1. Which young guys prove they belong?
In a season defined by player development, what is more important than seeing how players develop? I mean come on, this could have been called “One Big Question for the New Jersey Devils in 2020-21” because it all really just comes down to that.
How will the Devils weather the losses of Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt? By having players like Jack Hughes, Pavel Zacha, and Jesper Boqvist step up in a big way.
How will the Devils weather the storm brought on by Corey Crawford’s retirement? By having Scott Wedgewood step up, even if the team opts to add an external option behind MacKenzie Blackwood.
Whether it’s the team’s young core of Hischier, Hughes, and Blackwood or the player duking it out for a role on the bottom-six, this season is all about getting good play on tape, getting acclimated to Lindy Ruff’s up-tempo offense, and gauging just how close to contention this team is as presently constructed.
If the Devils look great, maybe Tom Fitzgerald will look to pull off a splashy move to acquire a legit trigger man like Patrick Laine and push for a top-four spot in the East/Metropolitan in the not too distant future. If they look bad, maybe we’ll see players on expiring contracts like Kyle Palmieri and Nikita Gusev shipped out a la Blake Coleman in 2020 to procure future picks and young prospects like Nolan Foote.
Even if the on-ice product at the Prudential Center is a bit underwhelming, this very well may be one of the more consequential seasons in recent memory for the New Jersey Devils. If the young guys can prove they belong, we may be back to the good old day I, unfortunately, missed out on in no time.