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2017-2018 NHL Preview: New Jersey Devils

Nico Hischier and Taylor Hall look to carry the Devils in 2017-2018

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. Seventh up is the New Jersey Devils who landed the first overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft despite finish 4 spots out of last place last year.

Basic Stats:
2016-2017 NHL Standings: 28th
Eastern Conference Standings: 16th
Metropolitan Division Standings: 8th
Goals for Rank: 28th
Goals against Rank: 24th

Overview: The New Jersey Devils for the first time in team history, got a first overall pick. They selected Nico Hischier with the first overall pick who looks to be be the headline of this team starting this year. The top line of Taylor Hall (first overall pick in 2010 draft) along with Nico and Kyle Palmieri should be a fun top line to watch. It might take some time to gel but could yield high dividends for the Devils. The issue is that beyond that you get a streaky Adam Henrique, a highly touted, continually underperforming Pavel Zacha, and a Marcus Johansson that produced very well on the strongest team in the league (so unknown how he does when the tides turn 180). Corey Schneider continued strong play by getting 20 wins in 207 starts but his stats took a step back as he fell outside the top 30 in SV% and GAA, partially due to an abundance of shots (10th most per game in the league) and partially due to regression to the mean. The Devils biggest issue is the defense where Andy Greene and Ben Lovejoy (a combined 20 points with a combined plus minus of -23 last year) stand as the top pairing.

Major Additions: Brian Boyle, Marcus Johansson,
Major Subtractions: Michael Cammalleri, P.A. Parenteau

Prospects and Picks:
-Nico Hischier. The highest Swiss player ever to be drafted has idolized Pavel Datsyuk and aspires to be the next version for the New Jersey Devils. He scored 38 goals and 86 poitns across 57 games last year with the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL was further capped off when he played in the U18 and U20 Swiss teams scoring a combined 41 points across 34 games. He is a phenomenal skater with acceleration bursts and has great hands especially in tight spaces (a la Pavel). At only 180 points he will need to bulk up a bit but he looks the part to come in and immediately contribute to the Devils.

-Michael McLeod. The 12th overall pick in the 2016 draft has made the most of his last 12 months. Coming out of a respectable 2015-2016 campaign with the Mississauga Steelheads where he scored 61 points, he then scored 73 points last year going on to International play with U20 Canada team where he scored 3 points in 7 games. He has great decision making skills and above average speed. If he breaks the lineup he has 30+ point potential.

Sleeper Fantasy Asset:
-Taylor Hall. When surrounded with elite talent (cough cough Edmonton's Taylor Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid) Taylor has 65+ point potential, he did it twice across three years at Edmonton. When he is suppressed to one of the worst rosters in the league, he drops to 50 points. I believe Nico can help Taylor back up to 65 points but it's a delicate balance, a lot is resting on these two's shoulders and teams will be putting all shut down resources on them.

-This team  doesn't have high end scoring capabilities as evidenced by their ranking as 28th in goals scored. I keep believing Beau Bennett will have a breakout year as well as Pavel Zacha so while I'm not drafting either player, they are both on my watch list as breakout candidates this year. If they both falter again, I might be done believing they will breakout at some point.

Cap Situation:
They currently have around $19.7MM in cap space with 15 players signed.

Projected finish:
2017-2018 NHL Standings: 25th
Eastern Conference Standings: 13th
Metropolitan Division 7th

NHL 26th: Detroit Red Wings (Eastern Conference 14th; Atlantic Division 6th)

NHL 27th: New York Islanders (Eastern Conference 15th; Metropolitan Division 8th)

NHL 28th: Vancouver Canucks (Western Conference 13th; Pacific Division 7th)

NHL 29th: Florida Panthers (Eastern Conference 16th; Atlantic Division 8th)

NHL 30th: Las Vegas Golden Knights (Western Conference 14th; Pacific Division 8th)

NHL 31st: Colorado Avalanche (Western Conference 15th; Central Division 7th)