The New Jersey Devils Are Headed to the Promised Land


In New Jersey’s lore, few symbols are extra iconic than Bruce Springsteen and the New Jersey Devils. Add in that each solid legendary success in the swamps of New Jersey’s Meadowlands and the bond is obvious. Springsteen’s catalog is as numerous as New Jersey’s hockey group, spanning genres, cultures, and generations. As the gamers begin to assemble in Newark from throughout the world to start engaged on their dream to return to the promised land and be the final males standing, here’s a Springsteen lyric for every participant possible to make the opening evening roster.

Now my house is right here in the Meadowlands, the place mosquitos develop massive as airplanes; the place the blood is spilled, the arenas stuffed, and giants performed their video games.

Wrecking Ball – Bruce Springsteen

Nico Hischier, Center

Everybody’s bought a starvation, a starvation they’ll’t resist,
There’s a lot that you really want, you deserve way more than this,
But if desires got here true, oh, wouldn’t that be good,
But this ain’t no dream we’re residing via tonight,
You need it, you are taking it, you pay the worth
– Prove It All Night (1978)

Nico Hischier has gone from being the youngest captain in the NHL to a veteran chief in the room and one in all the premier two-way forwards in the league. He performs larger and stronger than his listed dimension and in some ways is the coronary heart and soul of the group. He is talked about as the inheritor obvious to newly retired Boston Bruin Patrice Bergeron for his skill to drive a high line whereas matching in opposition to, and shutting down, the high traces of the opponent. Hischier is continually focused by different groups for punishment behind the play and after the whistle and if he continues to be prepared to pay the required worth, he’ll ship the dream to New Jersey. His 80-point, Selke Trophy finalist season a 12 months in the past ought to function the ground for his seasons to come. All doubt has been eliminated as to whether or not Hischier is the chief the Devils want.

Jesper Bratt, Winger

Dreams is not going to be thwarted
Faith will probably be rewarded
– Land of Hope and Dreams (2001)

In the summer season of 2022 coming off of a breakout season the place Jesper Bratt led the group in factors with 73, he had three choices. He may have compromised and accepted a team-friendly cope with time period, taken the group to arbitration, or signal a one-year deal betting on himself to have the opportunity to repeat his All-Star caliber play. For Bratt and the Devils, religion was rewarded.

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The speedy winger’s guess paid off with him having one other 73-point season that included his first time scoring 30 targets and signing a contract that may hold him in New Jersey for the subsequent eight seasons. He spent one other summer season in Sweden engaged on enhancing his velocity, agility, and power, which ought to translate into one other stellar season. With the additions of Timo Meier and Tyler Toffoli, the burden Bratt usually felt to mild the lamp will probably be diminished. This ought to permit him to play extra freely and discover his groove as a playmaker. His numbers could dip with much less power-play time, nonetheless, the ice time he’ll get with deadly offensive expertise ought to permit him to climb up close to 80 factors.

Dougie Hamilton, Defenseman

When the change was made uptown
And the Big Man joined the band
From the shoreline to the metropolis
All the little pretties elevate their fingers
I’m gonna sit again proper straightforward and chortle
When Scooter and the Big Man bust this metropolis in half
– Tenth Ave Freeze Out (1975)

Certainly drafting Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes first general two years aside set the Devils up for the run that started final season, however the true start line was when the massive man Dougie Hamilton joined the band. Hamilton signed as a free agent, setting the tone for New Jersey turning into a sought-after vacation spot for gamers not merely wanting to play out the string lucratively however as a substitute for stars who need to be part of a winner. Hamilton’s first season was marred by debilitating fractures to his jaw and toe that sapped his skill to be efficient.

Dougie Hamilton, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Last season, he demonstrated the worth of a totally wholesome Hamilton by being an offensive pressure totaling 74 factors, 28 of which got here on the energy play. He additionally discovered a knack for scoring massive targets, with seven game-winning targets in the common season and an time beyond regulation winner in Game 3 in opposition to the New York Rangers. This propelled the Devils again into the sequence they might in the end win. With extra weapons on the energy play, there isn’t any purpose why Hamilton can’t proceed to increase his gaudy stats and enter the race for the Norris Trophy.

