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Early Observations from New Jersey Devils Training Camp and Pre-Season

It’s been a week since the New Jersey Devils opened training camp. Entering this year the vibes are as high as they’ve ever been, coming off the back of a 112-point season. The expectations have never been higher for this group and early returns from training camp and preseason have been positive. Here is what’s been happening at camp and through the first two preseason games.

Early Observations from Devils’ Preseason

Holtz’z Opportunity

Last season went about as badly as possible for Alexander Holtz. He never found footing in the Devils’ lineup, and management waited too long before sending him down. However, he has been given a huge opportunity to open camp, being paired with Timo Meier and Nico Hischier on the first line. The feedback out of camp has been all positive for Holtz. He reportedly spent his offseason with Jesper Bratt’s skating coach and it has shown in the early portion of camp.

Holtz was drafted to be a bonafide goalscorer on the top six, and it looks like he’s being given that chance entering year four. The Devils have tremendous forward depth and offensive talent without having Holtz in the lineup, making his potential ascension into the top six a scary thought for opposing teams.

Nemec May Have to Wait

One of the players to watch in camp was defencemen Simon Nemec. The 2022 second-overall pick is vying to make the opening night roster against the odds. He’s hardly an underdog story after being drafted so early, but the Devils seem to be content with him starting the season with Utica in the AHL. If this wasn’t evident after the acquisition of Colin Miller and Cal Foote, then pairing him with his Utica partner from last year, Tyler Wotherspoon, was. Also, with Luke Hughes locked into an NHL role this season, it would be difficult to have two rookie defencemen out there at the same time.

Four Balanced Lines

With the addition of Tyler Toffoli and Holtz entering the lineup, the Devils are suddenly one of the deepest teams in the league. The early line combos in camp have been the following:





Other than Holtz, Dawson Mercer on the third line is the most notable part of this. Coming off of a 27-goal season, having a player of Mercer’s ability shows the abundance of depth in this forward core. The second line is pure offence with Bratt and Toffoli flanking Hughes. Their in-zone defensive metrics may not look pretty, but their offensive output and possession numbers should be off the charts. As for the fourth line, it should be noted Nathan Bastian is working his way back from a shoulder injury.

Lindy’s Contract

A bit of non-player news was the clarity surrounding Lindy Ruff’s contract. It had reportedly run out after last season, yet Ruff had attended most Devils events. However, GM Tom Fitzgerald revealed that they activated a one-year extension in his contract and a currently working on a long-term extension. Lindy is coming off a historic season with the Devils and finished second in Jack Adams voting.

Main Photo: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Game vs. Philadelphia Flyers

The Devils opened the preseason with split-squad games against Philadelphia at home, and the Montreal Canadiens away. It was a convincing 6-0 victory against the Flyers at the Prudential Centre Monday night. Here are a few quick notes from the game:

  • The Devils’ top offensive producers showed up. Ondrej Palat, Erik Haula, Holtz, and Meier all scored a goal each, while Bratt recorded three assists. Bratt in particular was playing at a different pace than anyone on the ice. His pace set him and his teammates up for multiple goals and high-danger chances. The opening goal was a prime example of Bratt being faster and more agile than anyone else as he skated right past his defender to set up Palat.

  • An under-the-radar prospect who had a strong game was Tyce Thompson. He found the back of the net for the third Devils goal of the night, but his all-around play was standout. Thompson looks more engaged than he has in the past, was getting into the corners, and cycled the puck well. Odds are against him to make the team, but a continued strong showing in camp and preseason could earn him a “first call-up” spot.
  • Vitek Vanecek looked solid in goal. The Flyers didn’t test him much, firing just 11 shots on net, but he looked comfortable and in control of his crease. It will be big for him to string together a couple more solid performances to calm down the talk about a goaltending issue.

Preseason Game vs. Montreal Canadiens

The away game of the split-squad in Montreal ended in a 4-2 Devils victory. The game was only broadcast in Canada, so there was no way to watch, but there are a few takeaways from clips and reports.

  • Jack Hughes dominated the ice with a goal and two assists. The highlight was a gorgeous end-to-end rush where he danced around a defender before sliding the puck past two Montreal players and finding Dawson Mercer for a goal.

  • There was even more Jack Hughes news! He was reportedly working on his faceoffs earlier in camp and it paid off against Montreal. At one point he was 5-for-9 in the dot, with that number presumably going up based on team reporter, Amanda Stein.


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