In about a month from the time this article is posted the New Jersey Devils will be starting training camp in preparation for the 2017-18 season. After a miserable season that saw them finish in the bottom of the Eastern Conference there were many changes to be made on the roster and GM Ray Shero subtracted and added a lot of players this summer. The franchise was also gifted with the number one overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft when they won the draft lottery and vaulted from the sixth pick to the first, where they selected Nico Hischier.
Following New Jersey’s Development Camp in early July Hischier signed his entry-level deal before heading back to his native Switzerland for the summer. His addition to the franchise has given them a shot of adrenaline to their rebuild as Shero and coach John Hynes look to get New Jersey back to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
Make no mistake about it – Hischier will be given every chance to make the team’s opening night roster and that possibility was made more likely when the Devils did not bring back a plethora of forwards from last year’s group. It would be a shock if he wasn’t on the team from jump street and throughout the entire season.
Since there’s not much going on with New Jersey for the next month — other than agreeing to terms with restricted free agent defenseman Damon Severson — we decided to take a guess at what the roster could look like when they make their season debut on October 7 against the Colorado Avalanche at the Prudential Center.
Let’s consider that Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri, Marcus Johansson, Travis Zajac, Brian Boyle and Pavel Zacha are all locks to be there opening night, which leaves six to seven spots available. Adding Hischier to this group, and Miles Wood (barring a regression) sets up a heavy battle for the final four or five forward spots.
Included in that battle will probably be Stefan Noesen, John Quenneville, Joe Blandisi, Michael McLeod, Blake Speers, Blake Coleman, Kevin Rooney and Nick Lappin. As of now, the Devils haven’t announced any players coming to training camp on a PTO.
Noesen, Blandisi, and Quenneville saw enough time at the end of last season that they should have what it takes to win a spot and it appears that McLeod and Speers are ready to make the jump from juniors to the NHL, but don’t sleep on Rooney or Lappin nabbing one of the final spots. Those two players are pretty well seasoned in playing against men after a season in the AHL and each has also had a taste of the NHL game.
With that here are the 14 forwards we think will be there on October 7:
The puzzle is a little easier to solve on the Devils’ blue line and we’ll operate under the assumption that Severson gets a new contract and stays put. You can add his name to a group with Andy Greene, John Moore, Ben Lovejoy, and Steven Santini. That’s five players and leaves us with only two spots to fill, setting up a competition amongst a handful of defenders.
Mirco Mueller, who was acquired from San Jose, will be given a good chance to win one of those spots as he battles with Dalton Prout, Yaroslav Dyblenko, Colton White, Colby Sissons and Michael Kapla.
Both Prout and Kapla have limited NHL experience like Mueller, while White and Sissons will be looking to make the jump over the AHL from juniors. White is a real dark horse pick here, as he has been with the organization for three years now and had his best development camp to date this year after a solid season in the OHL.
Here are the seven defensemen we think will be on the roster on October 7:
No drama. No intrigue. No question about it. With full confidence, we can say that the Devils two goaltenders come October 7 will be Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.