Early October Break Provides Perfect Trial Period For Younger Players

Defenseman Will Butcher spent the last four seasons playing at the University of Denver. -The Buffalo News

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Hockey is back, and I couldn’t be happier.

The New Jersey Devils team kicked off their preseason on Monday against the Washington Capitals with a 4-1 victory. With that said, let’s fast forward to the beginning of the regular season. For some inexplicable reason, the NHL has thrown one of the bye weeks for the Devils within a peculiar timeframe that goes from October 21-26. The Devils will have only played eight games at this point of the season. Considering the number of young players vying to make the roster, this gap of time after New Jersey’s eighth matchup forms a perfect stretch of NHL games for these potential rookies to showcase their true readiness.

Could the Devils use this time to incorporate a large(r than usual) number of their young players over their first eight games?

While the Devils starting the season with a rookie-filled lineup is unlikely to happen, it raises the question of how big an issue gong with one would be anyway. It is only eight games after all, and start of season no-less.

These first eight games can be paramount in determining whether prospects like Blake Speers, Mike McLeod, Will Butcher, John Quenneville, Nick Lappin, and Steve Santini (just to name a few) are capable of sticking with the big team beyond late-October. Personally, I see no harm in implementing a prospect-filled lineup for the first eight games. Figuratively, it seems like a no-lose situation for the Devils, and the opportunity can give these youngsters a genuine feel of NHL action at a point in the season where the outcomes matter least.

Another benefit of being eight games is so the players won’t burn a year on their entry-level contracts if they’re sent away once the bye-week hits. Even if the Devils are still unsure about one player, they’ll have the advantage of keeping them around for that ninth game after their bye-week.

Granted there are negative aspects, like the possibility of younger players not being physically ready. Them not being strong enough to handle the physical presence of the NHL can expose them to injury, and have effects on these player’s confidence.

Overall, my final call is that we’re unlikely to see the Devils go with a season-opening roster majorly comprised of rookie and young players. Having said that, their schedule is set up for the perfect trial period for the organization’s young players to determine whether they’re capable of sustaining a full NHL workload, so it wouldn’t hurt to take this approach.


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