4 Devils Players Looking to Bounce Back in 2022

The New Jersey Devils were decent through the first two months of the 2021-22 season, with a 9-7-4 record entering December. But the team struggled during the month of December as they finished with a 3-8-1 record. They had two victories over the Sabres and Oilers, respectively, to close out 2021. The lineup has been in flux due to injuries, non-COVID illnesses and players entering COVID health and safety protocols. Key players for the franchise have struggled as well during the season. Here are four Devils players looking to bounce back in 2022.

Nico Hischier

Nico Hischier is contributing with assists this season, but where he needs to improve is in his goal-scoring. He has shown the potential to be a reliable player during his first three seasons. However, after playing in 82 games in his first season for the Devils, the team captain has struggled to stay on the ice due to injuries and being placed in COVID protocols.

Related: Hischier Emerging as Devils’ Leader

Hischier is another player on the roster that is vital in turning the Devils’ fortunes around. During his first three seasons, he has finished in the top five on the team in goals with 20, 17 and 14, respectively. The team felt his absence last season as he only played in 21 of the 56 games.

Nico Hischier New Jersey Devils
Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

His presence strengthens the center depth, as he’s on the top line for the Devils. At 22 years of age, Hischier possesses the talent to be a key contributor for the organization for the next several years. While his assist totals will usually be more than his goals, it would benefit the team if he can get back to the success of his rookie year in 2017-18 in regards to putting pucks in the net.

Ty Smith

After putting up an impressive 21 assists for the Devils during his rookie season in 2020-21, Ty Smith has suffered through a sophomore slump in 2021-22. The former first-round selection by the team in the 2018 draft has been paired with several different defensemen by head coach Lindy Ruff in an effort to improve his play. Entering Friday afternoon’s game, the second-year defenseman has one goal and eight assists.

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With P.K. Subban due to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and Damon Severson and Ryan Graves scheduled to be UFAs after the 2022-23 season, Smith has the opportunity to be a top defenseman for the organization aside from Dougie Hamilton. He has the opportunity to put his struggles during this season behind him with a good second half to the year. His play at times during his rookie season gave the impression that the Devils have a dependable defenseman that can be a core member of the franchise for the next several seasons. However, like many of the young players on the team, he needs to work on his consistency.

Yegor Sharangovich

The 23-year-old is another player in his second season who is having difficulty in contributing regularly on offense. After having 16 goals and 14 assists in 54 games played last season, Yegor Sharangovich has five goals and seven assists in 28 games in 2021-22. The fifth-round selection by the franchise in the 2018 draft had shown glimpses during his first season that he can be a key contributor in his own right.

Yegor Sharangovich New Jersey Devils
Yegor Sharangovich, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With Jack Hughes and Hischier missing time this season, Sharangovich has felt the absences of the Devils’ two core members. He needs to continue to battle through his inconsistencies in order to take his game to the next level. He will continue to work through his struggles in order to earn a spot as a key member of the team.

Janne Kuokkanen

The fifth-year player has not done well offensively this season, as he has five goals and two assists in 30 games played. Janne Kuokkanen needs to improve his play in order to remain with the team beyond his contract, as he is due to become a restricted free agent (RFA) after the 2022-23 season. He has struggled defensively in clearing the puck, leading to turnovers and scoring chances for the opposition.

The team has a number of young players with the current roster and with the American Hockey League affiliate, the Utica Comets. If Kuokkanen does not improve his play, he could be a healthy scratch or traded this season or during the offseason. The Devils are in the process of finding who can be reliable depth players among their young roster, and he does not look to be considered among them with his offensive play thus far in 2021-22.

Related: Devils Storylines to Follow at 2021 Training Camp

The Devils’ core players struggled through the month of December, missed time due to injury, or were placed in COVID protocol. The team has shown it is capable of playing good hockey occasionally, but it needs the faces of the franchise to remain healthy. If the team is healthy, the players will be able to play in more games together, which will help them work through their slumps and gain more experience. If significant players on the Devils miss time, the team will suffer setbacks in progressing toward becoming a contender.

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