Ondrej Palat, Winger

So you’re scared and also you’re considering
That perhaps we ain’t that younger anymore
Show just a little religion, there’s magic in the evening
You ain’t a magnificence however hey you’re all proper
Oh and that’s all proper with me
– Thunder Road (1975)

In some ways, Ondrej Palat’s season echoed that of Hamilton’s first season after signing in free company, replete with frustration, damage, and an incapability to simply get snug. Fans have expressed concern that the group overpaid for Palat, however the contract was an funding in management and expertise. He doesn’t play the prettiest recreation, however he fills an enormous want of this group, a middle-six winger with grit and a wealth of playoff expertise with success. Much like Hamilton, followers ought to anticipate Palat to settle in and thrive in his second season with the group. The present roster is nicely constructed in order the group shouldn’t be reliant on him for offense, however a 25-goal season shouldn’t be out of the query. Winning groups want gamers like Palat and he can pay dividends for the group over the lifetime of his deal.

Alexander Holtz, Winger

Down right here it’s simply winners and losers and don’t get caught on the fallacious facet of that line – Atlantic City (1982)

It is put up or shut up time for Alexander Holtz. The seventh general choose in the 2020 draft was advised in his exit interview that this may be a make-or-break summer season. He has proven that he has little to acquire from extra enjoying time in the American Hockey League. General supervisor Tom Fitzgerald conspicuously didn’t fill a middle-six proper wing place selecting as a substitute to place it up for grabs in coaching camp. Holtz will probably be given each alternative to earn that spot however he’ll want to show greater than the elite shot that led to his being a lofty choose. After coaching alongside Bratt all summer season, Holtz will want to show extra quickness and three-zone consciousness in camp or he dangers getting caught on the fallacious facet of the minimize line.

Erik Haula, Forward

Tonight I’ll be on that hill ’trigger I can’t cease
I’ll be on that hill with the whole lot I bought
Lives on the line the place desires are discovered and misplaced
I’ll be there on time and I’ll pay the price
– Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)

Few gamers in the league play with as a lot uncooked emotion as Erik Haula. He didn’t let an at occasions farcical incapability to rating over the first 50 video games of the season influence his play in different sides of the recreation. Initially introduced in to play 3C, he was shortly paired with Jack Hughes and the pair immediately took off. They performed to a 60.5 anticipated targets share (xGF%) when on the ice collectively. Haula additionally introduced toughness to the penalty kill and the faceoff dot and was a giant purpose for the group’s success in each areas.

Erik Haula New Jersey Devils
Erik Haula, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Haula’s play in the first spherical of the playoffs was impressed, driving the group emotionally and scoring clutch targets. A vocal presence in the locker room, he preached paying the price to win at that stage of the season. At the finish of the season, the well-traveled ahead demanded to be reunited together with his “family” and Fitzgerald obliged by signing Haula to an extension. Whichever position he’s known as on to fill this season he will definitely be prepared. It shouldn’t be unreasonable to anticipate a 20-goal, 55-point season.

Kevin Bahl, Defenseman

And it don’t matter simply what you say
Are you robust sufficient to play the recreation they play
Or will you simply do your time and fade away
– Jackson Cage (1980)

Kevin Bahl took an enormous step ahead final season, in the end making each Ryan Graves and Nikita Okhotiuk expendable. By the finish of the season, he had supplanted Brendan Smith as the left-side mainstay on the third pair. His first foray into the playoffs was uneven however such is to be anticipated from a participant together with his expertise. The problem for Bahl is to get extra constant in how he defends in his zone and to enhance his puck transferring. The Devils will want him to emerge as a robust penalty killer to exchange the losses of Graves and Damon Severson. Otherwise, he could cede enjoying time again to Smith or others. Bahl acknowledged that he had areas to enhance and that enjoying time shouldn’t be a given however there may be loads for the taking.

