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In the second, and final part of what was a two-part series, I examine the likelihood of what defenseman and goaltenders we might see on the Devils opening night roster come October 7th.
The Devils captain is entering his 12th NHL season, and will once again serve as a top-pairing defenseman. The 34-year old isn’t getting any younger, and it’ll be interesting to see how he holds up after having a down season in 2016-17.
Damon Severson may be New Jersey’s best offensive defenseman and was just recently compensated for it with a six-year contract after remaining a RFA for a lengthy period of time. Like Greene, Severson is an absolute lock to make the team after performing well for a poor team last season.
Lovejoy was in a sense a scapegoat for Devils fans, as he was constantly scrutinized last year. Unless there’s a trade or injury, you’ll see No. 12 out on the ice for his second season as a Devil.
Moore was a pleasant surprise last season after finishing the season with 22 points in 63 games. He led Devils defensemen in goals as he compiled a career high 12 goals during the 2016-17 season. Like the others on this list, you’ll see John Moore on opening night wearing the #2.
Mirco Mueller was acquired prior to the expansion draft, which saw the Las Vegas Golden Knights take Jon Merrill off the Devils’ hands. Hopes are high for Mueller, who was traded for a pair of draft picks. He figures to factor into the lineup right away, but will it be in a regular or depth role? A good preseason should help determine that.
The “Butcher Sweepstakes” was a huge storyline this offseason, and the Devils were fortunate enough to emerge victorious. Butcher should provide a much-needed offensive touch to the blue line, although I wouldn’t call him a lock to be on the opening night roster just yet. Considering his lack of professional experience, I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts the season in Binghamton. Playing time was surely a factor in luring Butcher to New Jersey, and I’m sure it’ll factor into the Devils’ decision to keep Butcher or start him in the AHL. Training camp will be the determinant, but I do in fact believe Butcher will be with the club come October.
Prout was acquired before last year’s trade deadline in exchange for Kyle Quincey. Prout is a tough defensive defenseman who can be relied on for his shot blocking and physical play. I wouldn’t be surprised if Prout is on the opening night roster serving as the team’s seventh defenseman. Why have young players like Santini, Kapla, or Dyblenko in the press box if they can be playing valuable AHL minutes to get better? That’s why I believe Prout will be in the NHL come opening night.
“The Other Options”
Santini established himself as a good defensive defenseman for the Devils after he was finally given a chance to showcase his skills last season. I would love to see him on opening night, but with the amount of new faces to incorporate, there is a chance he can be the odd man out. It would be more of a benefit for Santini to harness his skills in the AHL, until the time comes for him to integrate into the team’s everyday lineup.
After being signed out of college toward the end of the 2016-17 season, Michael Kapla played valuable minutes for the bottom-feeding Devils. Like Santini, I believe there would be no benefit to riding the pine with the big club when he could be logging minutes in the AHL improving his game.
The Devils signed Yaroslav Dyblenko from the KHL with hopes of landing a special talent from overseas. Dyblenko is a young raw talent who may see time with the NHL club somewhere down the line. The best spot for him to improve on his skills and adjust to the different style of American hockey will probably be in Binghamton.
Schneider certainly struggled last season, but we all know what he’s capable of doing. Let’s all hope for a rebound season as Schneider will be instrumental in the success New Jersey will face this year.
Don’t expect the goalies to look any different from last season. Pending an injury in camp, expect Kinkaid to be Schneider’s back-up come opening night.