By: Mason Goldstein
A Junior at Dwight-Englewood School, Mason is joining More Sports Now as a guest/student contributing reporter. He is a member of the New York Saints 16U AAA American Team, and an all around die hard hockey fan. This New Jersey Devils’ preview is his first installment.
The start of the 2021 season is one like no other. Through these crazy and unprecedented times, the New Jersey Devils are off to a somewhat hot start that nobody would have expected, especially without the help of Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt.
Over the long off-season, the Devils’ organization made a lot of key changes ranging from their front office and coaching staff, all the way to their roster. Tom Fitzgerald was the first major change this off-season. He was promoted to full-time General Manager and Executive Vice President. Devils’ all-time great Martin Brodeur, is taking on the role of Executive Vice President, as well as being an advisor for the franchise.
Photo: All About The Jersey
The next major change was appointing Lindy Ruff the head coach of this exciting team. He is the sixth winningest coach of all time, and he brings a whole new perspective and coaching dynamic to the young club. Alongside him are previous interim head coach, Alain Nasreddine, and Hall Of Fame player, Mark Recchi. Recchi previously worked as an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins and was a big part of their special team success.
In terms of the roster, the Devils made a lot of big changes. During the off-season, Fitzgerald traded for Andreas Johnsson. In his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the fast Swede went to the playoffs numerous times, and the Devils are hoping he can use that experience to help set an example for the younger guys on the team.
One of New Jersey’s biggest problems last season was its defense. In order to help shore this up, Fitzgerald brought in Ryan Murray from the Columbus Blue Jackets. He is a Saskatchewan native just like his defensive partner Damon Severson. Growing up, they actually played against each other many times and have already formed a unique bond together.
Another solid defenseman added to the mix is Dmitry Kulikov from Winnipeg. This was an underrated signing, as I think he can be a top-six defenseman. Also, very recently, the Devils welcomed back Sami Vatanen, who they traded away a few seasons ago. He was re-signed in hopes of helping tighten things up in front of Mackenzie Blackwood, their young goaltender who’s behind the pipes.
Thus far, the Devils are getting strong contributions from two rookies on their roster. Ty Smith and Yegor Sharangovich have surprisingly impressed me, stepping up big in these first six games of the season. Smith was the team’s first-round pick in 2018, and has since been one of the top points leaders in the WHL (as well being named the top defenseman last season). In his first five games this season, he has six points and has actually set a couple of franchise records.
Photo: All About The Jersey
Sharangovich, who was also taken by the Devils in 2018, earned his spot on the team with an amazing training camp. He currently has two points, and his first NHL goal was the game winner in the waning seconds of overtime against the Boston Bruins. Already playing on the first line, he has a bright future ahead.
Lastly, I have been waiting to say this for a long time; Jack Hughes is not a bust! The former #1 overall selection in 2019 has tallied seven points in six games, and is starting to really turn into an elite player.
Photo: Los Angeles Times
Over the off-season, he put on a lot of muscle and worked on how to play in this league against guys that are much bigger than him. You can just tell by his confidence on the ice that he is finding his form and feels a lot more comfortable with the puck. Devils’ fans, the future is bright!
Feature Photo: 1000 logos