The first month of NHL hockey has concluded, and the New Jersey Devils have had a decent few weeks. There have been plenty of players making an impact from young to veteran, with an overall solid effort from all, but there have been a few that obviously stood out. While we wait for their season to resume after being halted by players testing positive for COVID-19, we decided on the three Devils that have had made the most impact on the ice in the first month of the 2020-21 season.
#3: Ty Smith
This young defenseman continues to impress in his first NHL season. He currently ranks second in rookie points with two goals and six assists for eight points, just one point behind the Minnesota Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov. Smith is also tied with him as the rookie assists leader, both with six.
Smith collected a point in his first five NHL games and scored a goal as his first NHL point. His first two-point game came against the New York Islanders on Jan. 24 with two assists, and he has a goal and an assist since then in his last two games played. Smith also racked up his first power play goal against the Buffalo Sabres on Jan. 30.
Smith has been showing a lot of consistency on the ice and makes an impact on every shift. His fifteen shots in the first nine games put him eighth on the team in that category, right behind Jack Hughes and Pavel Zacha. He is also fourth on the team, tied with Michael McLeod, in plus/minus with a +4. Obviously, he has been doing well in his debut and still has a lot of room to grow. Smith knows how to get the puck through from the point and seems like he is very aware of what is happening on the ice and how to make a good play out of it. If he keeps playing like this, he’s looking like one of the best rookie defensemen in the league, and this was only his first month.
#2: Mackenzie Blackwood
Blackwood was looking fantastic to start off this season before being placed on the COVID-19 protocol list. He has been showing that he is one of, if not the best young goaltender in the league right now. At just 24 years old, he played exceptionally well in the three games he started for the Devils so far this season with a .948 save percentage (SV%) and a 1.90 goals against average (GAA).
He’s only started three due to that COVID-19 situation, but he made the most out of every one. He collected two wins and one overtime loss in them for a total of 190 minutes played. His play has been nothing but clutch for New Jersey, and he has a high danger save percentage (HDSV%) of .853, another stat that looks great for him.
Blackwood overall has been a significant part of the Devils’ early success this season. He has taken on the role of the full-time starter and showed that he is the right fit for the job. With a three-year contract, there is still some time to go for him. More play like this will hopefully continue into the next months, as it looks like he will be a consistent star for the team.
#1: Jack Hughes
Over the month of January, the 1st overall pick of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft has shown his place on this team. Hughes has been explosive on the ice in his second season and racked up three goals and five assists; tied for first in points for the Devils, alongside Smith and Miles Wood, and second in both goals and assists.
With his three goals came one power play goal and one game-winner. He has taken a total of 19 shots in the nine games played, and is noticeable in every single shift he has. His speed allows him to get past virtually anyone, and he is always making sure to get the puck on net every chance he can. Hughes has been the best player for New Jersey to start off the season and does not look like he’s stopping anytime soon. In the coming months, we are bound to see more points from this young and thriving center. He is on or near the top for the Devils in lots of aspects and has dominated this month with his speedy, intense play.
Honorable Mention and Heading Into February
Miles Wood also has eight points on the season (five goals and three assists). He earns honorable mention because of how good his play has been so far this season. His diligent play has helped him to rack up those points, and his drive has been insane. Wood is always working to get the puck and using every second he can to make a smart play and get the puck to the net. A perfect example was his goal against the Sabres on Jan. 31 with under a second left; he had the puck, saw there was a few seconds to spare in the period, drove to the net with his speed and put one in the back of the net for a fantastic goal. His effort does not go unnoticed and makes a huge difference on the ice.
Heading into the second month of 2021, NHL hockey does not look too good right now for the Devils, as they will not be playing for some time with all the players being put on the COVID-19 protocol list. As we wait for everyone to get healthy, we can look back and see the great month New Jersey had in January with incredible efforts from a multitude of players.
Sam is currently Managing Editor, and used to be Sports Editor, of The Montclarion, Montclair State University’s student-run multimedia newspaper. She’ll be earning her Sports Media and Journalism degree from there in Spring 2021. A hockey fan since she was a young girl, she covers the Montclair State men’s team as well as the Metropolitan Riveters and New Jersey Devils for The Hockey Writers.