New Jersey Devils 2020-21 NHL season preview

New Jersey Devils 2020-21 NHL season preview Subban Hughes
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The 2020-21 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to preview all 31 teams. Over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at how the offseason affected each team, the most interesting people in the organization, and the best- and worst-case scenarios. Today, we look at the New Jersey Devils

New Jersey Devils 2019-20 Rewind

Record: 28-29-12 (68 points in 69 games played); eighth in Metropolitan Division; 14th in the Eastern Conference.

Leading scorer: Kyle Palmieri (25 goals, 45 points)

Heading into 2019-20, the Devils carried great expectations. They just drafted Jack Hughes first overall, and traded for P.K. Subban. At that time, Taylor Hall‘s Devils future was unclear, Ray Shero seemed like a GM on a mission, and John Hynes was still head coach.

No, you’re not alone in feeling like that happened about a lifetime ago.

By just about any standard, the Devils’ 2019-20 season was a disaster. To put things mildly, expectations are far more muted this time around. We’re just starting to see what Tom Fitzgerald has in store as the Devils’ new GM, and it will probably take some repetitions before people remember that Lindy Ruff is (somehow?) their head coach.

Chances are, the Devils’ 2020-21 will present some changes, and some twists and turns. It will be tough to top the twists of last season, although COVID-19 might throw in a curve or two.

Additions

Subtractions

Cory Schneider (buyout), Sami Vatanen (free agency), Mirco Mueller (free agency), and John Hayden (free agency).

3 Most Interesting New Jersey Devils

Devils preview 2020-21 Jack Hughes
(Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

• Jack Hughes

When it comes to disappointing Devils, Hughes is either at the top of the list, or close to that first spot.

Now, it’s one thing not to be a smash-hit rookie after being drafted first overall. We’ve seen even top prospects stumble before they can truly sprint. But you can keep lowering the standards, and Hughes’ 2019-20 season continues to look disappointing.

But, yes, he’s still only 19. And … hey, his brother Quinn Hughes enjoyed the kind of success the rest of the Hughes clan hopes to attain.

Like his brother, Jack Hughes can already skate at a high level, so in a visceral sense, he should be fun to watch in 2020-21 even if he doesn’t improve as much as the Devils would like. It’s easy to picture Hughes putting this tough rookie campaign behind him. Consider, for instance, that Joe Thornton struggled during his “Big Bird” phase. While they’re very different skaters and body types, both are cerebral playmakers. That part of the game can improve with reps in the NHL, so the Devils hope Hughes breaks through — preferably soon.

• P.K. Subban

In an NHL full of players who are far too vanilla, P.K. Subban brings welcome personality to the league. During a normal campaign, Subban would already have a case for being one of the three most interesting people for his franchise of the moment.

But the 2020-21 NHL season isn’t a normal one for P.K. Subban, even beyond the notion that this season won’t be normal for anyone.

After some strong work with the Predators, Subban’s game absolutely collapsed last season. Based on Evolving Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement metrics, Subban ranked as the 20th-worst skater in 2019-20. When you’re carrying a $9 million cap hit, you don’t want to be a stone’s throw from Jack Johnson:

2020-21 Devils preview Evolving Hockey Subban GAR bottom 20
via Evolving Hockey

Beyond being a gregarious presence, a keyed-in Subban can be an absolute blast to watch.

Maybe Subban was beat up last season, and will enjoy a bit of a renaissance? (If so, expect to see the hashtag “Subban-issance.” Or something like that.)

Unfortunately, if 2019-20 Subban is a sign of things to come, he’ll instead not exactly be a blast to watch.

• Tom Fitzgerald

Ultimately, it’s too early to know if Fitzgerald can steer the Devils back on course.

So far, there’ve been some shrewd moves; Crawford, Johnsson, and Murray are all low-risk moves that can bring rewards. Even head-scratchers like hiring Lindy Ruff might make sense if the Devils figure they’ll need to take their lumps before getting better.

But getting better boils down down to Fitzgerald making the right moves. Will the Devils flip pending UFA Palmieri at the deadline, let him walk after 2020-21, or sign him to an extension? Can they weaponize more than $14M in cap space? Will young players prosper under Ruff, or will their development suffer?

There’s a lot to do, and it’s up to Fitzgerald to optimize the prime years of Hughes, Nico Hischier, and others.

Best-Case Scenario

Look, no one enjoys slogging through a bad season. Every failed year chips away at confidence in your front office, and patience from fans. Still, the Devils probably need another blue chipper or two, so the ideal scenario involves short-term pains for long-term gains. (That said, the Devils would love to see Jack Hughes look like a no-brainer top pick starting in 2020-21.)

Worst-Case Scenario

There’s some danger that the Devils could get stuck in the middle. In particular, a goalie tandem of Mackenzie Blackwood and Corey Crawford might steal some games. Improvement from key players could boost the Devils some more. Playing well has its benefits, but if the Devils miss the playoffs while hurting their lottery odds, that could be the worst of both worlds.

Pointsbet – New Jersey Devils Stanley Cup odds

Devils +6000 (PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.)

James O’Brien is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Hughes has first NHL hat trick, Devils beat Capitals 5-1

    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
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    NEWARK, N.J. – Jack Hughes had his first career NHL hat trick, Vitek Vanecek made 38 saves against his former team and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Saturday for coach Lindy Ruff’s 800th victory.

    “It’s exciting,” Hughes said. “Couple of two-goal games in my career, so nice to cap it off with the third one tonight.”

    Ruff became the fifth NHL coach to reach the 800-victory mark. The former Buffalo player won 571 games with the Sabres from 1997-2011. He had 165 wins in five seasons with Dallas and has 64 in two-plus seasons with New Jersey.

    “It means I’ve been around a long time,” Ruff cracked. “Great to win the game. Again, you got to do a lot of right things, have good teams, and the way our team is playing I have to give them a lot of credit for getting me there.”

    The Atlantic Division-leading Devils have won two in a row after seeing their franchise-record 13-game winning streak snapped by Toronto.

    Devils captain Nico Hischier and Fabian Zetterlund also scored.

    John Carlson scored for Washington and Charlie Lindgren made 24 saves.

    “Not scoring goals, not capitalizing on our chances,” Carlson said. “We’ve had our chances, especially today, but we only walked away with one goal. We could have had five or six. It’s just not going in right now.”

    Vanecek, meanwhile, was hoping for the shutout against a familiar foe.

    “That would have been nice, but that’s hockey,” Vanecek said, “For sure you’re trying, but not every time; the win is more important.”

    Hischier opened up the scoring with his 10th goal of the season midway through the first period on a power play after Alexander Ovechkin was called for slashing.

    Hughes wrapped the puck around goalie Lindgren’s right leg and the goal post to put the Devils up 2-0 5:59 into the second period. Hughes appeared to have lost his angle on the goal when he ripped a shot off Lindgren’s face mask and into the net midway through the period for his 10th goal of the season to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead.

    The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick added his third midway through the third period as hats rained down on the ice with New Jersey up 4-0.

    “You want to continue to play the right way, but if an opportunity comes you want to definitely put it in the back of the net with authority,” Hughes said. “So tonight, I was able to cap it off and it was nice.”

    Fabian Zetterlund capped the scoring for New Jersey late in the third period.

    NOTES: The Devils improved to 16-0-0 this season when Hischier has a point. New Jersey’s Nathan Bastain (upper body) did not return after the first period. . Ovechkin is still nine goals away from 800 and 11 from passing Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL goals list.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: At Vancouver.

    Devils: At the New York Rangers.

    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.