5 New Jersey Devils Players That Must Step Up with Zach Parise Gone
Last season Zach Parise scored 31 goals, recorded 69 points and finished third on the team in scoring.
The good news is the Devils made a run to the Finals last season with Parise leading the way. The bad news is he's gone.
With Parise signing in Minnesota and no real replacement in sight, the Devils will have to rely on a handful of players to step up in the scoring column. Here are five forwards that will need to have a great year in order for the team to succeed.
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David Clarkson went from grinder to goal scorer last season and was a huge reason why the Devils were able to make a run through the playoffs.
This season, with Parise and Petr Sykora gone to free agency, Clarkson will need to once again step up and come close to his 30-goal total from a year ago. He is likely going to be paired with either Patrik Elias or Ilya Kovalchuk, so that should open the door for more opportunities.
Due to the shortened season, 15 goals will likely be the new 30 for Clarkson, but if he can't reach that, the target number would likely be 10.
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With a new eight-year extension and a body close to 100 percent, the Devils are going to need Travis Zajac to have a career year in a shortened 2013.
Since coming into the league before the 2006-2007 season, Zajac has seen his numbers slowly increase from 17 goals and 25 assists to 25 goals and 42 assists in 2009-2010. The top-line center only appeared in 15 games in 2011-2012 due to injuries, but he did manage to record 14 points in 24 games during the playoffs.
Centering the top line with Ilya Kovalchuk will set up a number of opportunities for both goals and assists, but it will be up to Zajac to step up and become a top scorer for the Devils. If he can reach 15-20 goals in 48 games, New Jersey may have an answer for Parise.
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Bobby Butler may have been signed based on his potential, but his recent success in the AHL has many people excited for 2013.
Butler led the Albany Devils with 15 goals and 23 points through 32 games before the lockout ended, and he was also named AHL Player of the Week in December. With the lack of depth at the wing position coming into 2013, there is no doubt that Butler will see some extensive playing time once the season begins.
So far in training camp, Butler has been paired primarily with camp invite Mathieu Darche and Jacob Josefson, and that could be a potential third or fourth line if they can contribute right away. Mattias Tedenby could find his way back into the lineup this season, but it is Butler who has the most to prove in 2013.
Fourth line: Darche-Josefson-Butler
— Rich Chere (@Ledger_NJDevils) January 16, 2013
Butler is a young, talented forward that the Devils would like to succeed, and he seems to be a player that will fit right in with this organization. He is not going to be the top line forward the Devils lost with Parise, but he could certainly replace Petr Sykora or even Alexei Ponikarovsky's numbers from last year if he lives up to his potential.
Oh, and he's wearing the ever popular No. 9 this year. Good luck with that, Bobby.
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If there's one person who has the most shoes to fill, it's Dainius Zubrus.
When Zubrus was signed by the Devils in 2007, he was coming off a career year with 24 goals and 36 assists. Since then, however, Zubrus has only managed to record highs of 17 goals and 27 assists (both last season),
The Devils will have to hope that Zubrus can carry that momentum from last year into 2013 as he likely becomes the top-line winger to replace Zach Parise. Head coach Peter DeBoer has been using a line of Kovalchuk-Zajac-Zubrus in practice this week, and that will likely be the combination he goes with when the season starts on Saturday.
Zubrus is more of a big, powerful forward compared to Parise's quickness and elusiveness, but his size may actually benefit him on a line with Kovalchuk and Zajac. Playing with two talented forwards could open the door for Zubrus in 2013, and he may be another answer to replace the goals lost in the offseason.
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This is an interesting choice for my fifth player, but Ryan Carter has the potential to quietly have a great year.
When he was acquired off waivers early last season, there weren't high expectations for the 29-year-old center. However, Carter stepped up and took control of the fourth line and even managed to score five goals in the playoffs.
This year, with a roster spot guaranteed and great chemistry with Stephen Gionta, it will be interesting to see what Carter can do in 48 games with the same lines. He may even get a chance to move up to the third line with Adam Henrique still out, meaning more ice time and more opportunities to score.
There is no way that Carter will ever become a leading goal scorer for this organization, but if he can sneak in eight goals this season, it would be a pleasant upgrade from last year. New Jersey is going to have to find goals from many unsung heroes this season, and Ryan Carter may be that guy who gets the chance to shine.