The New Jersey Devils roster is filled with youth and a dash of veteran influence. With all of the young talent on the team, there’s been a fair amount of hype surrounding the top draft picks. While many stars have lived up to their potential, several have failed. Here are my picks for the three most overrated Devils entering the 2022-23 season.
Although Mackenzie Blackwood is a serviceable goalie, there’s been a fair share of worry in regard to the Thunder Bay native. After he was the second goaltender selected in the 2015 NHL Draft, the Devils decided to take their time with him. Since his arrival in the NHL, he’s been good, but not the next franchise goalie that the team has longed for.
Blackwood saw his first taste of action during the 2018-19 season, starting 21 games and compiling an even 10-10 record. He showed serious promise in those games, with a .918 save percentage (SV%) and 2.61 goals against average (GAA). The following year, he started most of the Devils’ games in between the pipes. He continued his strong start, with a record of 22-14-8. In the larger sample size, he had a SV% of .915 and a 2.77 GAA to go along with three shutouts. He finished sixth in Calder Trophy voting, and things were looking promising for him.
Since then, Blackwood has sputtered. Although he played in 35 games during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, he saw his numbers decrease to a .902 SV% and 2.04 GAA. Last season was his worst to date, only playing in 25 games and posting a sub-.900 SV%. With the addition of Vitek Vanecek in the summer, his run as the Devils’ starting netminder could be coming to a close.
Believe it or not, Damon Severson has played the seventh most games by a Devils defenseman. He has been a mainstay of the group since the 2014-15 season, and at times, flashed his true potential. However, he has also struggled, and despite a career year in 2021-22, his time in the Garden State may be running out.
Severson debuted as a 20-year-old and put up 17 points in 51 games. His point total throughout his career is rather consistent, routinely putting up somewhere between 20 and 40 points. Since 2018-19, he has played an average of 22 minutes per game. This past season, he had the best numbers of his career. The 27-year-old from Saskatchewan had 11 goals, 35 assists, and an average of over 23 minutes of ice time.
With such a positive trajectory, it seems like Severson could improve in 2022-23, and he very well may. However, at times, he has looked lost on the ice. On multiple occasions, he has put the puck in his own net, with a notable one coming in an overtime loss to Toronto. He has also never finished with a positive plus/minus and has been a victim of turnovers. While he has had his fair share of moments, there are more issues than positives with him. He’s a solid defenseman, but not one that the Devils should build around.
Miles Wood, much like the rest of the Devils roster, has had his ups and downs during his seven-year tenure with the team. Last year he was plagued with injuries, and he’s trying to regain some of that form that he had in his earlier years with the team. However, I do not see that happening so quickly after his injury.
Wood has played in 326 games with the Devils, compiling 121 points and an astonishing 351 penalty minutes. He’s shown the ability to score as well. During the 2017-18 season, he set career highs with 19 goals and 32 points, and in 2020-21, his last full year in the league, he had 17 goals in 55 games. They are banking on him putting the puck in the back of the net this season, giving him a one-year contract worth $3.2 million.
It should not be expected that Wood will return to his old form immediately, considering how physical of a player he is. The Devils want to be careful with the winger, and understandably so, as they cannot afford to lose him again. There will be some patience needed with him, and at the moment, he is slightly overrated, especially when it comes to injuries.
There’s a difference between players who are struggling and players who are overrated. Blackwood, Severson, and Wood are all key pieces to the Devils, but they might not live up to fans’ expectations. Each is under the age of 30, so there is room for improvement. However, to start off the 2022-23 season, these three players, in my opinion, are the most overrated on the team.
Erik Johnsen is one of the NJ Devils writer for The Hockey Writers. He is also a writer for Triple Play Newsletter. Erik is a 2022 Rider University graduate, and co-hosts a podcast called Too Many Men.