Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – New Jersey Devils
For the last 16 years (12 with The Hockey News) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
The 17th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Impact of changes – The changes listed above will have a huge impact on the Devils in the season ahead, perhaps the most positive impact in the entire league this summer. Subban becomes New Jersey’s best defenseman and based on the players on the roster in the final game, Gusev could very well be a better forward than anyone on the ice that day. And this is just addressing the above changes.
But there were other changes. Oh yes.
At the 2019 NHL Draft the Devils landed the top pick, a franchise player. And Jack Hughes will have an immediate impact, more so than Gusev. And the other change? The return to health of their actual top forward – Taylor Hall. For those keeping track, that’s an entire first line of top forwards that this team is adding, plus a top defenseman. That’s 80% of an entire first power-play unit right there. Do you think a brand new and much improved power-play unit will have an impact on fantasy hockey? Damn straight it will. And Simmonds for the third line with Hayden on the fourth line adds some grit and size to the team’s depth.
Ready for full-time – With everybody that the Devils added, there isn’t a lot of room for prospects. But obviously we have to regard Jack Hughes as a prospect since he has zero NHL games under his belt. He will make the team and start on the second line. But he will man the top PP unit and will be considered the team’s No.1 center by Christmas. His impact on the score sheet should approach or even exceed 70 points, and if a player like Gusev and perhaps Jesper Bratt end up on his line, he will drag their point totals upwards as well. Scouting report on Hughes right here.
And by that theory, Nikita Gusev is also a prospect. Given that he signed a $9M contract, I think the Devils will probably try to get their money’s worth, don’t you? So he’ll get top six minutes, linemates and PP time no matter what. Even if he’s pointless in his first 20 games, he’s getting 16 minutes in Game 21 and two minutes of PP time. He gets a long leash, so with an opportunity like that you can safely put your faith in him. He won’t be another Vadim Shipachyov, don’t worry.
Another prospect with a good chance of making the team is Ty Smith. He’s no guarantee, but he does have a strong chance of cracking the top six and then working his way up as injuries strike
Sami Vatanen. Keep expectations modest in his first season, as his PP time will be limited.
The other prospects who will get a look is big power forward Nathan Bastian, who may help some deeper PIM and Hits leagues, Jesper Boqvist and Joey Anderson. The latter two probably will not make the team out of camp but should see a couple of cups of coffee later in the year. Neither will have a fantasy impact in 2019-20, but longer term Boqvist does have good upside. Scouting report on Hughes right here.
New Jersey Devils prospect depth chart and fantasy upsides can be found here (not yet ready for mobile viewing, desktop only right now)
Fantasy Outlook – Last year in this space I said that I would cringe if any of my players were traded to New Jersey. That’s definitely not the case anymore. I’d love to have one of my guys moved here. Two great centers in Hughes and Nico Hischier with nowhere to go but up, a couple of great wingers, and still a bit of room to fit other players if trades happen. Lots of good puck movers on the back end with Subban, Damon Severson, Sami Vatanen and Smith. In goal, Cory Schneider was fantastic over the final six weeks of the season and when called upon Mackenzie Blackwood was impressive as a backup who is champing at the bit for more. This is a very good NHL roster, although once Hughes, Gusev and Smith make the team the prospect pipeline becomes quite dry. Sure, they would still have Boqvist and Michael McLeod, but the bottom drops out completely after that, when looking at fantasy potential. But with this kind of youth on the big club, the pipeline isn’t quite as important.
Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was C-)
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2019 Offseason Fantasy Hockey Grades