The New Jersey Devils’ offense was dynamite a season in the past, particularly at five-on-five. That ought to be no totally different in 2023-24, particularly after adding Tyler Toffoli through a trade with the Calgary Flames. How does their top-six examine to the remainder of the Metropolitan Division? Using Daily Faceoff’s line combos as a template, let’s examine the Devils’ top-six to their division foes.
Devils’ Projected Top-6 for 2023-24
Before entering into different groups’ top-sixes, let’s set the desk by offering the Devils’ top-six. After including Toffoli, their unit ought to look one thing like this:
- Timo Meier – Nico Hischier – Dawson Mercer
- Jesper Bratt – Jack Hughes – Toffoli
Obviously, there are totally different combos head coach Lindy Ruff can use, and somebody like Alexander Holtz might throw a wrench into these items. But for the sake of simplicity, these gamers ought to be the Devils’ major top-six skaters.
Meier spent lots of time alongside Hischier after the commerce to the Devils final season, as did Mercer. They logged some minutes as a trio, and I believe Ruff will give them an opportunity throughout preseason video games. Bratt and Hughes had been dominant collectively in 2022-23. They’re elite play drivers and may arrange Toffoli for lots of scoring probabilities if that’s a combo that clicks.
Now that we’ve got the Devils’ top-six, let’s take a look at what else they’ll be going up towards within the Metro this season. We’ll begin with the Carolina Hurricanes and work down the 2022-23 standings.
The Hurricanes could lack an elite scorer like Jack Hughes, however they nonetheless have a well-rounded top-six with lots of firepower. They signed Michael Bunting through free company this offseason, and he ought to slot in effectively with the grinding, forechecking fashion of hockey the staff performs underneath coach Rod Brind’Amour. Here’s what their top-six ought to appear like:
- Bunting – Sebastian Aho – Seth Jarvis
- Andrei Svechnikov – Jesper Kotkaniemi – Martin Necas
Aho is one of the most effective two-way facilities within the league and shall be good for round 30 objectives and 70-plus factors. Bunting is a stable participant succesful of 20-25 objectives and 50 factors, however Jarvis is the important thing to the Hurricanes’ first line taking a step ahead. He stagnated a bit this previous season, but when he all of a sudden turns into what the Devils have in Mercer, the Hurricanes’ first line turns into far more dynamic.
The weak point of the Hurricanes’ top-six is having Kotkaniemi as their second-line heart. He confirmed somewhat extra scoring upside in 2022-23, totaling 18 objectives and 43 factors in 82 video games, however the power of his recreation is defensively. Compared to the Devils, who use Hughes in a second-line function, it’s a transparent win for New Jersey.
But regardless that Kotkaniemi is the weakest half of the second line, Svechnikov and Necas are high-end scorers succesful of 30 objectives and 70-plus factors. The Devils’ top-six might be a bit extra dynamic than the Hurricanes and has higher ending expertise, however the hole between the 2 items is minimal. That’s why these two groups ought to be battling for first place within the Metro in 2023-24.
New York Rangers
Because of the wage cap, the Rangers had restricted area to make additions and enhance their roster this summer time. They did sign Blake Wheeler to a one-year deal value $800,000. He’ll slot in for granted wing on one of the primary two traces, however in any other case, their top-six ought to look much like final season:
- Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Kaapo Kakko
- Artemi Panarin – Filip Chytil – Wheeler
Daily Faceoff has Vincent Trocheck because the Rangers’ second-line heart. But after Chytil’s breakout season, he looks like a greater guess and match to tackle that function.
The Rangers’ top-six is totally different from the Devils in that they lack elite play drivers however have elite ending expertise. Kreider is one of the most effective finishers within the league as a result of of his knack for attending to soiled areas and capitalizing on his probabilities. Zibanejad has a deadly shot, whereas Chytil is an underrated shooter himself.
Wheeler and Panarin aren’t the shooters or finishers that Kreider, Zibanejad and Chytil are, however they’re those who’ll get the pucks to the staff’s scorers as a consequence of their high-end playmaking skill. The Rangers’ top-six probably gained’t dominate play at five-on-five just like the Devils’ ought to, however they may put up factors.
Related: Rangers’ Shesterkin Sees Hughes as Toughest Opponent
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Maybe the Devils have the slight edge right here as a result of Bratt, Hughes, Hischier and Meier can all drive play, which is essential in the long term. But it’s near even as a result of Rangers’ ending expertise.
New York Islanders
The Islanders made no vital strikes for the second offseason in a row. They re-signed some of their pending unrestricted and restricted free brokers, however they’ll primarily run again the identical top-six once more:
- Oliver Wahlstrom – Bo Horvat – Mat Barzal
- Anders Lee – Brock Nelson – Kyle Palmieri
Horvat is coming off a profession 12 months, however he already confirmed indicators of regression after the trade from the Vancouver Canucks. He’s became a way more efficient shooter during the last couple of seasons, so one other 30-goal marketing campaign isn’t out of attain. But he’ll probably are available in nearer to the 60-point vary.
Barzal is one of the weaker shooters within the NHL, however his skating and playmaking are top-notch. That’s why Horvat is an efficient guess for an additional 30-goal 12 months if Barzal skates on his line. The subject with the Islanders’ first unit is having Wahlstrom flanking these two. They want extra from the previous first-round choose, who has but to interrupt out within the NHL and present he could be a top-six winger.
