Projecting the New Jersey Devils' Opening Night Roster

While the season has officially begun, there are some teams who still have a few days before they drop the puck on their first games. Among that group are the New Jersey Devils, who are now three seasons deep into a post-season drought, and 9 seasons removed from their last series win. The good news is that there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. Several years of high draft picks have yielded a young Devils team stacked with potential. Those players are starting to come into their own, and despite a couple of 1st overall picks have had slow starts to their careers, their development is starting to pay dividends. GM Tom Fitzgerald went shopping in free agency this summer and added some pieces to try and push his squad into playoff contention. Let's see how those moves have manifested onto the roster, starting with the forwards:

Pavel Zacha - Nico Hischier - Jesper Bratt

Yegor Sharangovich - Jack Hughes - Janne Kuokkanen

Andreas Jonsson - Dawson Mercer - Tomas Tatar

Marian Studenic - Michael McLeod - Jimmy Vesey

Frederik Gauthier

Miles Wood

The best news Devils fans got this pre-season was that Dawson Mercer had earned himself a spot on the opening night roster. Well ahead of schedule, Mercer was expected to end up developing in the AHL this season, but instead gave the Devils little choice but to keep him around with his strong and mature play at both ends of the ice. Another new face, Marian Studenic is on the roster for now, but there are rumors that Miles Wood will be ready for game 1 and that may result in Studenic being sent down. Outside of rookies, another new addition to this lineup is Tomas Tatar, who wrapped up his time in Montreal by watching their epic playoff run from the press box. He'll be looking to have a bounce-back year on a Devils team that will need some veteran scoring to support their young core.

On defence, the New Jersey went out and added one of the biggest names available in this summer's free agency:

Ryan Graves - Dougie Hamilton

Jonas Seigenthaler - P.K. Subban

Colton White - Tristian Jaros

Mason Geertsen

Kevin Bahl

The Devils are welcoming a brand new top pairing to their team this season in the form of Ryan Graves and Dougie Hamilton. Graves had an unfortunate end to his time in Colorado, and will look to improve upon that in Jersey. There's a good chance the Devils are hoping that someone will steal the top LD spot from him sooner than later. Outside of the top pair, New Jersey are missing a couple of roster players to start the year in Damon Severson and Ty Smith, which is why this blueline looks weaker than it will be come November. Severson's injury doesn't seem serious, and his spot on the roster isn't going anywhere. Ty Smith's injury remains undisclosed at the time of this writing, and in his case, things are a little more uncertain. Colton White has made the roster after 5 years with the organization. He's been called up a few times prior, but this is the first time he's battled his way onto the roster to start the year. If he shows he deserves that spot, despite Smith's excellent rookie season in 2021, White may end up taking his job. White is three years older, which may work against Smith in the short term but end up working in his favor in the long term. It all depends on how well White plays, and how long Smith is out.

In goal, the Devils picked up an NHL veteran to back up their young starter:

MacKenzie Blackwood

Jonathan Bernier

Scott Wedgewood

As of this moment, MacKenzie Blackwood remains one of four NHL players who are unvaccinated against Covid-19. That means he'll be unable to play any of the Devils' games in Canada. Thankfully, the Devils don't share a Division with any Canadian clubs, which means Blackwood will be available for the team's most important matchups. The young netminder has also said he is leaning towards getting vaccinated, although that's as far as the needle has moved of late. That puts a little more importance on the play of Jonathan Bernier, who will have to shoulder the load of any games Blackwood isn't available for. Good thing then that he's been about as steady as any backup in the league, with his sv% rarely dropping below .910. He may prove to be the Devils' most valuable addition out of free agency this year.

What do you think of this lineup for New Jersey, and what would you change?

Photo credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

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