This is the first in a series of articles describing the current state of the New Jersey Devils. In this article I am going to shine some light on the current club's players and possible future players.
First let us see what the Devils have as far as the big club goes. They have several potential 50-point players in the 07/’08 season right now with Zach Parise, Patrik Elias, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Travis Zajac.
These players are so solid offensively and defensively, any team would love to have them. Travis Zajac will have a coming of age season but should still be the No. 2 center. Jamie Lagenbrunner will hopefully get to play a full season and should have a pretty good one as Right Wing on the No. 1 line.
Patrik Elias seems to have finally adjusted to Brent Sutter’s system and will be back to his No. 1 line job and should be playing Left Wing rather than Center.
Zach Parise is the best player on the Devils in terms of scoring skills and I would be interested in seeing him try Center on the No. 1 line since he is a natural Center.
The Devils also have one of the top shutdown tandems in the league with John Madden and Jay Pandolfo. David Clarkson is one of my favorite players on the team and I think he will get even better this year. Clarkson can play on that third line with Madden/Pandolfo or as a fourth line guy and can be thrown in front of the net during power plays.
Sergei Brylin is the other third or fourth line option the Devils have. If they want some more firepower on the third they can put Brylin in or if they want more shutdown they can put in Clarkson.
Additionally, the Devils have a few forwards I think they should consider getting rid of in Brian Gionta, Dainius Zubrus, and Michael Rupp. I get that Michael Rupp is your big fourth-line guy but I think he might get bumped by some of the Devils’ prospects this fall.
The Devils needed a first line center last year so they signed Right Wing Dainius Zubrus to a six-year, $3.4 million a year contract. I do not know who would take a player who has only been over 50 points twice in his career for that much money and for that long of a contract, but if the Devils can find someone they should get rid of him.
I know everyone loves Brian Gionta and he had that amazing season where he scored 48 goals, but that will never happen again. Gio’s contract is up next season, and I could see him as a deadline deal or perhaps before. I also do not see the Devils resigning Arron Asham.
On the blue line the Devils need to rebuild, but they have some pieces of the puzzle. Paul Martin is in the same mold as Rafalski and Niedermayer and can have a 40-point season.
Colin White is your shutdown guy, and his value can not be expressed on paper, meaning he will not score much. Johnny Oduya is really impressive and I think he will get better again this season contributing equally as a physical presence and a scoring one.
Andy Greene is not quite a top-four d-man but he is pretty solid if he can find a roster spot, but I think the Devils can find someone better. Vitaly Vishnevski is a Darian Hatcher-type player, but not even close to as good. I would not feel bad if he left and I have similar thoughts with him as Andy Greene.
Sheldon Brookbank is a good player I would like to see make the full-time leap from the AHL level. Karel Rachunek is gone back to Russia, and I assume Bryce Salvador is not going to be resigned either.
Mike Mottau was resigned for some reason. In my opinion, he is a terrible player and I really hope the Devils are not so in love with him that he will not make the cut in the fall and go to the minors where he belongs.
The Devils recently signed Anssi Salmela from Finland, and he has put up some impressive numbers. I can only hope that he turns out like other Devils’ defensemen picked out of the European leagues like Johnny Oduya and Brian Rafalski
I am choosing not to spend much time talking about Goalies for obvious reasons. Martin Brodeur. The End. My only concern is the Devils do not have very strong goaltending prospects and there are very few in general.
The Devils have a couple players that are going to take a shot at making the roster this fall. Rod Pelley might make it, but is only a fourth line guy. He plays a lot like John Madden.
Nicklas Berfors made it to the roster last season but hurt himself and then spent the rest of the season in the minors. He plays a very European game with fast skating and good stick handling and I would be curious to see him on the second line.
Petr Vrana has a good shot of making the team this year. Scouts say he plays a lot like Sergei Brylin, but I do not see that. Vrana had a breakout season in the AHL last year and probably will be a fourth-line guy with Pelley and Brylin. That means the Devils could have every line be a potential scoring threat.
If the Devils try to replace Rupp with another big guy, it will be Barry Tallackson. Tallackson keeps getting called up for brief stints with the team, but he might not be able to make the full-time jump.
Matt Corrente and Mark Fraser are the d-men looking for roster spots. Corrente has some character issues but is one hell of a pit-bull on ice. Mark Fraser plays like a Colin White clone.
In the future, there are a couple players to look out for. Russian Left Winger Alexander Vasyunov has plenty of upside, but he has some maturing to do. Brad Snetsinger will probably end up playing in Lowell next season and might eventually make the big club’s roster.
The Devils have four Right Wing prospects to keep your eye on gritty Nick Palmieri, big Nathan Perkovich, offensive god Matt Halischuk, and Vladimir Zharkov.
The only Center with a chance is Tony Romano, but he seems to be a long shot. Defense has only two other guys I could see making the pro level, T.J. Miller and Tyler Eckford.