With New Jersey having made a significant jump in the Metropolitan Division, the Devils now must show that they can continue their success after 27-point increase in the standings and their first playoff berth since the 2011-12 season. The team was carried by Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall and a group of young players who had a quick impact on the team.
However, the team accomplished all this with goaltender issues as 32-year-old Cory Schneider had a second disappointing season as he struggled with injuries throughout the year, while posting a 2.93 GAA and a .907 save percentage in just 40 games. The team got a great season out of backup Keith Kincaid, who helped the Devils reach the playoffs. However, if the team has any hopes of reaching the playoffs for a second-straight season, the team will need Schneider to be healthy-free and at the top of his game, according to Scott Billeck of NBC Sports.
In fact, there is hope that Schneider can bounce back after two disappointing years as a nagging hip injury was hopefully fixed this offseason when he underwent surgery. He is listed as questionable to start training camp and may miss the early portion of the season while recovering from surgery that has a five-month timeline.
- In another story, Billeck writes that the team can’t expect Hall to produce at another 93-point season like he did last year. If the team wants to return to the playoffs, they will have to rely on other players to pick up their games. After Hall, the team’s next best scorer was No. 1 overall pick Nico Hischier at 52 points, which is a big dropoff. The team will need better secondary scoring. Hischier could provide some of that as Billeck believes that Hischier could become a 70-point scorer in his second year, while the team has to hope that winger Marcus Johansson can bounce back to his 50-point averages after being limited to just 29 games last season.
- Mike Morreale of NHL.com writes that the team has several top prospects who could complement the team this year if they can prove themselves in training camp as 2018 first-round pick Ty Smith has a chance to earn a spot on a young blue line. He lists the team’s top five prospects, including Smith at No. 1, and while he believes that Smith will likely need another year in juniors, Smith still has a chance to win a spot on an improved, but hardly established blue line. He scored 73 points in 69 games for Spokane of the WHL last season and might be the perfect player to replace veteran John Moore, who left for Boston this offseason. Morreale also writes that the Devils should expect Michael McLeod and John Quenneville to make the teams next year.
- The Athletic’s Cory Masisak (subscription required) breaks down what the Devils could look like in the 2020-21 season and quickly assumes that New Jersey will lock up Hall to a long-term deal of more than $10MM. Hall has two years remaining on his current deal.