It’s again that time of year when hockey fans pull their favorite jerseys out of storage and prepare for the regular season. The New Jersey Devils officially unveiled their opening night roster, which includes both Alexander Holtz and Fabian Zetterlund. The biggest surprise was seeing Simon Nemec make the team over Kevin Bahl, but as NHL.com’s Mike Morreale shared, the roster announcements affect only the first day of games on Tuesday, and since New Jersey’s season starts on Thursday, management can still make adjustments until Thursday at 5 p.m. ET. Here’s a look at what the roster looks like to start the 2022-23 campaign.
New Jersey’s 2022-23 Opening Night Roster
Forwards: Nathan Bastian, Jesper Boqvist, Jesper Bratt, Erik Haula, Holtz, Jack Hughes, Andreas Johnsson, Michael McLeod, Dawson Mercer, Ondrej Palat, Yegor Sharangovich, Tomas Tatar, Miles Wood, Zetterlund.
Defensemen: Ryan Graves, Dougie Hamilton, John Marino, Nemec, Damon Severson, Jonas Siegenthaler, Brendan Smith.
Goaltending: Mackenzie Blackwood and Vitek Vanecek
Long-Term Injured Reserve: Jonathan Bernier
The Devils’ Roster by the Numbers
2: First Overall Picks
The Devils are one of only five teams with two former first-overall picks on their roster. Captain Hischier was selected in 2017 and Hughes was the club’s pick in 2019.
At 23 years old, fans have seen Hischier develop as a player and a person over the last five years. The Swiss native has spent the past year and a half coming into his own as the Devils’ captain, becoming a leader on and off the ice. Last season, the 6-foot-1 winger put up a career-best 60 points (21 goals, 39 assists) in 70 games. Unfortunately, he will start the season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury suffered on Sept. 26, but as Amanda Stein said, he can be activated at any time.
Hughes recently concluded his third season in New Jersey and already has 166 career games under his belt. Since his rookie season, the 21-year-old’s numbers have vastly improved, and during the 2021-22 campaign, he scored 26 goals and 56 points in 49 games. Injuries have plagued the young star – in 2019, he dealt with a lower-body injury, an upper-body injury in 2020, a shoulder injury in 2021, and of course, a knee injury in 2022. He is now healthy and ready to build off last season’s numbers, preparing for his own breakout performance.
3: Stanley Cup Championships
Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning, 2020 & 2021
General manager Tom Fitzgerald wasted no time signing Palat. The 6-foot forward comes with an impressive resume that includes two Stanley Cup rings. He spent the first 10 seasons of his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning and was part of the team that was swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round 1 of the playoffs after clinching the Presidents’ Trophy and then went on to make three straight Stanley Cup Final appearances. In addition to his on-ice abilities, he brings a ton of intangibles needed for a winning locker room.
Jonathan Bernier, Los Angeles Kings, 2012
When Devils fans think back to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, Jonathan Quick is the goaltender that comes to mind. It’s hard to remember that his partner was 23-year-old Jonathan Bernier. His career took a turn after that victory, and he became a bit of a journeyman, playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, and Detroit Red Wings. The 34-year-old played during the team’s intrasquad scrimmages a few weeks ago but has not been cleared by the medical staff to play a game. He could be available at the end of November, but it’s still uncertain what the team’s plans are for him.
15: Devils Who Are 25 or Younger
Make no mistake the Devils are still a young team on the rise. Even after acquiring Haula, Palat, and Smith, they are still the fifth youngest team in the league, with an average age of 25.9, according to CapFriendly. In addition to the team’s young forward core, Marino and Siegenthaler are only 25 years old and signed throughout their prime.
Here is the full list of players 25 years old and younger, including the two players on injured reserve: Nemec (18), Holtz (20), Mercer (20), Hughes (21), Zetterlund (23), Thompson (23), Hischier (23), Boqvist (23) Sharangovich, (24), McLeod (24), Bratt (24), Bastian (24), Marino (25), Siegenthaler (25), and Blackwood (25).
443: Combined Playoff Games
This is a number that fans should note because it has improved considerably over the past few months, and according to Wood, the addition of seasoned players is exactly what the team needed.
“I think we have a great core group here. I think we need a few more guys, a few more veteran players. We are super close,” said the Buffalo native.
A lack of experience meant the Devils gave up the lead 20 times last season. When asked about it, Bratt said it’s part of the growing pains that a young team must go through. The veteran additions should help find a solution to this problem, which will lead to more wins and, hopefully, a playoff appearance. Here is a breakdown of postseason games played from this summer’s acquisitions: Palat (138), Haula (61), Smith (56), Marino (17), and Vanecek (3).
How the Roster Was Built
- 15 Devils Draft Selections: Bastian, Blackwood, Boqvist, Bratt, Holtz, Hischier, Hughes, McLeod, Mercer, Nemec, Severson, Sharangovich, Thompson, Wood, and Zetterlund.
- 20 Returning Players from 2021-22: Bastian, Bernier, Blackwood, Boqvist, Bratt, Graves, Hamilton, Hischier, Holtz, Hughes, Johnsson, McLeod, Mercer, Severson, Sharangovich, Siegenthaler, Tatar, Thompson, Wood, and Zetterlund.
- 5 Acquired During Offseason: Haula, Palat, Marino, Smith, and Vanecek.
New Jersey has a much more balanced roster this season, thanks to Fitzgerald’s busy summer. He strengthened his roster at nearly every position by adding depth to his blue line, forwards to complement his young core, and insurance in net. The Devils are ready to compete in a very fierce Metropolitan Division, but we will see if they are built to withstand the rigorous 82-game schedule. The team’s season begins this Thursday, Oct. 13, at Wells Fargo in Philadelphia.