Devils Pipeline Battle - Who cracks the lineup?
This weekend let's all take a moment and remember the events and those who perished on 9/11...
As we near the new season, I want to discuss the rookies in the Devils system and who has a chance to crack the lineup and stick this season.
It is no secret that the Devils pipeline is the best we have seen since the Lou Lamoriello/David Conte days for those who remember. If not the best the Devils have ever seen especially from a depth standpoint.
Devils fans are excites at where the Devils are at but most importantly where they will be 2-3 years from now! Fitz's biggest challenge is asset management and what he does next year's free agency period.
As one of the youngest teams in the NHL, I also find it hard to believe we will see many prospects stock more than a few games even with COVID still present and forcing more players to miss games than usual. I also think this will impact goalie games as backups, even third strings, will continue to be valuable to NHL teams.
Before we speculate which rookies can stick, lets set a rough lineup:
Tatar - Hughes - Sharangovich
Kuokkanen - Hischier - Bratt
Wood - Zacha - McLeod
Greer - Boqvist - Johnsson
Graves - Hamilton
Smith - Seversen
Siegenthaler - Subban
Blackwood - Bernier
With this youth infused lineup I could see battles for one, maybe two, forward roster spots to be had on that fourth line.
I also see the possibility of a battle for the last D pair spot. I also find it hard to see Subban wearing a Devils jersey at the end of the season.
Goalie depth looks good for this coming season as Wedgewood has show he is a very capable third string therefore less pressure on the goalie pipeline and battle.
Now, the pipeline. Where do we start?
In no particular order - Holtz, Hughes, Foote, Thompson, Bahl, Zetterlund, Clarke, Studenic, Mercer, Misyul, Mukhamadullin, Vukojevic, Walsh, Okhotiuk, White... A lot there!
Speaking of asset management, Fitz could also use a package of these to also bring in younger but more established players. The possibilities are endless and I would argue in this young NHL, good prospects are worth more than ever.
Assuming a few spots could be up for grabs, I want to focus on which of these rookies can actually stick and contribute now.
I also do not think we need to rush any of them and force them into this lineup as we have in the recent past. The likes of Holtz and Mercer, for example, could benefit from a full year earning top minutes and experience and make a bigger impact next year onwards. We have seen many times how rushing rookies could back fire. We do not need them now.
The Battles - Lets get ready to rumble...
At forward we have:
Tyce Thompson - Size is an issue but Thompson has been around and working on his body. Being a little older than most youngsters in the system (having a brother playing in the NHL also helps) and able to play the middle or the right hand side give him options and versatility.
Nolan Foote - The prize in the Blake Coleman trade has the family pedigree. A big body winger who plays aa strong game with a big shot is exactly what the Devils have lacked for years. I would say the most NHL ready prospect in the system.
Marian Studenic - Having a few games under his belt gave us a taste. He looked fine in his NHL stint and can kill penalties. A decent skater but lacks a scoring touch. He does a little of everything but nothing great so it is easy to lose sight of him when we have more exciting players in the system. He can quietly fill in without much fanfare.
Fabian Zettelrund - It seems Zetterlund has been around forever being drafted back in 2017. A torn ACL a few seasons ago slowed his growth but he has bounced back in a big way taking a nice step and going from a forgotten prospect to being on the radar (kind of reminds me of Zacha a few years ago) being a standout in Binghamton last year. He could be a Nathan Bastian replacement as he can score and use his body.
On Defense we have:
Kevin Bahl - After a tough beginning of the season Bahl git into good form earning him a late season call up and 7 games in the NHL. A tall 6'6"" and fluid skater I can see him a staple and leapfrogging the likes of Siegenthaler and Jaros very soon. Also at around 230 lbs the size is there and only time, or injuries, is holding him up.
Michael Vokojevic - Who? An under the radar prospect who is also physical (do you see a theme? A devils need?) and a shut down Dman. He could be a sneaky player to keep an eye out for.
Reilly Walsh - A former third round pick back in 2017, Walsh has caught the eyes of many people of late.An offensive D and at 6'0" he could turn out to be a modern day NHL Dman. Along with Bahl, Walsh is someone I am excited to see. The duo could be the Subban/Siegenthaler/Jaros replacement in the next year or two.
In Goal, I do not think we see anyone other than Blackwood/Bernier/Wedgewood barring any extraordinary events.
Who cracks the lineup now?
After a big improvement and D overhaul, I feel the battles will be up front.
Nolan Foote is who I expect to make and stick. The most NHL ready prospect could play 3rd or 4th line minutes and bring physicality and eventually bump Greer of a spot. Adding scoring depth down the lineup is also a need of the Devils. Miles Wood can be a model for Foote as well.
I also think Studenic and Zetterlund will also get some games and fill in but Foote is where I see a big fit for the Devils.
Burning Question: Who do you think sticks on this Devils roster?
The Devils Advocate