Dawson Mercer, Forward

There’s one thing occurring someplace
child I simply know there may be
– Dancing In the Dark (1984)

When watching the Devils, it appears that evidently Dawson Mercer is ever-present. The younger ahead is the solely participant to have performed each recreation over the final two seasons. He performs middle, wing, energy play, and penalty kill. If there’s something occurring on the ice, there’s a good likelihood Mercer is concerned. In his first two seasons, he elevated his objective output from 17 to 27, and there’s no purpose to consider that he has reached his ceiling, particularly if he receives constant top-six minutes this season alongside Hughes or Hischier.

Dawson Mercer New Jersey Devils
Dawson Mercer, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Mercer entered the league as a pure middle however has performed his finest hockey to Hischier’s proper. While the xGF% is expectedly excessive (62), the extra spectacular stat is that they performed collectively for 330 minutes and solely surrendered 12 targets, simply over 2.1 per 60 minutes. As mentioned above, Ruff usually matches Hischier’s line in opposition to one in all the opponent’s high traces, so having one other 200-foot participant like Mercer on his wing will permit this to proceed.

Nathan Bastian, Winger

What I bought I’ve earned
What I’m not I’ve realized
– Because the Night (1978)

Fan-favorite Nathan Bastian’s season was derailed simply because it began. The winger suffered a shoulder damage in November that by no means absolutely healed and restricted him to solely 43 video games throughout the common season. There was a stark distinction in the play of the fourth line when Bastian was current. Like Mercer, he contributes in all three phases of the recreation, although his power-play time diminished as the season moved ahead. This lyric matches Bastian, as he has transitioned from an offensive-minded second-round draft choose to a troublesome, defensive ahead who embodies the coronary heart and soul of this group. Fourth-line minutes will probably be exhausting to come by this season with a minimum of 5 skilled forwards vying for enjoying time. Bastian’s versatility and competitiveness will serve him nicely and guarantee he can have each alternative to proceed to earn ice time.

RELATED: Devils’ Ideal Line Combinations for 2023-24

Michael McLeod, Center

Early in the morning manufacturing unit whistle blows,
Man rises from mattress and places on his garments,
Man takes his lunch, walks out in the morning mild,
It’s the working, the working, simply the working life.
– Factory (1978)

Like his shut pal Bastian, Michael McLeod has reworked himself from a first-round choose anticipating to play top-six minutes to one in all the best fourth-line facilities in all of the NHL. McLeod brings a lunch pail mentality to the group using his depth, competitiveness, and pure ability to inspire his teammates. Despite not being a fighter per se, McLeod was fast to get up for teammates and unafraid to combat a lot bigger males.

At the finish of each apply, McLeod may be discovered engaged on faceoffs with assistant coach Chris Taylor. He credit this work, in addition to his finding out of tendencies for his ascent up the league leaders in faceoffs this season the place he completed third in the NHL. McLeod’s faceoff prowess proved indispensable for the group, and he was deployed in all three zones and in all three phases, and time beyond regulation, when the group wanted to win attracts on the right-hand facet. McLeod will lengthy be remembered by Devils followers for his series-winning objective in Game 7 in opposition to the Rangers, however there’s a good likelihood that a lot of his story stays unwritten.

Vitek Vanecek, Goaltender

God have mercy on the man
Who doubts what he’s positive of
– Brilliant Disguise (1987)

Last anybody noticed Vitek Vanecek he was in entrance of his locker answering questions after a Game 4 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. It was clear, after a record-setting common season, that the younger goalie had misplaced his edge. Had the sequence continued a lot additional, there have been actual questions on whether or not the group would even take into account placing him again between the pipes.

Vitek Vanecek New Jersey Devils
Vitek Vanecek, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Over his three-year profession, Vanecek has struggled at each alternative in the playoffs, which should give Fitzgerald and Ruff pause at working it again with him as the de-facto starter in web. The hope has to be that the unfastened, energetic participant that everybody noticed for the first three-quarters of the season is the actual Vanecek, and the playoff points had been extra due to fatigue, overuse, and probably nagging accidents. Otherwise, the Devils will desperately want one other goaltender come playoff time.

