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With the opening of the Devils’ training camp today, the beginning of a new season continues to close-in. When examining training camp rosters, it’s always challenging to pick out who will be in game one’s lineup come October 7th. In a two-piece set, I will be examining the likelihood of which players will comprise the season-opening roster for the 2017-2018 New Jersey Devils. Part one will focus on the forward group.
Acquired during the 2016 offseason for defenseman Adam Larsson, Taylor Hall has already established himself as one of the Devils top forwards. Pending an unforeseen circumstance, the chance Taylor Hall isn’t with the club come October 7th is as likely as Ilya Kovalchuk becoming a Devil next year.
Along with Taylor Hall, Palmieri is one of New Jersey’s top point-producers. Believe it or not, it’s been three years since the Devils acquired Palmieri from the Anaheim Ducks. As is the case with Taylor Hall, there’s no doubt you’ll see No. 21 in a Devils’ uniform.
Henrique is arguably the team’s best defensive forward now that Travis Zajac will miss several months. Coming into his seventh NHL season, we all know the skills Henrique possesses, and can easily conclude he’ll be on the roster anchoring a top-six role.
New Jersey’s biggest acquisition probably came on July 2nd of the summer when the Devils sent second and third round picks to the Washington Capitals in exchange for the Swedish forward. Johansson is coming off a year where he set career-highs in goals (24), points (58), and in a deal that mirrored the one, which brought Kyle Palmieri to New Jersey. For the first time ever, you’ll see a No. 90 Devils jersey skating around as there is no doubt Johansson will be on the opening day roster.
A move that many Devils’ fans found surprising, the organization signed a veteran who’s known for his grit, face-off skills, and penalty-killing expertise. The 6’6” 32-year old didn’t sign in New Jersey to not play, so Boyle should serve as an asset in a fourth line role. His experience should prove valuable to the many youngsters who will also be occupying roster spots this season.
Signed just weeks ago, veteran winger Drew Stafford should bring some additional scoring touch to the Devils top-nine forward group. Like Boyle, Stafford signed with New Jersey to play and factor into the lineup right away. So definitely expect No. 18 skating come opening night.
The 2015 first round selection made a solid impact during the 2016-17 season. Zacha flashed his offensive potential in the season’s latter-half, but an underrated part to No. 37’s game are his defensive skills. If Zacha continues on the correct path of development, he could be primed for a breakout campaign. We’ll definitely see Zacha in a Devils uniform opening night, and most likely in a more meaningful role.
“The Most Likelys”
Is he the savior? Is he going to ignite a new, much-needed, string of success in New Jersey? Let’s hope so. The 2017 first overall pick should factor in to the lineup right away. With the vigor of an NHL-training camp on the horizon, will Hischier prove his NHL-readiness? I believe so.
The biggest surprise of the 2016-17 season arguably was Miles Wood. After wowing Devils fans with his grit, and fast-pace plays, I expect No. 44 to crack the opening night roster.
Noesen was claimed off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks, and brought a nice scoring touch in a bottom-six role. The 24-year old should definitely be given another year to showcase his skills, and the team’s lack of right wing depth works in his favor. Expect to see Noesen in a Devils’ uniform as he enters his first full year with the club.
The 2014 first round pick has very limited NHL experience and hasn’t been able to establish himself as an everyday forward for the Devils. Quenneville’s scoring talent was on display in the AHL as he racked up 46 points in only 58 games last year. The Devils’ should certainty give the young forward a chance to blossom this season which is why I expect him to crack the opening night roster.
“The Magic Bullet” has 68 games of NHL experience under his belt, and has proven in his time with the club he can bring a potential scoring touch to the teams bottom lines. His defense may be a liability, but his offensive skills should be enough to earn him a spot on the opening night roster.
The speedy 2016 first round selection is looking to make his NHL debut this season. With the recent injury to Travis Zajac, McLeod may just find himself making his NHL debut come October 7th.
I believe Nick Lappin will be one of the last forwards that make the cut come opening night. Lappin got his first taste of the NHL last season, and was a serviceable 4th line forward. He should serve as one of two forwards that will be healthy scratches on a nightly basis until a lineup opportunity opens.
“The Other Options”
I can easily see Blake Speers making the team come October, but I think it would be more beneficial for the prized-prospect to begin his first full pro season in Binghamton before returning to the NHL. Speers has only two AHL games under his belt, which came during the 2017 AHL playoffs with Albany.
Like Lappin, Coleman was one of the forwards the Devils plugged into the lineup last year after being prompted by injury. If Coleman catches the coaching staff’s eye during training camp, he could easily see himself in Newark beyond September.