The Devils being back in the dance for the first time since 2018 marks the end of their rebuild. Despite entering the season as the league’s fifth-youngest team with an average age of 25.8, New Jersey began the season 16-3, turning heads with a 13-game winning streak and hasn’t looked back. They finished the season with 52 wins and 112 points, both franchise records.
New Jersey is led by a pair of first-overall picks in captain Nico Hischier(2017) and Jack Hughes(2019), who have emerged as franchise stars. Hughes’s 99 points(43 goals, 56 assists) broke the Devils franchise record for most in a season, while Hischier’s 31 goals and 80 points are a career-high.
Also emerging from the youth fountain were 21-year-old Dawson Mercer and 23-year-old Jesper Bratt. Bratt’s 11-game point streak to begin the season set a franchise mark, while Mercer’s eight-game goal streak from February 16-March 3 was also a Devils record. As if they couldn’t get any younger, Jack’s brother, Luke Hughes, 19, made his NHL debut last week after a standout season at Michigan. The defenseman promptly introduced himself with the overtime winner on Thursday in his second game, lifting the Devils to a 5-4 at the Washington Capitals in the season finale.
New Jersey also added veterans such as forwards Ondrej Palat and Tomas Tatar and defenseman John Marino and Dougie Hamilton, whose 71 points(20 goals and 51 assists) made him the second defender in franchise history to record at least 70 points in a single season. Then, GM Tom Fitzgerald topped it off at the trade deadline and acquired arguably the top player on the market in 40 goal-scorer Timo Meir from the San Jose Sharks.
The Hockey News published an issue last season with the cover stating,” The Devils are building a beast.” That beast has now arrived, albeit ahead of schedule, and will look to announce themselves on the playoff stage by vanquishing their Hudson River rivals—next, a look at how they plan to do that.