The New Jersey Devils are a quarter of the way through the season, and it’s been a rollercoaster. A hot start, losing streaks, and injuries highlight the beginning of the year for the Devils. They’re currently on the outside looking in of a playoff spot with 21 points, and have a record of 10-9-1. For comparison, at the quarter mark of last season, they were 16-4-0. On the player side, there have been standout performers and unfortunate regression. Let’s take a look and grade the New Jersey Devils forwards after the first 20 games of the season.
New Jersey Devils Forward Report Cards
Jack Hughes (7 Goals – 19 Assists – 26 Points)
Jack Hughes started the season on fire and was an early MVP favourite. However, an early-season injury kept him out of the lineup for five games and stopped a lot of the good mojo he and the team had. That being said, he still leads the team in scoring and could quickly find himself back in MVP talk. Hughes is every bit of dynamic that the face of a franchise should be and is one of the few players in the league worth the price of admission alone. Unfortunately, his missed time knocks him down just a smidge.
Nico Hischier (4 Goals – 1 Assist- 5 Points)
It was a slow start out the gates for Hischier. Over the first seven games he had only two goals and didn’t look himself. Then injury hit. Hischier missed about a month of the season with an upper-body injury and his impact was felt throughout the team. Since coming back he’s looked like the 2022-23 version. In the two games since the injury, he has three points and is making plays all over the ice. The Devils will need him to be available for the next 3/4 of the season to make the postseason.
Jesper Bratt (8 Goals – 17 Assists- 25 Points)
Similar to Hughes, Jesper Bratt came flying out of the gates to start the season. Before Hughes’s injury, Bratt had 18 points in 10 games. Since that time he’s only managed seven points and one goal. Bratt is a notoriously streaky player and it’s been a tale of two halves to start the season. The absence of Hughes and Hischier affected his game and pointed out he may be better suited as an elite wingman rather than a premier play driver.
Tyler Toffoli (11 Goals – 8 Assists – 19 Points)
Tyler Toffoli has been everything the Devils could’ve hoped for when they traded for him. His shot has been a weapon early on this season and his 11 goals lead the team. Like Bratt, Toffoli has slowed down when the team was dealing with injuries, but hopefully, he can break his slump as well. The main negative with Toffoli is his lack of foot speed. When playing with Hughes and Bratt it’s very noticeable how much slower he is. But as long as he keeps putting the puck into the net it shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Timo Meier (5 Goals – 6 Assists – 11 Points)
Meier was one of the slowest out of the gates this season. His production was way down and he didn’t look like that “bull in a china shop” that he typically does. Oddly enough it was when Hughes and Hischier went down that Meier began to score. He put together goals in three straight games before going down with an injury that has kept in out. Meier possesses a ton of offence, which he was just taping into before going down. Hopefully, he’s back on the ice soon because the team needs his scoring and physicality.
Dawson Mercer (5 Goals – 3 Assists – 8 Points)
It was a tough first quarter of the season for Dawson Mercer. It took him until game 11 to score his first goal and point of the season. Since then his play has gotten much better and he looks more like the Mercer we saw last season. Most recently he’s put together back-to-back two-point games. The Devils certainly hope this is the type of play and production they get from Mercer for the rest of the season.
Erik Haula (6 Goals – 6 Assists – 12 Points)
Haula has had a much better start to this season than last. He has done exactly what the Devils have asked from him and is an integral part of the team’s middle six. Whether partnered with Jack Hughes or centring the third line, Haula has been reliable in all three zones, at the face-off dot, and on the penalty kill. We’ll see how long he’ll be out for with his current injury, but hopefully more of the same from Erik Haula.
Ondrej Palat (2 Goals – 8 Assists – 10 Points)
Palat has become one of the scapegoats for the Devil’s struggles this year. It may not be fair, but given his contract, the expectation should be higher. He has typically gone unnoticed for long portions of games but does make nice plays on the forecheck from time to time. The Devils brought him in for leadership and playoff experience so we might just have to wait until the spring to get a better read on his impact.
Alexander Holtz (6 Goals – 3 Assists – 9 Points)
Nobody had been under a microscope more to start the season than Alexander Holtz. Through the first month of the season, it looked like his days were numbered, but he became one of the better players during the injury crisis. Holtz looks more comfortable in a third-line role, playing a physical, forechecking game. He’s also refound his scoring touch which has been vital recently. Holtz’s stock has never been higher since entering the league.
Michael McLeod (4 Goals – 4 Assists – 8 Points)
What a first quarter of the season it’s been for Michael McLeod. He went from fourth-line centre to first-line centre with Hughes and Hischier went out, and played extremely well. During the losing streaks, there were many problems but McLeod was not one of them. He added a little more offence to his fourth-line energy and brought it up to the first line and was one of the few bright spots over the past month. McLeod has become one of the more irreplaceable players in the lineup.
Nathan Bastian (1 Goal – 1 Assist – 2 Points)
It’s one thing to not produce much, but it’s another to be unnoticeable. And unfortunately, Bastian has been both. Someone who once was a rambunctious and physical player, Bastian has looked like a shell of himself early on. Lack of production aside, he hasn’t been as tough to play against as he used to be. Luckily his style of play is an effort thing and not a talent thing so he can turn it on whenever he wants to, which is hopefully soon.
Curtis Lazar (4 Goals – 3 Assists – 7 Points)
Similar to McLeod, Lazar has had a heck of a first 20 games to the season. For someone who typically doesn’t produce much, seven points through 20 games is a big deal. He has had some great games against Chicago and St. Louis, and most recently scored the game-winner against the New York Islanders. Lazar has found a home as an important energy player on the penalty kill and bottom six.
Tomas Nosek (0 Points)
Nosek has only played six games due to injury. When he has played he’s looked slow and unimpactful. It seems even when he’s healthy he’ll be on the outside looking in.
Max Willman (1 Goal)
Willman was a call-up that found his way into four games. He did manage to score in his Devils debut against Chicago and has brought speed and energy into the lineup. Chances are we won’t see any more Max Willman this season.