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The New Jersey Devils preseason is in full swing, and they’re off to a 3-0-1 start following a 2-1 win against the New York Rangers on Saturday. Most of the youngsters have really impressed so far as they’ve tallied multiple goals in those four games. However, we know that probably won’t be the case once the regular season starts.
In order for the Devils to have a good chance at any sort of postseason hopes, they will of course need the veterans to step up. This includes their sophomore players, who are going to comprise a good chunk of this roster. Let’s look at them one by one.
Santini had himself a fine rookie season considering how last year’s team performed. He posted seven points and a minus six. Yes that doesn’t sound all too great, but he isn’t an offensive defenseman, and let’s not forget how below average everyone else was on that team. Despite the improving play of touted prospect Will Butcher, this will not be enough to deter Santini. He’s had a pretty good preseason to date, so expect him to make the roster and be in the lineup almost every night this season.
Wood’s rookie season was certainly an interesting one as he notched 17 points in 60 games. Having said that, he did post a +/- of minus 21. For a forward those numbers aren’t very good, but then again there weren’t too many Devils players who thrived in that category last season. He really struggled on Saturday and the rising play of rookie Jesper Bratt could potentially harm his chances of staying on the roster. That being said, Wood will start the season in the bottom-six (if he makes the tesam), but could be rotating time with some of these other youngsters.
For the most part, Zacha had a commendable rookie season. The 20-year old is going to be very important to the team’s success this year, and is expected to build on the 24 points he had in 70 games last season. He’s become a penciled-in NHLer, which is great to achieve at such a young age. He could really connect well with Hischier. This isn’t even a question, so expect Zacha in the top six and to have a big year in 2017-2018.
Nobody quite expected to see Lappin get a shot last season, let alone play 43 games. He did notch seven points over that span, which is fine considering the role he had. However, the Devils made a few changes over the summer, so right now it’ll come down to how Lappin performs the rest of the preseason. For my prediction, expect Lappin to be in Binghamton for a majority (if not all) of the 2017-18 season, especially with the rise of these rookie and first year Devils such as Jimmy Hayes.
Those were the biggest four sophomores to note, my predictions say three of them will be in the NHL this coming season. For those three, it’s very important they make a big impact to take the pressure off some of the rookies and first-year Devils like Nico Hischier, Drew Stafford and Marcus Johansson. It’s a lot to ask, especially since Santini will most likely be a third pair defenseman and Wood is going to be in the bottom-six. But, there is no choice, for however long they are on the ice these guys will need to make an impact.