Nelson is coming off back-to-back 30-plus-goal seasons and, like Horvat, has grow to be a more practical shooter during the last couple of seasons. Will he put up 75 factors once more? That stays to be seen, however he’s an underrated second-line heart.
Lee continues to be succesful of 25-30 objectives, whereas Palmieri nonetheless has some juice left in his recreation. He wants to remain wholesome, however he did produce at a 24-goal, 49-point tempo final season. Still, the Islanders’ top-six doesn’t have the dynamic menace or expertise of the Devils’ top-six. They have some scorers, however the Devils have 5 gamers who scored 30 or extra objectives final season and one who had 27 in Mercer. Advantage to New Jersey.
The Penguins could be the oldest staff within the NHL, however they nonetheless have some high-end expertise, with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin main the best way. They misplaced Jason Zucker to the Arizona Coyotes in free company however did acquire Reilly Smith from the Golden Knights. Here’s what their top-six ought to appear like:
- Jake Guentzel – Crosby – Rickard Rakell
- Smith – Malkin – Bryan Rust
The caveat to the Penguins’ top-six is that Guentzel will probably miss the primary few weeks of the common season as a consequence of harm. But as soon as he returns, he’ll find yourself again alongside Crosby. He’s been a staple on Crosby’s line for years, and given their outcomes, that in all probability gained’t change this season.
Rakell spent lots of time alongside Guentzel and Crosby, and their outcomes had been fairly good as a unit; they posted a 58.03 anticipated objectives proportion (xG%) in 554 minutes. I’d think about coach Mike Sullivan returns to that trio as soon as Guentzel is wholesome.
Smith has been one of the most effective second-line wingers within the NHL for fairly a while. He’s averaged 25 objectives and 52 factors per 82 video games during the last three seasons and has posted stable metrics at five-on-five. Likewise, Rust has been a stable top-six winger himself. Even although his manufacturing fell a bit final season, he had some poor taking pictures luck, that means a bounce-back could also be in retailer.
The Penguins could have just one participant underneath 30 of their top-six in Guentzel, who’s 28 and can quickly flip 29, however they’re nonetheless a proficient bunch. Crosby continues to be a top-five heart, whereas Malkin confirmed final season that he nonetheless has lots of fuel left within the tank. The Devils get the sting as a result of they’re a quicker, youthful and extra dynamic group than the Penguins, however don’t rely out Pittsburgh simply but. They nonetheless have lots of expertise.
The Rest of the Metro
The Washington Capitals have an attention-grabbing group of forwards. Alex Ovechkin continues to be Alex Ovechkin, they usually’ll have a wholesome Tom Wilson, however the group lacks a dynamic menace exterior Ovechkin. Max Pacioretty might assist add some scoring if he’s wholesome, however he’s additionally coming off two straight torn Achilles. T.J. Oshie isn’t the participant he was once, whereas Evgeny Kuznetsov has been inconsistent during the last couple of years.
Nicklas Backstrom is coming off a big hip process and will not be the participant he was once. Wilson can also be the one participant underneath 30 years outdated amongst their top-six. They may need Ovechkin, however the Devils’ top-six outclasses the Capitals after years of it being the opposite approach round.
Based on their offseason strikes, it’s fairly clear the Philadelphia Flyers gained’t be contenders this coming season. Travis Konecny leads the best way of their top-six, as he’s coming off a profession 12 months that noticed him put up 31 objectives and 61 factors in 61 video games.
The drawback for the Flyers is the remainder of the unit. Sean Couturier is an unknown after lacking all of final season as a consequence of a again harm. Likewise, Cam Atkinson missed all of 2022-23 as a consequence of harm. Even in the event that they’re wholesome, they might now be in decline.
Joel Farabee is a stable participant however has but to emerge as a real top-six expertise. Owen Tippett has grow to be a stable winger succesful of 25-30 objectives, however the Flyers’ top-six lacks game-breakers. The Devils have the clear edge right here, too.
Last however not least is the Columbus Blue Jackets. They have a base to construct round with Johnny Gaudreau, Patrik Laine and Kent Johnson. Drafting Adam Fantilli third overall can’t damage, and he ought to have an instantaneous constructive affect on the staff.
Still, the Blue Jackets’ top-six is lacking a pair of items, most notably a second-line heart. Cole Sillinger took a step again in his sophomore 12 months, however he’s the Blue Jackets’ most viable possibility as a second-line heart if he can bounce again. The Devils have the sting over the Blue Jackets, however their top-six has expertise. They’ll be capable to rating objectives, particularly with Kirill Marchenko exhibiting sniper potential. It’s the opposite components of their roster (protection, goaltending) with query marks.
Devils Have Built Up Their Scoring
The Devils’ top-six is what most groups shall be envious of long-term, together with the Hurricanes’. But even for 2023-24, the Devils ought to have one of the most effective top-six items within the Metro. They have not less than 5 gamers succesful of scoring 30 objectives, and extra importantly, they’ve elite play drivers in Bratt, Hughes, Hischier and Meier.
The Hurricanes and Rangers shall be proper there with them. They have totally different makeups: elite ending expertise for the Rangers and a grinding, forechecking fashion with the Hurricanes. And regardless of their age, the Penguins nonetheless have big-time scorers, particularly as soon as Guentzel returns from surgical procedure.
Still, it’s onerous to say there are top-six teams within the Metro higher than the Devils and Hurricanes. The Rangers are an in depth third, however they don’t have the play drivers the Devils and Hurricanes do. And that’s half of why the Devils ought to be contenders for first within the division in 2023-24.
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