Making predictions can be a fool’s errand. So much can happen in the grueling grind that is the 82-game NHL regular season. Nevertheless, predictions are fun to make and since I’m usually right about this kind of stuff, let’s have at it. Here’s what one can expect for the New Jersey Devils in 2016-17.
1) Cory Schneider Wins the Vezina Trophy
Last season saw Schneider named to the All-Star team for the first time. In 2015-16, Schneider posted a career-best 27 victories, boasted a save percentage of .924 and a goals-against average of 2.15. Long overshadowed by the likes of Roberto Luongo and Martin Brodeur, folks around the league have finally taken notice of Schneider as an elite, top-flight goalie.
At age 30, Schneider is hitting his prime. For comparison sake, Dominik Hasek was 29 when he earned his first Vezina Trophy in 1993-94 and Martin Brodeur was also 30 when he brought home his first Vezina in 2002-03. Sure Schneider will still be hoisting up a young defense but save for Adam Larsson, it won’t be drastically different from the past few seasons. Plus, some of the added offensive players should take some pressure off Schneider and boost his win total.
2) Taylor Hall Scores 40 goals
Speaking of scoring, we have the perfect segue to Hall. As mentioned, following his trade from the Edmonton Oilers, Hall will be motivated and playing with a chip on his shoulder. The Devils obviously think highly of Hall but he won’t be burdened with carrying the organization alone. Hall will likely be paired with his old OHL Windsor Spitfires teammate Adam Henrique, which should make playing hockey fun for both of them.
Aside from Hall, only Jordan Eberle (25) netted more than 20 markers last season with Edmonton. Conversely, New Jersey boasted two 30-goal scorers in Henrique and Kyle Palmieri. Take the motivation Palmieri used last year and add it to Hall’s talent and you can practically bank on a 40-goal outburst.
3) Beau Bennett Nets 20 Goals
I could have gone with Devante Smith-Pelly here and you’re probably thinking, “but Mike, Bennett will be lucky if he can stay on the ice for 20 games.” Well, these are bold predictions you know.
Here’s how I see it, if Bennett is paired with Hall and Henrique or Palmieri and Smith-Pelly, he’s going to find some open ice and, as a result, pucks are going to find the back of the net. This will be a fresh start for Bennett, with a staff that was confident enough in his abilities to make him a first-round pick in Pittsburgh in 2010.
4) Miles Wood Leads Devils Rookies in Points
Overshadowed by Pavel Zacha and his former Boston College teammate Steven Santini, Wood is turning heads in training camp. In his lone campaign at Boston College, Wood registered 35 points in 37 games. During the preseason, Wood always seems to be in on the attack and has two goals on five shots.
As of this writing, Wood has outlasted the likes of John Quenneville, Joseph Blandisi and Nick Lappin as the regular season draws near. The left-wing Wood is making it a hell of a difficult decision for the coaching staff, and if he sticks will be a force to be reckoned with.
5) Nick Lappin Tallies an Overtime Postseason Goal
This is bold on multiple levels, seeing as how Lappin will begin the season with the AHL Albany Devils and I’m also predicting New Jersey will qualify for the postseason. In his short time with Albany last season, Lappin displayed a knack for notching dramatic and clutch goals. He tallied five times in 11 Calder Cup playoff contests this spring, including the game-tying and overtime winning goals in Game 3 of the A-Devils second round series against the Toronto Marlies. One could see Lappin sparking some late victories as the 2016-17 season progresses in New Jersey.