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Devils Rookies Half Season Review

 

So far the Devils 2018-2019 season has been consistently inconsistent as the team has both gone extremely hot and extremely cold at different points of the year. Now with Brian Elliot hurt in net for a couple of weeks, one of the cold parts is likely to continue. However, disregarding some of the teams issues as a whole - I wanted to focus on just the rookies, since I had a few of them making their first jump into the NEFHL this season. The four rookies I mainly wanted to focus on, in the order of their rank in scoring on the team, are Kyle Connor (2015 draft), Charlie McAvoy (2016 draft), Pierre-Luc Dubois (2016 draft) and Alex Tuch (2014 draft). So far, that's quite a haul for 3 drafts with only PLD being drafted by a team other than the Devils (Blackhawks 5th overall). Other rookies have als o seen play this season however they haven't had quite the impact so far like Ivan Barbashev and Jakob Chychrun.

Frist up, of course, is Kyle Connor. He started off his NEFHL career somewhat slow - granted missing his first preseason didn't help. Since then he's been fantastic, leading the inconsistent Devils with 38 points in 38 games including 21 goals, which is also most on the team. Not just the Devils but the league as a whole has a solid rookie crop and a lot of competition for a potential Calder trophy, mostly led by clear frontrunner Matt Tkachuk of the Canucks who has 44 points in 39 games and is a crazy +25. Clayton Keller, Brock Boeser and Matt Barzal round out the top 4 points players as rookies and are all having outstanding seasons so far. The Devils probably haven't had a rookie as hyped as Connor since Kane was drafted and while Connor was a pick later in the 1st (at 12th) he's still a high end forward. He's not in the franchise category like Patrick Kane but so far so good. If he can have more runs like his 12 goals in 12 games he had from Dec 2nd through Dec 28th the Devils will be very happy.

Next up is a defenseman, Charlie McAvoy. While his NHL game has been a little suspect especially with his injuries piling up, his rookie season in the NEFHL has been everything the Devils needed. Outside of Alex Edler the team has been lacking high profile defenseman for awhile so getting a guy who can immediately come in and provide what he has is amazing. His totals so far are 8 goals and 14 assists while be a positive at +7. Only 1 goal is on the PP while he has also managed the teams only shorthanded goal of the season. All in all, he's on pace for a 77 game season with 18 goals an 31 assists while being a +11. That would be an absolute monster season from the backend for the Devils and something they hope he can provide every season. The team normally doesn't like picking defenseman in the 1st round of an entry draft but so far at 24th overall McAvoy has brough amazing value to the team playing almost 23 minutes a game.

After those two the quality drops off a little bit but Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alex Tuch have still been very solid contributors in the top 9 this season. While PLD is sitting at a somewhat miserable -7, he has still managed 17 points including 7 goals while playing mostly 3rd line minutes (~15 minutes/game) with some filling in on the top six or PP when injuries strike Bjugstad and Backes. The team is really excited about his future and think he's a perfect replacement once Backes gets a little too old and slow for the top line, which is seeminly getting closer and closer. The team fully expects Dubois to be a future 20 goal and 40 assist player while maintaining some kind of position on the penalty kill. Alex Tuch is the last player, who is only getting under 12 minutes a game but has still managed to have a very positive 8 goals and 8 assists while be at a solid even +/- for the season. The team has faced a number of injuries and lineup fluctuations so the fact this 22 year old winger can move up and down the lineup is very good to know. He's only thrown 12 hits which seems off for his profile but the team is quite content if he's more happy scoring goals than burying players all over the ice. With Strome and Coyle never quite developing as needed, Zuccarello getting a little older and Tuch blossoming, the team wouldn't be surprised to see this 3rd line player on the top line as early as next season. At the very worst, all 3 of the forwards that are rookies right now could be a 2nd line next year which would be something considering their contracts!