As preseason begins next week, the New Jersey Devils took the ice for training camp this week.
Although it is only a few days into training camp, there are updates that every fan should know about.
The vibe from the locker room was high as the Devils are coming off one of their best seasons in franchise history. The team has put pressure on themselves to be one of the best teams in the league again and are setting high expectations for themselves. As many players are just now beginning to enter their prime, the window for opportunity has just opened for the Devils.
“We’re going to face opponents this season where everyone is going to see us as a tough team and wants to win against us… That’s the kind of pressure we have always wanted,” forward Jesper Bratt said after day one.
As expected in training camp, players are there to make a statement. Some of the players who had the most eyes on them coming into training camp are defender Luke Hughes and forward Alex Holtz.
Hughes did not fully participate in day one of training camp because of a lingering injury. Head coach Lindy Ruff claims it is just inflammation and there is nothing to worry about. He expects Hughes to take part in some of the preseason games beginning on Sept. 25. After showing us what he could do in just a few games at the end of last season, it should be expected he will be an everyday NHL player for the team this year.
Holtz was drafted seventh overall in the 2020 draft and has been waiting to break the NHL roster ever since. At this moment, he has only played in 28 career games and has put up six points. Holtz has been a huge question mark in terms of where he will end up this season and what the Devils management should do with him.
This training camp seemed to be different for Holtz. He has put in the extra work this summer and he has been noticeably different. He seems to be lighter on his feet while skating, he is smoother on his edges and he has gained some speed. Holtz was known for his shot when he was drafted, so working on other things like his skating will help him develop more as an all around player. Will this be the year fans see Holtz crack the NHL roster?
Some other small updates from the team are things like Timo Meier switching his number to 28. With the departure of long-time Devil Damon Severon, the number 28 opened up. With the San Jose Sharks, Meier wore 28, when Meier joined the Devils, he picked the number 96 because he wore it in juniors.
When Severson left, many were wondering if Meier would make the switch back to 28. Just before training camp began, the Devils made the announcement that Meier was switching because 28 has become his lucky number. He is the 28th Devil to wear the number 28, is that a sign he will have an amazing first full season with the Devils?
With one of the huge question marks for this upcoming season being the goaltender situation, it seems reasonable to go over the goalies that practiced today. As expected, Akira Schmid and Vitek Vanecek were two of the goalies we saw today, along with Keith Kinkaid and Erik Kallgren. The huge question has been if Schmid will stay with the Devils or go back down to the AHL to develop more.
Just before training camp began, the Devils brought back Kinkaid to the Devils. If Kinkaid does not play on the NHL team, he will report back to the Chicago Wolves in the AHL. Since he would not be reporting back to Utica, it almost seems like the Devils brought him back to have him on the NHL team.
Many were wondering if Ruff was going to get an extension done before this season. Since the Devils never put out an official announcement of him being re-signed, many speculated the deal was done and they were not going to put anything out. But, Ruff did not have to sign an extension before the beginning of this season so Devils fans should see talks of an extension with Ruff in the near future if all goes well this season.
Preseason games begin next Monday where we will start to see the NHL roster come to be over the next few weeks. The Devils will take on the Philadelphia Flyers at home to begin preseason on Sept. 25 at 7 p.m.