Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – New Jersey Devils
For the last 15 years (12 with The Hockey News, last year’s via pinch-hitter Cam Robinson) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
The 16th 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.
Incoming – Eric Gryba, Egor Yakovlev
Impact of changes – New Jersey lost just one player who played 60 or more games last season for them, and that’s Moore. They gained one player who ‘might’ play 60 games for them this year and that’s undrafted KHL defenseman Yakovlev. But Gibbons and Stafford played 59, and Maroon and Grabner were there for the playoff run. In the end, the Devils are shuffling the deck when it comes to the bottom six forwards and will look to fill from within. Having Marcus Johansson back to full health is huge.
Every player in last year’s bottom six will move up the ladder a rung or two and this should mean increased ice time and production. In theory. On paper. Leading the way is 21-year-old Pavel Zacha, who improved one whole point last season (to 26) over his rookie campaign. My expectation is that he reaches 35 this year. Stefan Noesen, Miles Wood and Blake Coleman should also see small bumps.
Ready for full-time – There is lots of room for prospects to make this team, but none of the prospects are ready. With that said, I had felt this way before and yet the Devils manage to slide a couple into their lineup and he flourishes – last year it was Blake Coleman and Jesper Bratt. I guess that’s why I’m a prognosticator and fantasy analyst…and not a scout.
The closest is probably right winger Joey Anderson, who turned pro after his sophomore campaign with Minnesota-Duluth. The 20-year-old is a hard worker and a born leader, so he could make this team just from pure effort. But his fantasy upside is limited.
Yakovlev will be 27 in September so chances are he’s not coming over here to play AHL hockey. He was good enough to make Russia’s strong Olympic team, albeit as more of a depth guy. He can eat up minutes, is defensively responsible, but won’t put up big points for you. Nor is he very physical so he won’t help in those categories either.
John Quenneville was supposed to make this team out of training camp last year but he laid an egg in training camp while Bratt, Coleman and Nico Hischier seized roster spots. He didn’t take it well, as he started off slowly for Binghamton of the AHL. He started to come around at the midpoint and had a solid second half. On 28 or 29 other NHL rosters he wouldn’t have much a shot, but on this one he has a chance. He can still be sent down without clearing waivers, however.
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 – Only 13 NHL teams scored more goals than New Jersey did, but unfortunately that was all from one player. Taylor Hall had 93 points, which beat second-best Hischier by 41(!). Hischier has the talent on his own to cross the 60-point threshold, but it’s doubtful anyone else on the roster does. If you have Devils on your team and their last name doesn’t start with H, then chances are you have a 35- to 45-point player. If Kyle Palmieri can stay healthy this season he’ll hit 55.
As for the prospect pipeline, well that’s pretty grim from a fantasy standpoint as well. The most interesting fantasy option is probably Michael McLeod, a forward with high upside but by no means is a certainty and it’s doubtful he’s ready this year. Ty Smith was the first defenseman they drafted this year, but he’s a ways off as well. And late-bloomer Jacob McDonald offered intriguing upside, but the Devils let him slip away from their system and he signed with the Panthers. But there are already four or five defenseman who will be battling for three spots so MacDonald would have needed the help of some key roster injuries to make an impact.
Between the pipes, Cory Schneider is recovering from surgery and he’s coming off a bad year. Keith Kinkaid had a good year, but is otherwise untested and is generally not considered starter material. On defense, Will Butcher, Sami Vatanen and Damon Severson each offer intriguing upside, with the former two players possibly reaching 50 points. So between those three, Hall and Hischier we at least have a core of fantasy interest. But to be frank, if my player gets traded to New Jersey I cringe.
Fantasy Grade: C- (last year was C)
Other Offseason Fantasy Outlooks:
- Ramblings: Canes Celebrating, Players Returning From Injury (Feb 17)
- Fantasy Take: Oilers and Flyers Swap Goalies
- Ramblings: Schneider Wins! Plus Thoughts on Schenn, Matthews, and more...
- Fantasy Take: Gagner Traded For Spooner
- The Journey: Fastest Rising Prospect Forwards - February 2019
- Top 50 Fantasy Prospect Defensemen - February 2019
- Saturday's NHL Picks: February 16, 2019
- 21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles