New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils made some big splashes in the 2021-2022 off-season and this team could surprise many in the Metropolitan Division. New Jersey fans have a lot to look forward to next season, the Devils brought in three high-impact players. Bringing in Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Graves and Jonathan Bernier instantly makes the Devils a lot better.
Dougie Hamilton, for reasons we’ve already discussed, is one of the best defenseman in the league. He will drive play and with him, the Devils will have one of the top players in the NHL on their side. The Devils shelled out a lot of money and a lot of term to Hamilton, but a move like this signals to the team and to the fanbase that the Devils are entering the next phase of their rebuild. The Devils expect to compete, and compete they will.
Ryan Graves is another intriguing piece that Tom Fitzgerald brought in to help the Devils make the next step in their rebuild. Graves is young but proven, playing in149 games for the Colorado Avalanche he has made a name for himself as a complete defender. In 2019-2020, his first full season, he burst onto the scene, leading the NHL with a plus-40 rating. Graves came back down to earth a bit last season, putting up 15 points in 54 games and having a plus-15 rating, but those are still very respectable numbers. Expect Graves to average 20 minutes of time on the ice or more in the upcoming season for the Devils, a mark he is yet to eclipse in his career.
Jonathan Bernier was one of the bright spots on the Detroit Red Wings from a season ago. Despite playing behind one of the league’s worst teams, Bernier had a .914 save percentage in 24 games. Those numbers don’t show the whole picture, Bernier faced the most amount of shots per 60 minutes amongst goalies who played at least 1,000 minutes at 5-on-5 and he faced the third most high-danger shots per 60 minutes.
To put those numbers into context, Braden Holtby, a former Vezina winning goaltender, faced the second-most shots per 60 minutes last season and his save percentage was a mere .889. Brought in by Martin Brodeur to mentor and to challenge Mackenzie Blackwood, Bernier is excited to play on a team that is looking to compete.
"“When a guy like him [Brodeur] calls you and explains why they want you there and the ins and outs of the organization and the team and the city, to me, he just sold it,” Bernier explained. “Sometimes you just go with your gut, and when he called me it just made 100 percent sense to go there. I know they’re still a young team, but for them to go and get [Dougie] Hamilton, Ryan Graves, they’re really trying to get to that next level now. They’re not just a team still looking for draft picks and rebuilding in that first stage. They’re going to that second stage where, now, results are important. That’s what I was looking for, a team that can compete and hopefully make the playoffs.”"
Mackenzie Blackwood will have a breakout season with the Devils, with Bernier solidifying the crease and taking some pressure off of him, Blackwood will thrive. The former second-round selection regressed a bit a season ago, posting a career-low .902 save percentage in 35 appearances. With a much-improved team in-front of him and Bernier by his side, Blackwood will post a save percentage north of .912 in the 2021-2022 season.
While the Devils are still a couple of years away from competing for the division title, they are no longer are they an easy two-points for opponents. The Devils might just shock some people, specifically the Philadelphia Flyers who drop to second-to-last in the division.