The Devils appear to be using the combination of drafting talent and bringing them up through their system, as well as using their budget mentality against the salary cap ceiling to raid the rich teams that can't seem to hold on to certain players anymore.
The failure to live up to last season's expectations has certainly limited what I think the Devils are actually ready to do this season, but with the luck that they have had in the off-season, maybe some of that positivity will leak into their regular season and they will start to be relevant again.
If there still is one area that the Devils have yet to really address, it is their blueline and I get the feeling that their lack of improvement there will translate into more losses than wins, when it is all said and done.
Table last updated on August 5th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
You don't get the 1st overall selection at the entry draft and not have him as your most intriguing player, heading into the next season. The highest Swiss born player to be taken in the draft, forward Nico Hischier, will be looked upon to help this team's offense find its way.
Hischier should have every opportunity to succeed with the big club right away and it will be most interesting to see how he can mesh with dynamic forwards like Taylor Hall or Marcus Johansson to help him right along.
I don't think Hischier has the immediate upswing that Auston Matthews did last season in Toronto or Connor McDavid in Edmonton, but he should have a very respectable number of points, if he gets the opportunity with top end minutes.
First Round Picks
The Devils are making strides in the right direction on paper, but they are still a little ways from giving Cory Schneider the wins he needs to be a 1st round pick again. The improvements in New Jersey should make him a better pick, but he's not quite where he needs/wants to be.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac will have some company this season, with the arrival of Marcus Johansson from the Washington fire sale and the top pick in this year's draft, which should make this team more of a threat at the offensive end. Those six forwards will have a heavy load to carry with this club, but it's well within their abilities to start improving on last year's scoring numbers.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
Offense from the blueline is currently looking rather thin, especially since they had dealt Adam Larsson to Edmonton last summer. Currently, the Devils only have two worthy defensemen under contract at this point, John Moore and another new face in Mirco Mueller, who came from San Jose this summer. The Devils do have a few more faces that could jump up into the conversation, like Andy Greene or Ben Lovejoy, but they haven't trended well lately.
Keith Kinkaid made his way into 26 games last season, picking up 23 starts for the Devils, a pretty good number for a back-up goalie. If the Devils are improving, which they are, and he can find his way into 20 more starts, he would inch closer to being relevant, but it could be one year too soon for that.
Team To Pick From Late?
The Devils could be pushing a couple more rookies into the fold this season, which could result in a few more points from late round picks. John Quenneville and Michael McLeod are likely going to get long looks in training camp and they'll make a push for a roster spot. These are the guys you may want to take a peek at, if you're going to compete for rookie scoring or looking for sleeper picks late.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
The Devils could solve their defense scoring issues (or some of them, at least) with re-signing restricted free agent Damon Severson. I have Severson pegged for 30 points, assuming he can get his deal done soon.
New Jersey doesn't have any cap issues to speak of, as they still have Ryane Clowe on the books at $4.85 million, heading to the IR, and the 23-man projected roster on top, still leaves $13 million in untouched cap space. I am thinking that Severson's deal will be significant and at a well-paid rate, so they'll put a good dent in that space eventually.
New Jersey didn't have any pressing injury news at the end of the regular season and there hasn't been much in the way of news from the Devils otherwise. All quiet on the swampy front.