During the earlier half of the 2010-11 season, the New Jersey Devils found themselves in an unfamiliar position: the basement of the NHL Eastern Conference standings.
In an attempt to both try to find new, more productive combinations and develop the future of the organization, general manager Lou Lamoriello gave the nod to a number of prospects playing on the Devils farm teams in Albany and Trenton, including back-to-back first-round picks in 2008 and 2009, Swedish brethren Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson, as well as power forward Nick Palmeiri.
With the arrival off these promising forwards and the cutting of veteran deadweights Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott, the Devils' year quickly turned around circa the midpoint of the season.
Nick Palmeiri was able to find a niche playing alongside solid center man Travis Zajac, as well as struggling superstar winger Ilya Kovalchuk, by becoming a physical force in front of the net and in dirty areas.
His hard work paid dividends for his struggling linemates, as evidenced when Kovalchuk's point production nearly doubled in the second half of the season in direct correlation with the accession of Palmeiri.
Palmeiri was also able to finish the year with a very respectable plus-nine rating, despite having played for the lowest-scoring team in the NHL
Mattias Tedenby helped the squad turn things around with his energetic aggression and, frankly, incredible skill with the puck on his stick.
Tedenby shocked life back into a down-and-out team with high energy and fearless play, despite being one of the smaller players on the ice. He was quickly spotted as a power-play threat by Hall of Fame coach and player Jacques Lemaire and helped to revive the abysmal power play in New Jersey.
Tedenby also finished his rookie year relatively injury free and, like Palmeiri, had a significant plus-three rating in a dismal offense.
Jacob Josefson—widely regarded as the most promising of the three youngsters—had the misfortune of suffering a significant hand injury which put him out of commission for much of the season.
When he was on the ice for his 28 games, however, he was an electrifying playmaker who showed tremendous promise, despite not playing with the top two lines.
By the end of the regular season, it had become apparent that Josefson had become more comfortable with the speed of the professional game when he registered 10 points in his final 18 games, putting him on pace for a respectable 46-point rookie year.
This exponential increase as the season progressed is certainly reason for hope among the Devils faithful that Josefson will be an offensive force to be reckoned with for years to come.
On a Devils squad that appears to be rebuilding, Palmeiri, Tedenby, and Josefson should, and most likely will, get ample opportunity to prove their worth at the professional level.
They are the future of a once-proud franchise, and the responsibility falls upon these three promising players, along with a few proven veterans, to return the New Jersey Devils to prominence.