Predicting New Jersey Devils' Final 2013-14 Roster
The New Jersey Devils opened their training camp this week with 58 players invited to participate. On opening night, that number will be cut down to 23 players for the final roster.
While there are obviously some players who are guaranteed to be on the opening day roster, others are very much on the bubble.
The Devils will look like a very different team than the one that left the ice at the end of last season. With key personnel losses during the offseason, there are a few holes for new players to step up and fill.
Performances in training camp and preseason games will determine which 23 players ultimately make the team, but it is never to early to predict who they will be.
Let's start with the most obvious.
1. Martin Brodeur
2. Cory Schneider
Goaltending has not been a concern for the New Jersey Devils for longer than a decade. With this summer's acquisition of Cory Schneider, the position became even less of an issue.
Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider will, without any doubt, be the team's two goaltenders during the 2013-14.
How many games each goaltender will start seems to be up in the air. When Tom Gulliti of The Bergen Record recently asked head coach Pete DeBoer how he would split the goalies' playing time, he said, "Those things sort themselves out."
While DeBoer's answer suggested that the two goaltenders will be contending for playing time, it left no doubt that they will both be on the final roster.
3. Jaromir Jagr
4. Michael Ryder
5. Dainius Zubrus
6. Steve Bernier
The Devils do not have a very impressive collection of right wingers, and the top four on the team are a clear cut above the rest.
Jaromir Jagr and Michael Ryder are new to the organization, and Pete DeBoer will expect them to play pivotal roles on offense and the power play.
After signing a new three-year contract with the club, Dainius Zubrus appears to be here to stay as well.
Steve Bernier, a key member of the fan-favorite CGBG line, would round out the position.
Mattias Tedenby is a close fifth, but he is still a defensive liability. That does not swing with DeBoer's team philosophy.
One more year in the AHL will serve him well.
7. Adam Henrique
8. Travis Zajac
9. Andrei Loktionov
10. Jacob Josefson
11. Steven Gionta
Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac are, at this point, the only safe bets at center for the New Jersey Devils.
Andrei Loktionov is going to have to prove that last seasons success was not a one-hit wonder. He will be watched closely during the preseason for signs that he will be able to sustain his skills at the NHL level for a full season.
Jacob Josefson, a player with very little luck, has had a lot of trouble staying on the ice. Pete DeBoer thinks that Josefson is "knocking on the door," but if he gets in, how long will he stay?
Josefson saw extended time with the Devils at the end of last season, but was not able to produce much.
However, he still has the raw talent to be successful in the NHL, and he may wind up challenging Steven Gionta and Andrei Loktionov for a lineup spot on a nightly basis in 2014.
12. Patrik Elias
13. Ryane Clowe
14. Rostislav Olesz
15. Ryan Carter
16. Krystofer Barch
New Jersey has a large and interesting pool of left wings. Much like the center position, however, only the top two spots (Elias and Clowe) are locks to make the team.
The Devils have a few young left wingers waiting close by, such as Stefan Matteau and Tim Sestito, but going into the season, the edge has to be given to Olesz and Carter.
Carter tops off the CBGB line with Gionta and Bernier, and it would be hard to imagine DeBoer separating the prolific and energizing line.
Olesz has potential, but he also comes with questions marks. He spent the past few seasons with the Blackhawks AHL affiliate.
Finally, Krys Barch will ride the bench and be activated when the Devils want to dress a bigger and more physical team.
17. Andy Greene
18. Adam Larsson
19. Anton Volchenkov
20. Bryce Salvador
21. Marek Zidlicky
22. Jon Merrill
23. Mark Fayne
The final seven spots of the Devils' opening day roster will be comprised of the defensemen.
Andy Greene, one of the NHL's most underrated defensemen, will continue to patrol the blue line with Adam Larsson on the top defensive line.
Larsson, who struggled at times last year, will look to take a big leap in his first full 82-game season.
Meanwhile, Marek Zidlicky will continue to contribute on the power play with his powerful shot.
Captain Bryce Salvador will look to bounce back in 2014 after an injury-plagued 2013.
Earlier in the summer, GM and president Lou Lamoriello told Mike Vorkunov of The Star-Ledger that a young defenseman will likely make the team.
At this point, Jon Merrill would be the mot dynamic option. He is also the youngest.
Alexander Urbom is the other frontrunner to make the team as a young defenseman. It is not, however, out of the question that both Merrill and Urbom make the team at the expense of Mark Fayne or Anton Volchenkov, who both had poor 2013 campaigns.
Lamoriello has never had an issue with moving veterens to make room for the young players who have earned their spots.
2013-14 should be no different.