his high level of play after finally getting an eight-year contract.
The goal for Jesper Bratt next season should be to continue much of the same. He’s posted back-to-back 73-point seasons, and if he can put up similar numbers then it would be a success. Where he needs to vastly improve is in the playoffs. The postseason was not kind to him. His lone highlight was the assist to Hamilton on the overtime goal in Game Three against the Rangers, but other than that he was silent. Bratt primarily plays an outside game, relying on speed and agility. That works well throughout 82 games, but when it tightens up in the playoffs he couldn’t get away with it. However, Bratt is still young and has overcome adversity during his career, so I’d suspect him to continue to improve with an eye on making an impact in the playoffs next year.
Jesper Bratt has re-signed with the New Jersey Devils to an eight-year extension with an AAV of $7.85M. Wow! That's great deal for New Jersey in our eyes. Bratt is an elite winger for us. That's another great contract for Devils to be honest. pic.twitter.com/VXixNMcoGw
— Andy & Rono (@ARHockeyStats) June 15, 2023
The next player on the Devils player rankings is beginning to breakout of his shell. It was a massive year for “The Captain” in 2022-23. Nico Hischier put up career highs across the board in goals (31), assists (49), and points (80). After a few average seasons, Hischier proved to the league why he was a former first-overall pick. His two-way game stood out, often locking down the opposition’s best players. Hischier’s play style is a coach’s dream and is what makes him worthy to wear the “C” on his chest.
After an awesome last season, my biggest hope for Nico in 2023-24 is for him to have a repeat. If Hischier can become a consistent 80-point player while also being one of the NHL’s best defensive forwards, then he’d surely have to be in the same conversation as Bergeron, Datsyuk, and Kopitar. Since entering the league, Hishcier has been a pro’s pro, constantly being thrown in difficult situations, and also comes out the other side a better player. I think I speak for all Devils fans when I say there isn’t a better player to lift the Stanley Cup over their head first than Nico Hischier.
Nico Hischier nets his 100th NHL goal. 🤩 pic.twitter.com/rcyWMorL7b
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 19, 2023
1. Jack Hughes
The first player on the Devils player rankings comes as no surprise. It had to be Jack Hughes at number one. Hughes is without a doubt the face of the franchise and finally broke out in a big way last year. Career highs to the tune of 43 goals and 56 assists for 99 points in 78 games prove just how dominant of a player he is. Jack Hughes is as dynamic as they come and is knocking on the door of being a top-five player in the league.
Since entering the NHL, Jack Hughes’s production has improved year after year. Entering 2023-24 there should be no reason to believe otherwise. A 110-point season is a realistic goal for the 22-year-old. However, the biggest goal I have for him next season is to play in all 82 games. Had he not missed four games last season he likely would have already floated near the 110-point mark. Regardless, Jack Hughes is a full-blown superstar, and within the next year or two should likely be put in the same breath as Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews.
Main Photo: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jack Hughes Season
— 43 Goals
— 99 Points (1st in Devils History)
— 68 EVP (1st in Devils History)
— 336 Shots (3rd in Devils History)
2nd most points in NHL History with 6 or fewer PIMS
New Jersey's future is just so soo so bright. pic.twitter.com/hdem7tdppi
— Big Head Hockey (@BigHeadHcky) May 12, 2023