Devils’ Young Guns Stepping Up in a Big Way Despite Losses

The New Jersey Devils have once again hit another losing skid as the season starts to wind down to the final few games of the year. Currently, they have a 10-game losing streak and blew a golden opportunity to snap their losing ways against the Philadelphia Flyers. In one of their most recent games against the Pittsburgh Penguins (Apr 20), they were able to net six goals in a single period. However, with a combination of bad goaltending and defense, they also allowed seven goals as a result.

Unfortunately, six of those goals occurred within the first two periods of the game. Obviously, there has been a lot of hardships that the Devils are trying to overcome once again. For starters, with the team trading away Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac, it has certainly put a bit of a damper in their offensive execution during their recent losing stretch.

A good example would have to be the Devils getting shutout by Igor Shesterkin (New York Rangers) in back-to-back games on Apr 13 and 15, which would ultimately result in Shesterkin getting his first couple of career shutouts at the NHL level. Despite all of the struggles that the Devils might potentially face, there have certainly been a few bright spots. The most obvious one would have to be the development of their organization and the flashes of potential that some of their young guys are demonstrating.

Going back to their matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Apr 20, the Devils were playing without the assistance of Pavel Zacha, Jesper Bratt, Mackenzie Blackwood, Ty Smith, and PK Subban (COVID-19 protocol). The Devils were heavy underdogs going into that matchup since they were a depleted, second to last place team having to face one of the top teams in the MassMutual East Division.

Answering the Improbable Call

Despite the cards stacked against them, the Devils were almost able to stun the hockey world. To go into more detail of the game events, the Devils allowed six unanswered goals to the Penguins within the first two periods, which resulted in them switching out Scott Wedgewood for Aaron Dell after period one was completed. When things looked bleak going into the final period of regulation, the Devils were able to collapse the defense of the Penguins and their goaltender, Tristan Jarry.

Thanks to their young captain, Nico Hischier, scoring within the first few seconds of period number three, the Devils regained some much-needed momentum. This led to Yegor Sharangovich, Nathan Bastian, and Jack Hughes all scoring as well. But probably the most surprising one would have to be Nolan Foote, who scored his first career NHL goal as a result.

Nolan Foote Kelowna Rockets
Nolan Foote while on the Kelowna Rockets (Marissa Baecker/

While Nolan Foote has only appeared in two games so far for New Jersey, he has certainly made an impact. In his NHL debut (Apr 18), he was able to tally an assist against the Rangers for his first career NHL point and was also able to score his first career goal a couple of days later. This drew some comparisons to his fellow rookie teammate, Tyce Thompson, who was able to record his first career point fairly quickly as well. Thompson actually became the first player in NHL history to record his first career point in 69 seconds or less since Feb 2, 1986.

Thompson achieved that honor against his older brother’s (Tage) team the Buffalo Sabres on Apr 6. Foote is also the son of Colorado Avalanche legend, Adam Foote (2x Stanley Cup champion 1996 & 2001), so obviously, Nolan has a lot to live up to. But since he, and also a few other young players, will see more repetitions next season, it will be interesting to see what sort of potential these players possess.

Alexander Holtz Is on the Way

Even though their AHL team (Binghamton Devils) will be relocating, there will certainly a lot of excitement for the development of certain prospects, including the anticipation surrounding the Devils’ top pick from last year’s draft, Holtz. A couple of weeks ago, he actually removed himself from Team Sweden’s roster. In his final year of playing for Djurgardens IF, Holtz appeared in 40 games while racking up 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists).

His team also made the playoffs in which he competed in three games and contributed four points (two goals, two assists) in their losing effort. Just recently he made his AHL debut against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Apr 23. Holtz led Binghamton in shots on goal opportunities that night with five, and also looked pretty good on their power-play unit. He also did a decent job at trying to create scoring opportunities for himself and others.

Alexander Holtz Djurgarden
Alexander Holtz while on Djurgarden IF (Photo by ERIK SIMANDER/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images)

At the end of the day, he still needs to ease his way into the system a bit more. Because he is joining the AHL program when they are already pretty deep into their respective season. Not to mention that he is also trying to adjust to living in a different country, and also had to quarantine for a certain amount of days before joining the team. This means that Holtz only had a limited amount of practice time to learn the system. But his aggressiveness and solid play are still a bright spot.

If the Penguins game showed fans anything, it’s that there a lot of fight and determination from the young players no matter the odds are stacked against them. With the impressive development of the Hughes line (Kuokkanen-Hughes-Sharangovich), and also the leadership from Hischier, the Devils might be worth watching next season.

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