Kristy’s Devils Mailbag: Vanecek, Unsung Heroes, NHL Awards & More

I am extremely excited to share my next edition of Kristy’s Devils Mailbag. I reached out to New Jersey Devils fans on Twitter asking for questions, and you did not disappoint.

Kristy's Flannery New Jersey Devils Mailbag
New Jersey Devils Mailbag (The Hockey Writers)

Today, I will discuss the team’s unsung heroes, players who could be in the NHL Award conversation, and Damon Severson’s future with the team.

Q: Which Devils Are on Pace to End the Year in the Award Conversation?

– @Finks_thoughts

This is the perfect time to ask this question because the Twitter account @JFreshHockey recently took an NHL Awards survey and the Devils were represented in a few categories:

Unless things completely fall off the rails, I believe Ruff will be a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, which goes to the NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success. As we reach the quarter mark of the season his only real competition at this point is Jim Montgomery and maybe former Devils head coach Peter DeBoer.


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Hischier entering the Selke conversation is definitely something to watch and it is completely plausible for him to get a couple of nods this spring. With regards to the Norris Trophy and Vezina Trophy, it is possible a Devils player comes into the conversation, but not as likely because there is so much competition around the league.

With Palat set to eventually return it is unclear what effect that will have on Zetterlund’s role, and with favorites like Matty Beniers and Logan Thompson, I wouldn’t expect the 23-year-old to be in the conversation as rookie of the year. Bratt being considered the most valuable player for his team is not a stretch, but with the impressive play of Hischier and Jack Hughes I don’t see his name popping up as consistently as Erik Karlsson or Jason Robertson.

Q: What Was Your Favorite Moment to Witness During the Win Streak?

-@RyanLynchwriter

My favorite part of the team’s 13-game winning streak was seeing the players’ reaction to it.

After some tough years, I think it would have been easy for Hischier to really immerse himself in the moment and current winning culture, but instead, he always displayed an even-keeled attitude stating there was more for the team to improve upon. It’s clear the players will not be satisfied this season until they earn a spot in the playoffs.

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

There is a maturity around the team, as throughout the winning streak it was business as usual in the locker room after the game. Their motto of not getting too high after a win or too low after a loss has been evident this season, and it has been a joy to see the guys still hungry for more even though they have a record of 19-4-0.

Q: Who Is the Unsung Hero on the Team So Far This Season?

– @Beta360x

It is actually hard for me to pick the team’s unsung hero through the first quarter of the season, which isn’t a bad thing. My initial thought was John Marino, who has been everything the team could have possibly hoped for. He leads all defensemen with 21:47 of ice time and has become one of the team’s most reliable blueliners.

Related: Devils Gamble on Vanecek to Spark Goaltending

With that said, I think I would be foolish not to name Vanecek as the team’s unsung hero at this point. There were so many questions surrounding the Devils’ goaltending and he has put everyone at ease thanks to his 11-2-0 record. Like Marino, he has surpassed expectations and has emerged as the starting goaltender the Devils have needed for quite some time. He is 11-1-0 in his last 13 games played dating back to Oct. 25 versus the Detroit Red Wings.

Q: With the Emergence of Our Top 4 Defensemen Does It Make Severson More Expendable?

– @agiv13

In a recent article I talked about Severson’s reduced ice time and not getting the opportunities that he has been used to the past few seasons. The addition of Marino has affected him the most as he was dropped to the third defensive pairing and has only five points in 23 games.

Three of the team’s top four defensemen are under contract until the 2027-28 season. Simon Nemec and Luke Hughes are in the wings and will be playing at the NHL level sooner rather than later. Ryan Graves has found success as Marino’s defensive partner and for that reason, general manager Tom Fitzgerald could opt to re-sign the 6-foot-5 defender. There are a lot of signs pointing to Severson’s time in New Jersey coming to an end, but anything can happen between now and free agency.

Q: Which Line Has Impressed You the Most?

– @danbab1981

When they get going [and are healthy] I am extremely impressed with the BMW Line that consists of Nathan Bastian, Michael McLeod, and Miles Wood. The trio can score goals, play a physical game, and can be put on the ice against any opponent in the league. The team’s depth has been a bright spot this season and a big part of it has been the play of the three aforementioned players who have a combined 30 points.

Thank you so much for all your questions and keep them coming via Twitter and Instagram. If you submitted one that I did not answer, it will be part of my next mailbag. The next edition of Kristy’s Devils Mailbag will be out on Jan. 2.


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