2017-18 New Jersey Devils Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
The New Jersey Devils were bad last year. Bad enough to finish last in the Eastern Conference and win the draft lottery. And they will be bad this year. There is no real need to panic, though. The team is doing good rebuilding work under GM Ray Shero. They are moving in the right direction, and with another couple of years of patience they should be back to a solid level of performance. Their offense was truly inept last year - 28th in the league in goals and 29th in shots per game. It's not going to light the world on fire this year, but they had a solid summer that should net some improvement on this front. Small, sustainable improvement is the goal here overall. Having the first overall pick once in nice, but teams aren't served by making a habit of getting it.
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New Jersey Devils Offseason Moves
When a team wins the draft lottery, it only makes sense to start discussing offseason moves with the first overall pick. Nico Hischier is a Swiss national who was truly stellar in his one year in the Canadian Hockey League with Halifax. He's a very smart player with a strong offensive touch. He needs to get a little stronger like every 18-year-old, but he will get plenty of chances to shine. Top center Travis Zajac is out for the first four months of the season after surgery, so Adam Henrique will move up to the top line, and Hischier will get the opportunity to take over on the second line. It's a good spot for him if he is ready.
Hischier isn't the only high-profile youngster joining the team. Will Butcher won the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in the NCAA last year with Denver. He was drafted in the fifth round by Colorado in 2013, but he didn't sign there and became a free agent this summer. He was highly in demand but wound up choosing New Jersey - largely because of the opportunity for immediate playing time in a major role. He had 37 points in 43 games last year, so he will provide an offensive boost as well as defensive competence.
Butcher isn't the only defenseman they added. They also grabbed young Mirco Mueller from San Jose. He wasn't able to break through as a regular with the Sharks but should get the chance here. A much bigger addition through trade was Marcus Johansson from Washington. He had 58 points last year but was the victim of salary cap issues with the Capitals. He is a big offensive boost here and could very easily line up beside Hischier on that second line.
To round things out, the team brought in some veterans at low prices to see
what they have left to give. Brian Boyle was the most expensive of the
group and will likely be the third-line center to start the season.
Defenseman Brian Strait and forward Drew Stafford came at minimal price
tags, so the risk is low.
New Jersey Devils NHL Outlook
With Hischier and Johansson in the mix this team is better offensively - especially once Zajac returns. Butcher should help defensively as well. Corey Schneider had a rough year last year but was an all-star the year before, and there is no reason to think he can't return to better form. Add it all up and you have the ingredients for a team that should show some improvement. They will still lose a lot of games, and won't be anywhere near the playoff hunt, but they will show enough to give hope to their fans.
New Jersey Devils Schedule
March 10-23 will be a telling stretch for this team. They head out on their longest road trip over that stretch. The first and last games come against the two teams that played in the Stanley Cup finals last year - first Nashville then Pittsburgh. In between they head to Vegas for the first time and then through California. It's going to be a real test of the heart and soul of this team.
New Jersey Devils NHL Futures Odds
Bovada has the Devils at +10000 to win the Cup, which puts them in a group of six teams in the cellar of the league - the others are Arizona, Colorado, Detroit, Vancouver and Vegas. I like them best of that group this year, but that certainly doesn't mean I see any value here. They are tied with Detroit at +5000 as the longest shots on the board to win the Eastern Conference at BetOnline , and are the long shots at +2500 to win the Metropolitan Division. The season win total sits at 31.5. They won just 28 games last year.
2017-18 New Jersey Devils Predictions
I like the direction this team is moving, and I liked the offseason. If I had to pick, I would take the over on the season win total, but I wouldn't bet a fortune. They will show real improvement and will surprise a couple of teams along the way. They had 70 points last year. Eighty seems like a good goal this year.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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