Jonas Siegenthaler, Defenseman

This complete world is on the market simply attempting to rating
I’ve seen sufficient I don’t need to see any extra,
Cover me, come on and canopy me
– Cover Me (1984)

One of the shrewdest strikes of the Fitzgerald period was not solely buying and selling for Jonas Siegenthaler, however then locking him up long-term. He has quietly developed into one in all the finest shutdown defenders in the sport. Fitzgerald seeks out cellular, puck-moving defensemen with attain. Siegenthaler checks all these bins. Add in the truth that he’s a superb penalty killer, and he’s the excellent match with Dougie Hamilton. Siegenthaler’s skill to cowl for Hamilton when the latter jumps into the play in the offensive zone is a large a part of unlocking Hamilton’s offense final 12 months. Siegenthaler had some issue final season with positioning and studying performs main to late-season scratches, however he was stellar in the postseason and may proceed to develop right into a top-pair defensive defenseman.

Curtis Lazar, Forward

Now they’d come up to now they usually’d waited so lengthy
Just to find yourself caught in a dream the place the whole lot goes fallacious
Where the darkish of evening holds again the mild of day
And you’ve gotta stand and combat for the worth you pay
– The Price You Pay (1980)

The Devils added Curtis Lazar at the commerce deadline for his expertise, toughness, and flexibility. Unfortunately for him, nearly the whole lot that might have gone fallacious did. First, he had issue acquiring immigration paperwork, then he realized his pregnant spouse and younger son couldn’t journey with him to New Jersey, after which lastly he suffered a severe decrease physique damage nearly instantly upon his arrival. Showing his characteristic toughness Lazar, battled again into the lineup and returned to contribute in the playoffs with a objective in opposition to the Rangers. He ought to enter this 12 months wholesome and hungry to discover a everlasting position with the group. The fourth line is crowded however with Lazar’s faceoff skill and velocity, he ought to discover a manner to crack the lineup frequently.

Timo Meier, Winger

There’s a darkish cloud rising from the desert ground
I packed my baggage and I’m heading straight into the storm
Gonna be a tornado to blow the whole lot down
That ain’t bought the religion to stand its floor
– The Promised Land (1978)

In a league devoid of true energy forwards, the Devils had been prepared to half with vital belongings to purchase Timo Meier at the commerce deadline. From the first time he hit the ice in Arizona via Game 5 in Carolina, he demonstrated why these belongings had been nicely spent. Meier led the group in targets scored from the time he joined the group via the finish of the common season. He seems to be the lacking piece that may ship the Devils to the promised land, as his tenacity, velocity, and ability are uncommon however really mandatory for a profitable group.

Timo Meier New Jersey Devils
Timo Meier, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Meier instantly improves all sides of the group. He scored extra power-play targets than another participant on the roster instantly upgrading that unit. He additionally evoked the play of his agent and former Devils Conn Smythe winner Claude Lemieux by displaying in opposition to the Rangers how a lot of an influence he can have on the recreation even with out scoring by utterly taking Igor Shesterkin out of Games 3 and 4 at Madison Square Garden. With his future now secured and with a full offseason to acquire consolation in the Devils system, there isn’t any purpose Meier can’t vie with Jack Hughes for the group file for targets in a season (48). With some puck luck, Meier is in line to change into the group’s first-ever 50-goal scorer.

Brendan Smith, Defenseman

I don’t give a rattling
For the standard performed out scenes
I don’t give a rattling
For simply the in-betweens
Honey, I would like the coronary heart, I would like the soul
I would like management proper now
You higher hear to me child
Talk a few dream
Try to make it actual
you get up in the evening
With a worry so actual
Spend your life ready
for a second that simply gained’t come
Well don’t waste your time ready
– Badlands (1978)

Brendan Smith performed a significant position in the metamorphosis of the Devils from enjoyable to watch to a legit contender. Anchoring the third pair for a lot of the season, Smith was a gentle presence on the again finish till he was supplanted by Kevin Bahl. Often maligned for penalties, the superior stats had been bullish on his play. He completed third amongst defensemen with a xGF% of 57.46 at even power, forward of Hamilton, John Marino, and Ryan Graves. Smith’s veteran presence and management in the dressing room didn’t go unnoticed by gamers and workers. Several gamers famous that spending video games sitting beside Smith in the scratch suite was an incredible profit to listening to how he learn the recreation.

