New Jersey Devils

Expectations for the 2023-24 Devils forward group

As the 2023-24 NHL season moves closer, the expectations for the New Jersey Devils are high, as many players are coming off of career years. Let's look at the regular season expectations for our forward group before the season begins.

Nathan Bastian #14

Bastian is a prime example of what a fourth liner is: strong, fast and gritty. Coming off one of his best years, Bastian played 43 games and put up 15 points, six goals and nine assists. He sometimes played on the penalty kill, showing his responsible side.

I expect Bastian to put up around the same numbers this upcoming season. As a fourth liner, minutes are limited, and there will be times he finds himself as a healthy scratch.

Jesper Bratt #63

Over the past two seasons, Bratt has begun to make a name for himself after putting up 73 points in each of his last two seasons. Bratt would disappear for a few games at a time. However, the fact that he would disappear for games at a time and still put up 73 points shows his potential if he became more of a consistent player.

For this upcoming season, I expect Bratt to break the 80-point mark. I believe he will end the season with 34 goals and 46 assists. He has become one of the most underrated players in the NHL with his speed, creativity and shot. I would like to see him become a more consistent player and not go ghost on the team for weeks, but I do not see that happening this season, although it will start to get better.

Bratt should continue playing on the first or second line, as he has chemistry with Hischier and Hughes. He should also continue to play on the power play unit because of his creative passes, craftiness, and highly underrated shot.

Nolan Foote #25

As challenging as it is to be getting sent down to the minors, Foote has never given up on making the NHL roster. This year will be Foote's best opportunity to crack the roster.

Foote is one of our most promising prospects in the Devils organization. Considering there is an open spot in the fourth line now, he can take that spot if he showcases his abilities at training camp. If he does not make the roster out of training camp, I would not be shocked to see him being called up at some point in the season.

Erik Haula #56

Fan favorite Erik Haula did not start as a fan favorite. Many were not pleased with his play when the season first started. Last season Haula put up 41 points in 80 games, 14 goals and 27 assists. He was shifted from line to line at the beginning of the season, making it hard to create chemistry with his linemates. This was also his seventh team in eight seasons, which is a hard adjustment for anyone.

As the season went by, Haula began picking up points and becoming a key player. He is a veteran leader that plays on the power play, penalty kill and takes important face-offs. He recently signed a three-year extension with the Devils.

For the 2023-24 season, I expect Haula to have a much better year. Since he has found a home in Jersey, he does not have to try and build any new chemistry with the players. I believe Haula can end the season with 54 points, 18 goals and 36 assists. He should excel this season if he is used correctly on the third line. With our top six locked in, there is no reason for Haula to switch lines as much as he did this season.

Nico Hischier #13

Our captain came off his best year yet, with 80 points in 81 games. He found the back of the net 31 times and assisted on 49 goals. His previous career high was only 60 points, so Hischier made a huge jump this year.

Hischier is the backbone of this team. He plays in all situations, and the players on this team look to him for leadership. Hischier is only 24, so he is just entering his prime, which means he will only get better. As arguably one of the best two-way centers in the league, Hischier is a crucial part of this team.

I expect him to continue being the player he is. Points do not tell how much he does for this team, but I expect him to end the season with 87 points, 36 goals and 51 assists. He will continue to play on the power play, penalty kill, take important face-offs, and play in down-a-goal situations along with up-a-goal situations at the end of the game. He will be one of the Devils' most consistent players this season. I expect nothing but a leader from Hischier, as I expect from him for years to come.

Alexander Holtz #10

As promising as Holtz looked last season, I do not expect him to do well this season if he makes the NHL roster. Holtz has to be a top-six player, but there are no open spots for him. I do not believe he would do good on the third line. His most prominent skill is his shot; usually, the third line is not the place for someone with a slap shot like his. He also should not be playing on the fourth line because he is not the gritty player that usually plays there.

Holtz is a fantastic prospect, but with the projected top six, will he even make the Devils' opening night roster?

Jack Hughes #86

Our superstar. Last season Hughes broke the franchise record in points, putting up 99 points in 78 games. He had 43 goals and 56 assists during the season, as many hoped he would break the 50-goal mark and the 100-point mark. Hughes was good all season, but there were times when his point production slowed down, which is hard to imagine.

One thing that I do not see being improved is his face-offs. Since he is not used in important face-offs, it is hard to imagine he is really focusing on improving them this offseason. Knowing three other players can take the critical face-offs, he will focus on strength, speed, skating, etc., this offseason.

I have high expectations for Hughes coming into this season. His one downfall is his health. If he can avoid getting injured this season, I see no reason why he will not break the 100-point mark. As much as I would love to see him score 50 goals, I do not see that happening this season. In the future, it would not shock me if he reached that mark.

I expect Hughes to put up 106 points, 47 goals, and 59 assists for the upcoming season. He should continue to be the fast and creative player he is, racking up the points. I also would like to see another hat trick from him this season. Even though I do expect him to put up over 100 points, it would not shock me if he was not as consistent again this season. He is only 22 years old, so that is something that will come with experience in the NHL. But he will continue to be the player we all know and love.

