New Jersey Devils 2022-2023 Preview and Predictions

With less than a week until the Devils first game of the season, camp is coming to a close and the roster is taking shape. What can we expect from this year’s Devils?

Goaltending is easily where the Devils need to have the biggest improvement from last year if they wish to have any hope of moving up in the standings. This is no secret and has been discussed and analyzed since about last November. There is reason to hope that we will get better goaltending this year. Mackenzie Blackwood feels fully healthy for the first time in a long time and both he and Vitek Vanecek have had pretty strong preseason games to give reason for optimism so far. Vanecek had a 24 save shutout against Boston on Monday and Blackwood stopped 35 of the 37 shots he faced against the Rangers on September 30th. My hope and expectation is for Blackwood to play in 48 games and have a save percentage around .915, returning the promising young goalie we saw in his first two seasons. Meanwhile, I expect Vanecek to play the remaining 34 games and have a save percentage between .905 and .910. This is about what he’s done so far in his career as a backup for the Capitals so it’s realistic to expect him to do the same for the Devils this year. Hopefully both of these two goalies are able to avoid injury and give the Devils the NHL caliber goaltending they sorely missed last season. Hoping for more posts like this in the coming weeks and months and all season long.

The Devils power play was an absolute train wreck last year so they brought in associate coach Andrew Brunette to try and fix it for this season. Last year the Devils had the 28th ranked power play in the league with a success rate of just 15%. Meanwhile, Brunette’s Panthers had the NHL’s 5th best power play, scoring on over 24% of their opportunities. If Brunette can just split the difference and get the Devils up around the league average of 20%, that would be massive. The Devils finished last season 19th in goals scored so having a more dangerous power play could lead to some big goals in close games. Here are the players I think Brunette will rely on as the top power play unit: Sharangovich- Hughes- Bratt- Hamilton- Palat. With that unit, the opposing penalty killers have to focus on taking time and space away from the elite play makers, Hughes and Bratt, while respecting the shot of Sharangovich and dealing with Palat crashing the net. They also cant forget about Dougie Hamilton, who has proved to be an elite offensive defenseman in his career so far. Every player on that unit is a weapon and I trust that Brunette can at the very least get them to succeed 20% of the time, but hopefully even better.

The Devils defense was inconsistent last year. This year, the defense will look significantly different due to the departures of Ty Smith and PK Subban, both of whom played regularly last year. They added John Marino and Brendan Smith and have several younger prospects trying to earn their spot in camp. Last year, Dougie Hamilton had his jaw broken mid season, causing him to miss several games and preventing him from his normal diet and routine for much of the remainder of the season. A tough break for him and the Devils that will hopefully not be repeated. A fully healthy Hamilton for a full year would be a real game changer for the Devils. There is also the continued development as Jonas Siegenthaler as one of the best shut down defensemen in the NHL. John Marino will likely fill the ice time of Ty Smith last year with fewer turnovers and more defensive responsibility. I’ve been impressed with how Kevin Bahl has looked in the preseason and I expect the 6’7 defenseman to start the season with New Jersey. I expect the defensive pairs to look something like this: Hamilton- Graves. Siegenthaler- Severson. Marino- Bahl. Brendan Smith as as extra.

The forward group is something else to be excited about for the Devils this year. Hughes and Bratt proved last year that they are truly elite players in the NHL as they filled the net and piled up points. Despite a slow start, Yegor Sharangovich still managed to score 24 goals last season and I don’t see any reason to expect less than 30 from him this year. The Devils added Ondrej Palat, who can not only produce points, but be one of the more physical players on the team. For the last several years now the Devils have been lacking a top six forward that can play physical. We finally have that now in Palat. The Pavel Zacha nightmare is finally over and hes been replaced with veteran center Erik Haula. Fabian Zetterlund has built off of his impressive season in Utica last year and looks like a lock to make the team. Alexander Holtz has also looked better in the preseason this year than he did in any of his nine NHL games last year. Miles Wood is healthy again and ready to bring his speed back to the ice full time. I am absolutely stoked about this forward group and think they have the ability to have a top 10 offense in the NHL if they can all stay healthy, which is of course key for any team. Here are what I hope the lines look like.

Bratt Hughes Palat

Holtz Hischier Sharangovich

Tatar Haula Mercer

Wood Zetterlund Johnsson Extras: McLeod, Bastian.

My final prediction for the season is the Devils go 43-30-9, 4th in the Metro, 2nd Wildcard. The Islanders are still old and slow, they did nothing to improve their team from last year. Columbus got Gaudreau but still has very shaky goaltending and a thin defense. The Flyers are a disaster top to bottom. I think the Devils will be better than all three of those teams. Its clear that the Hurricanes, Rangers and Penguins are the top three teams. So that leaves the Devils and Capitals to battle for fourth in the division and likely the second wildcard. The Caps didn’t do much to improve their team this offseason and will be starting the season without Backstrom, Wilson, and Hagelin ready to play. I think this is the year for the Devils to surpass Washington and make the playoffs. I can’t wait for the season to start with a drubbing of the Flyers on October 13th. Lets Go Devils! Follow me on Twitter at PatBoooooth

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