Brendan Smith New Jersey Devils
Brendan Smith, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Smith shouldn’t be shy about being nearer to the finish of his profession than the starting, and he’s prepared to do no matter it takes to be the second in his household to have his title etched on the Stanley Cup. One factor that’s for positive about Smith is he is not going to passively sit by and look ahead to alternatives. He will do the whole lot in his energy to seize them. It is probably going that he begins the season as the odd man out in the beginning lineup, however his skill to play either side and his toughness mixed with Ruff’s religion in his competence in the defensive zone ought to lead to possibilities for Smith to contribute earlier than the season ends.

Tyler Toffoli, Winger

We can not undo these items we’ve achieved – Outlaw Pete (2009)

The largest offseason addition to the group was undoubtedly Tyler Toffoli. Assessing the group at the finish of the season, they wanted a right-handed scoring ahead with expertise. Toffoli checks all of these bins after which some. He comes to New Jersey off of his highest-scoring season in his 11-year profession. He lit the lamp 34 occasions final season in Calgary together with 10 power-play targets, which might have led the Devils. He additionally brings the expertise of enjoying in 88 playoff video games together with twice making the Stanley Cup Final and profitable as soon as. Likely to be slotted in the center six, he ought to discover a plethora of scoring alternatives at even power and may discover area and time on the energy play. He is probably not the defensive ahead that Tomas Tatar is, however he’s a transparent improve offensively and a profession .5 point-per-game participant in the playoffs.

Tomas Nosek, Forward

It takes a leap of religion to get issues going
It takes a leap of religion you gotta present some guts
It takes a leap of religion to get issues going
In your coronary heart you have to belief
– Leap of Faith (1992)

Faced with a alternative of attempting to work out a brand new contract with Boston or take a look at free company, Tomas Nosek mentioned he hoped to keep in Boston and never have to resettle his household. When it appeared that he can be on the lookout for a brand new dwelling, he had a dialog with Devils legend Patrik Elias, who helped persuade Nosek to take a leap of religion and signal with New Jersey. Like Toffoli, he brings a wealth of playoff expertise (52 video games), and he gives insurance coverage on the fourth line as he can play all three ahead positions and is a talented penalty killer. The Devils had been lucky to get a participant of Nosek’s caliber so late in free company and for under $1 million in opposition to the cap. He will possible battle with Lazar and Bastian for enjoying time and push McLeod to proceed to enhance.

Luke Hughes, Defenseman

Well, my toes they lastly took root in the earth however I bought me a pleasant little place in the stars – Growin Up (1973)

The hype was fierce and there was no manner Luke Hughes, only a few days from enjoying school hockey, was going to reside up to the expectations. Wrong. He took New Jersey by storm ending off the common season with an time beyond regulation game-winning wrap-around to defeat the Washington Capitals. He then sat out the total Rangers sequence and was inserted into the second-round matchup in opposition to the Hurricanes with the Devils down 2-0 in the sequence. He greater than held his personal, enjoying to a 53.75 xGF% over the course of three video games. He additionally earned the religion of Ruff in crucial moments as he was deployed for over 25 minutes as the Devils confronted elimination in Game 5.

Luke Hughes New Jersey Devils
Luke Hughes, New Jersey Devils (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire through Getty Images)

Hughes has all the makings of the star he was projected to be when the Devils grabbed him with the fourth general choose in 2021. He has proven dominance at each stage and didn’t look misplaced in his temporary NHL stint. The Devils will strive to defend him by enjoying him with John Marino and sure restrict his penalty kill time, however he ought to be getting top-four minutes in all three phases by the All-Star break. Hughes will probably be given the keys to second power-play unit and with the infusion of power-play expertise, ought to have the opportunity to use that position to vault himself into rivalry for the Calder Trophy.