Curtis Lazar #42

Lazar was a late addition to the team, so he only played four regular-season games. I do not see Lazar being an everyday NHL player on our current roster. He will be in and out of the lineup but be able to put up a few points. I do not expect a crazy amount, but I believe he will be able to find the back of the net a few times.

Michael McLeod #20

McLeod is another of those fourth-line players who excels in his role. In 80 games last season, he put up 26 points, a career-high. He is our face-off guy and one of the NHL's best.

I do not expect him to put up 26 points again. I expect he will put up 21 points, five goals and 16 assists. At times McLeod found himself shuffling lines to see what would work best. He will likely stay as the fourth-line center where minutes are limited. One thing I do expect to stay the same or even get better is his face-off percentage. He ended last season with a 60.64%, and I expect him to finish around the same rate this upcoming season. He will continue to be used in the important face-offs and show his best skill.

I also believe he will continue to excel in the penalty kill, something he was used more for in last season. He proved he could be a valuable penalty killer, and I see no reason why that would change for this upcoming season.

Timo Meier #96

Meier was our most significant addition from the trade deadline last season. He played 21 games for the Devils, scoring nine times and assisting on five goals. Some thought Meier was not producing well after the trade, but he was one of our top point producers in the last 20 games.

I expect him to play on either Hughes' wing or Hischier's wing this upcoming season. Meier is already an excellent player in the NHL, so I believe the 21 games he played with us last season were enough to gain chemistry with the team.

I expect Meier to put up 72 points with a full season ahead of him. I think he will find the back of the net 37 times and assist on 35 goals. Meier will be playing on the power play, where hopefully, he can use his shot instead of standing in front of the net. Considering his size, there is nothing wrong with him being the screen in front of the goalie. But, with a shot like his, he is more valuable when he can use his shot.

I also believe Meier will continue to be one to defend his teammates. He will look out for his teammates no matter who he is playing with. I also expect him to be a player that gets under the other teams' skins.

Dawson Mercer #91

Mercer is one of our younger stars and will be part of our core for many years. He will be playing in his third season and I expect this to be his best season yet. I think he will have an exceptionally better season than his first two years. Mercer is the player that I have the highest expectations for.

Last season he put up 56 points, 27 goals and 29 assists. I believe he will finish the season with 70 points, 33 goals and 37 assists for this upcoming season. Last season we saw glimpses of the type of player Mercer could be, which is why I believe he has the chance to grow this season and prove himself.

I don't know if Mercer will be playing on the wing or if he will be playing center, but I want to see his face-off percentage improve this season.

Tomas Nosek #92

Nosek is one of our newest additions. He is a depth veteran player that will show our young core how to win. I do not expect him to have an amazing season, as he has to learn the Devils' playing style and create chemistry with the team.

I believe he can end the season with somewhere around 15 points. He was not brought to the Devils to put up points. He is here for his leadership and to help our young core improve.

Ondrej Palat #18

Last season, Palat had his worst year yet, and if you did not follow the Devils, you would think it was just him being bad. But, he had to deal with moving to a new state, learning the style of a new team, creating chemistry with new players and on top of all that, he had a terrible groin injury early on in the season that ended up with him getting surgery. Bouncing back from that and having a good season is almost impossible.

He is a veteran player who knows how to win and wants to win. It is easy to tell how much the team values him because no one else wore the second alternate captain "A," when he was out with his injury. If that does not prove the respect he has from the team and the coaches, I do not know what else would.

Palat is one of the players I am rooting for the most. I see no reason why he can not have a bounce-back season. I believe he will have 50 points this upcoming season, 22 goals and 28 assists. Since he will likely play on the third line, he will not have the most minutes per game. But I still see him having a very successful season and putting his last season behind him.

Tyce Thompson #12

I can see Thompson as another prospect fighting for the last NHL roster spot. Thompson has been good when he has played with the Devils, but with our prospects and current roster, people will start to question if he missed his opportunity.

We will see Thompson playing with the Devils at times, but I do not expect to see him full-time here.

Chris Tierney #67

Tierney is another veteran depth player that we added this off-season. I do not have many expectations for Tierney, as I think he will only be an extra on most days. When he does play, he can be successful with us, but I do not see him playing in many games.

It will be interesting to see how he does in training camp. Until then, it will be a bit of a mystery as to his role with the Devils.

Tyler Toffoli #73

Last season, Toffoli had a career year with the Calgary Flames. In 82 games, he put up 73 points, 34 goals and 39 assists. Toffoli was the missing piece to our top six when he was acquired through a trade sending forward Yegor Sharangovich and a draft pick. Many speculated he would be the wing we were missing.

Although he put up 73 points last season, I do not expect him to put those numbers up again. Last season was by far the best season of his career. The highest point total he had before that was 58 points a few seasons ago. He must gain chemistry with the team before excelling with the Devils. He will end this season with 62 points, 30 goals and 32 assists.

Even though I do not see him putting up the same numbers as last season, I think he will be a significant part of the team. He will be playing on the power play and penalty kill, hopefully improving both of those special teams.

As many players on the Devils had their best season last year, I do not think many players will make a huge jump in points again. Some will remain around the same point total they had while becoming stronger, smarter and faster players this season. As Devils hockey is right around the corner, fans should be excited for this upcoming season.

Gabrielle Nordstrom