The change in management gave a team a new look at the Entry Draft and a new direction overall. As the Summer rolled on, the signs of a long 2016 season creeped in, as the overall shape of the roster didn't look nearly as sharp as years previous. Holes in key positions appear on paper and there is a fine chance that this organization will now be the focus of some serious re-shaping, not unlike some of the other key teams in the rebuild spotlight of late.
If the nasty word, rebuild, rears its ugly head in the 2016 season, the Devils organization are moving in the right direction, even carrying a good foundation to build from, from the crease outwards. Some youth in all the right areas will definitely help, but it will be a few years before the youth movement really takes shape in the swamp.
Table updated on August 11th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
The youth movement starts in New Jersey with 20-year old defender Damon Severson, who emerged as a definite hockey pool option in the year, as he finished with 5 goals and 17 points in just 51 games worth of action, getting a late start to the season. The Devils are going to be flying under the radar a little bit in 2016, which bodes well for a young defenseman, still trying to find his legs in the NHL. If the Devils are to protect his notoriety, he could quietly become a strong contender, as a strong scoring defender, possibly pairing or at least complementing, Adam Larsson on the back end.
First Round Picks
The projections from the Summer haven't been kind to the Devils, as you can see, so it shouldn't come as a big surprise that Cory Schneider fell out of the conversation for an opening round pick. He was certainly the closest to being one, but no matter how many minutes he'll play this year, I can't see him on the better side of 75 points this year. He might come close, but it's going to be a long, tough season.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
Only five New Jersey forwards appear to be pool worthy this year and they all are either middle-to-late round picks. Adam Henrique should have a reasonable year, coming off of injury, while Mike Cammalleri didn't have a great year last year and still might not have much help, newly-acquired Kyle Palmieri is going to try and inject some offense into this team, while Patrik Elias may continue to slide and Travis Zajac keeps spinning his wheels in the swamp.
Somehow, the Devils will win some games and it will likely be up to these guys to get the job done.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
The defense in Jersey isn't terrible, but with limited help from the forwards, the offensive numbers from the blueline may not be celebrated on your pool team either. Beyond Severson above, you should still look towards Adam Larsson and Andy Greene, since they are good for some offense here and there on this team. Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill could also feature in a deep draft, expecting 20+ points from them, as well.
You have to expect a whole lot of Cory Schneider again this year. You're not going to forecast any injuries for a player, but if there was something to go wrong in the Devils crease, who would be the guy that ends up behind Schneider? Scott Wedgewood is the likeliest of candidates this year, but the signing of Yann Danis could offer a little bit more of a veteran option. Given the minutes that Schneider is likely to eat up, when healthy, neither Devils back-up option appears like they'll be good pool players this year.
Possible Entries Into the Rookie Race
There is a real lack of veteran talent up front, so there will be an onus to get some of the youth in the lineup this year, it would seem. That could mean big things for kids like Pavel Zacha and John Quenneville, each of them are 1st round picks, 2015 & 2014, respectively. Both kids got their entry-level deals this Summer, so they can be primed and ready to go. I think their numbers can definitely improve, once we figure out if they're going to make the team.
If Wedgewood is to win the back-up job this year, he could be a Waiver Draft consideration for those looking to win their money back in the rookie race. It's a long shot and you're likely not going to count on him for a lot of points, but at least he would be close by, if needed.
Team To Pick From Late?
If you're struggling with the names in the deeper part of the draft and the dregs have a scattered list of depth forwards and defensemen from numerous teams, it may be wise to stray away from the Devils this time around, since their projections are not all that handy.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
With the signing of Adam Larsson to his 6-year deal at the end of July, the Devils were finished with all of their key free agents, leaving a handful of unrestricted players, some of which were put there by not qualifying their restricted contracts.
With Larsson signed on, the Devils finally crept over the salary cap floor number, by my early projections and they still had a few roster spots to decide upon. There is no worries about this team and the cap ceiling this year.
On another minor note, the Devils parted ways with veteran forward Dainius Zubrus, buying out his contract at the end of July, but since it was a 35+ deal, the full cap hit would still apply. Being a cap floor team, which the Devils are, they obviously have no problem with it.