John Marino, Defenseman

Now typically tomorrow comes soaked in treasure and blood
We stood the drought, now we’ll stand the flood
There’s a brand new world coming, I can see the mild
I’m a jack of all trades, we’ll be all proper
– Jack of All Trades (2012)

When the Devils acquired John Marino from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the summer season of 2022, few understood how necessary that transfer can be in the ascent of the Devils. Unlocked in Ruff’s system, he displayed a aptitude for offensive hockey that was absent in Pittsburgh. Marino was a real Jack of All Trades for the Devils final season, in a position to present the group with no matter it wanted. He performed on all three phases of the recreation and grew into the position of shutdown defender. He was matched up in opposition to Connor McDavid, Nathan McKinnon, and Auston Matthews and held his personal every time.

Most spectacular is that regardless of these unfavorable matchups, he by no means allowed the ice to be tilted in opposition to him. He performed to a 54 xGF% and when on the ice, the Devils out-chanced their opponents in all scoring possibilities and high-danger possibilities, each at over 55%. His efficiency in the remaining recreation of the season, logging greater than half-hour of ice time, was indicative of how a lot he means to the group each in the current and transferring ahead.

Akira Schmid, Goaltender

Still at the finish of each hard-earned day folks discover some purpose to consider – Reason to Believe (1982)

Devils followers have many causes to consider, none greater than the efficiency of rookie Akira Schmid. He doubled down on a stellar common season by outplaying Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin in the first spherical. Schmid posted a .950 SV% in bringing the group again from a 2-0 deficit. He shut out the Rangers in pivotal Games 5 & 7. While his play in the second spherical was not on par with the Rangers sequence, he actually left followers wanting extra.

Akira Schmid New Jersey Devils
Akira Schmid, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

As of now, it seems Schmid will start the season in New Jersey, combating Vanecek for the starter’s web. Fitzgerald is reportedly involved about overworking the 23-year-old Swiss goalie who solely has 18 common season begins in his profession. Schmid will possible enter as the 1B to Vanecek’s 1A and may he be confronted with backing up for stretches, it will not be a shock to see him shipped to Utica so he can construct up his stamina. Keep in thoughts, he nonetheless doesn’t want to clear waivers to be despatched down. Devils followers have each purpose to consider that their future starter is now on the roster.

Jack Hughes, Center

Poor man wanna be wealthy
Rich man wanna be king
And a king ain’t glad
Till he guidelines the whole lot
I wanna exit tonight,
I wanna discover out what I bought
– Badlands (1978)

An intense competitor exists beneath the elite skating, silky mitts, and deadly shot of Jack Hughes. In his first foray into playoff hockey, a special Hughes emerged. He turned weaknesses into strengths, rising his faceoff win share by nearly 15 factors and demonstrating a newfound physicality. He was unafraid to take the physique. He was credited with 12 hits all through the common season, but ended the playoffs with 5 credited hits in 12 video games. Sebastian Aho was launched to this model when he was tossed to the floor and pummeled by Hughes after absorbing a torrent of cross-checks. Any questions on his skill to climate playoff storms had been put to mattress when he gutted out, having a tooth knocked out after which a major upper-body damage to play in an elimination recreation. Even his coach doubted he may get in the lineup.

Jack Hughes New Jersey Devils
Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

He could already be the most naturally gifted ahead in the Devils’ historical past. The immortal gamers all have one other gear and are pushed by a deep want to be nice. Hughes is not any totally different. Like the really nice gamers, he additionally rises when the group wants him most. Much to the fortune of Devils followers, there isn’t any ceiling to how good Hughes can change into. He has already been talked about as a Hart Trophy candidate and completed a degree shy of 100 and he enters this season at 22. Having now entered the realm of superstardom on an ascendant group, what’s the subsequent stage for him to unlock? If requested, Hughes would little doubt say personally he desires to smash his personal group file for factors in a season. However, it’s clear that to him the most necessary objective is to hoist the Cup, and the hearth that burns inside him gained’t be extinguished till he reaches the promised land.

Windows are for cheaters, chimneys for the poor
Closets are for hangers, winners use the door
So use it Rosie, that’s what it’s there for

Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) Bruce Springsteen (1973)

This season’s Devils will not have the opportunity to sneak up on opponents or feast on backup goalies. They have transitioned from the hunter to the hunted. There is not any extra climbing via home windows, to get to the land of hope and desires they may have to use the door.

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