The New Jersey Devils will begin their season this week, and each player knows that they are going to have to play at the top of their games if the team is going to be successful. Despite the considerable depth of this team, it is the stars that will have to contribute the most.
The stars of the team do not only contribute their superior skills, but they also provide the indispensable leadership and experience that allow the rest of the players play at the highest level.
If the stars falter, the rest of the team falls with them.
Fortunately, this New Jersey team has a very solid group of premier players, young and old. While some have earned their stripes with the Devils, others are about to start their first year in Newark.
For those new players, their track records should speak for themselves. If they do not, their play on the ice this year should not fall short of the past.
Here are predictions for the New Jersey Devils' top stars in 2013-14.
When the Devils signed Jaromir Jagr to help fill the massive talent void left behind by Ilya Kovalchuk, the legendary superstar's age raised red flags. Not helping to calm those worries, Jagr has been sidelined for almost the entire preseason with a lower body injury.
Despite these ominous signs, Jagr will put up 60 points in 2013-14.
Really, there's no reason to think he won't.
Fans should not be too concerned with Jagr's absence from training camp and exhibition games. The fact of the matter is that Jagr has not missed extended time in the NHL in a decade.
That is not expected to change just yet. A week ago, Rich Chere at The Star-Ledger quoted head coach Pete DeBoer saying that he expects Jagr to be ready for the opener.
Last year, Jagr played in all but four games. When he played, he contributed 35 points. That would expand to roughly 59 points in a full 82-game schedule.
Jagr should have no problem putting up similar numbers with the Devils. Playing with accomplished scorers and set up men in Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique, the potential for a big point total is there.
It is not a huge leap of faith to predict Travis Zajac's top five placement for faceoff percentage. After all, he has been there before.
Although he did not have a very productive year scoring goals last year, it was certainly not a down year for in the faceoff circle. He finished with a 57 percent success rate, behind only Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron and Joe Thornton.
Winning faceoffs, although sometimes underrated, is pivotal for the flow of the game, and Travis Zajac has quietly become one of the most dominant faceoff winners in the NHL.
Mentioned above, Travis Zajac is coming off of a down year in terms of offensive production. He is, however, too good of a player to follow one stinker with another.
He should bounce back this year, and the added confidence that comes with lighting up the scoreboard should translate into even more success in the faceoff circle.
Cory Schneider gives the Devils an incredible safety net for the legendary Martin Brodeur. It is likely, however, that as the season progresses, those roles will be reversed.
Although under unfortunate circumstances, opening night serves as an example of why Schneider will get more playing time than everyone thinks.
Brodeur will not play on opening night because of the time he missed when he went to his family this past week. If the Devils did not have Schneider, however, it is likely that Brodeur would have started opening night anyway.
The fact that New Jersey has a starting goaltender on the bench means that whenever Brodeur shows the slightest sign of wear and tear, he will likely be given the night off.
When you add to the fact that Brodeur has had trouble staying healthy over the past few seasons, Schneider is probably looking at plenty of work in 2013-14.
When DeBoer told Tom Gulitti of The Record that the goalie situation will "sort itself out," he suggested that the amount of play will be determined on a meritorious basis.
If Schneider plays as well in the regular season as he played in the preseason, he will make it hard for DeBoer to put Brodeur in his stead.
Adam Larsson seems primed for a breakout year.
The young defenseman has experienced his fair share of growing pains over his first year and a half, but he should now be ready to take the next step.
In a September interview with Rich Chere, Larsson seemed to display a new level maturity.
"I know what it takes and I know what I have to do," he said. "I especially have to be stronger and faster. That's what I've been working on."
If he is able to take that next step in his development, the Devils already strong defense can become a true force in the league.
Added to that, Larsson seems to be ready to get more involved offensively. He spent some time with the power play in the preseason and netted a goal.
If everything falls in place for the young Devil this season, defensively and offensively, a plus-10 rating may turn out to be conservative.