It was an incredibly successful first week of the season for the New Jersey Devils. They went 4-1-0 and are atop the Metropolitan Division with eight points. Who would have guessed they would be ahead of teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Colombus Blue Jackets a week into the season? Obviously, it’s a small sample size, but the Devils’ play has been very encouraging thus far.
With meaningful contributions from many players, it was hard to narrow down the three stars of the first week. However, there are a few who have played just a cut above their peers. Let’s take a look at who makes the first three stars of the 2017-18 season!
3) Jesper Bratt
Jesper Bratt came into training camp as a long shot to make the roster. Since that moment in time, all the young Swedish winger has done is impress. He was great in the preseason and is now second on the team in points with six in five games. Bratt possesses sweet hands, good poise and can play in all situations. He has found some chemistry with fellow Swede Marcus Johansson but can play alongside anyone on the roster.
Bratt is just another young offensive weapon that fans have waited so patiently to arrive. It is clear he will not be sent back to the London Knights this year and should continue to play in the top-six. His skills are evident and his consistency has been unquestionable. It will be interesting to see if he can keep it up and have his name thrown into the rookie of the year discussion.
Related: New Jersey Devils Impressing Early
2) Will Butcher
It was fate that the Devils played the Colorado Avalanche on opening day. The Avalanche signed a Devils draft choice who elected not to sign in Jersey, Alexander Kerfoot, while Will Butcher decided to take his talents to Newark after being drafted by Colorado in 2013. In the first matchup between the two who spurned their former teams, Butcher came away with the win. The young defenseman had three points in his first NHL game and the Devils went on to win 4-1.
Since then, he has gone on to put up five points in four games, for a total of eight points on the season. If he continues at that pace he will find himself in the discussion for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie.
Butcher has slightly edged out fellow rookies Bratt and Nico Hischier as the best first-year player for the Devils to start the season. He is a smart, responsible defenseman that can move the puck. Most of that occurs while he is quarterbacking the power-play, a portion of the game the Devils desperately needed to improve on. It’s early, but Butcher has been everything as advertised and more.
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1) Cory Schneider/Keith Kinkaid
I have decided to put both goaltenders in this spot because both deserve to be here. I understand Keith Kinkaid has only played one game but anyone who saw that game knows he deserves to be on this list. Simply put, Kinkaid won the game for the Devils against the New York Rangers on Saturday night. The Devils came into Madison Square Garden and looked flat and unenergized – the first period ended with the Rangers having a 14-3 shot advantage, but the game was miraculously still 0-0.
Kinkaid went on to shut the Blue Shirts down, allowing only two goals on 31 shots. That gave the Devils a 3-2 win against their biggest rival on the road – not a bad start to the season for the backup netminder. Re-signing him over the offseason to such an affordable contract was a really underrated move and it is already paying dividends.
Starting goaltender Cory Schneider has looked great as well. Besides the game against the Washington Capitals, in which the Devils did not show up to play, he has been spectacular. He has given the Devils a chance to win in every game he has played in and that is all they can ask for.
The excellent play of the Devils’ goaltending tandem is the main reason they are 4-1, despite being outshot 175-143 in the first five games. If Schneider is able to keep up this form then he and Kinkaid will form one of the best duos in the NHL. Fans hope they will be able to do so, as nothing helps a playoff push better than outstanding goaltending. It’s still very early, but, so far, these players have made difference for the Devils.