Dougie Hamilton for the Norris
The Brink trucks were backed up into the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ this summer. General manager Tom Fitzgerald inked big fish free agent defenseman Dougie Hamilton to a 7 year contract worth $9 million annual average value. This made all Devils’ fans practically drool after acquiring their first bonafide #1 defenseman in what feels like an eternity. You could probably count on one hand the amount of defenseman arguably better than Hamilton and you might not be able to use all five fingers. The 28 year old’s stature is exciting too, standing at 6’6″ and weighing 229lbs. Two seasons ago Hamilton looked like he was on his way to being a finalist for the Norris trophy until a season ending injury occurred. In the 47 games he played Hamilton notched 14g 26a for a total of 40 points. Not very shy of a point per game for a defenseman isn’t too shabby. Here is why Dougie can get himself back into the running for Norris in the upcoming season. Although he was Carolina’s best defenseman he shared the spotlight with their deep core including Jaccob Slavin. In New Jersey, even though they also acquired Ryan Graves, Hamilton will be the center of attention on the backend. He is going to drive the bus. First power unit, penalty kill, and even five-on-five he will be the anchor for this team. It also doesn’t hurt to have a fast and improving young Devils’ forward core to sling the puck up ice to.
Jack Hughes for the Hart
Too many, Jack Hughes is just a ticking time bomb until he explodes and reaches his full potential. Anyone who watches him certainly agrees the young buck passes the eye test. The Devils just seem to be in control of the puck when he is on the ice. The points have not exactly been there to show for it. If the Devils are too make a push for the playoffs it’ll be on the proverbial back of their most recent #1 overall pick. There is a way to back up the eye test of how elusive and skilled Jack Hughes is without your ordinary stats of goals, assists, points, and plus/minus. According to @JFreshHockey on Twitter, Jack Hughes was a wildly efficient and elusive player last season. Hughes’ zone exits per 60 minutes (17.3) among all forwards ranks 2nd only behind rival Artemi Panarin (17.7). He also ranks 2nd among all forwards in zone entries per 60 min. Hughes had 24.5 and Mathew Barzal had 27.9 entries. Another interesting micro-stat is his successful passes per 60 minutes. Hughes (70.8) ranks 3rd behind Barzal (71.2) and Draisaitl (72.4). The kid is with out a doubt a facilitator. He may be smaller than most players and even need more time to develop but his dominance seems to be approaching in short order. With the young forward group progressing along side him and external acquisitions, this could be his year to pop off. If the Devils are going anywhere this year Jack will be carrying the load offensively and with that comes a chance at the Hart trophy.
Mackenzie Blackwood for the Vezina
This may be a longer shot (or maybe not) than the previously mentioned players but let’s take a look at it anyway. Blackwood has a career 2.83 goals against average and a .911 save percentage. No these are not Vezina winning numbers. At the same time let’s face it, the Devils have not been very good since he arrived in the 2018-2019 season. However, over the years he has had stretches where it looks like he has another level to his game. Being 6’4″ is just about the perfect height right now for a goalie in today’s era. Last season the Devils got off to a decent start in their first nine games going 4-3-2. Blackwood had a big role in that by giving up 3 goals in two games to the Bruins and stopping 47 of 50 shots from the Rangers in a 4-3 win. Blackwood soon after went on the Covid-19 list and finally returned after the whole team was shutdown for more than two weeks. The Devils and Blackwood returned to play pretty hot beating the Rangers again 5-2 and the Bruins 3-2. Blackwood stopped 62 of 66 shots over those two games. Then Covid took its toll on the team. Blackwood seemed like a puck vacuum for awhile but later admitted being sick lingered and slowed him and his breathing down. Other Devils as well felt the aftermath of the virus, this sent the team on a downward spiral along with Blackwood’s numbers. It’s possible with the Devils improving via trade, free agency, and internal growth they can give Blackwood a lighter work load and he can find his game again. His Vezina will odds rely on how this underdog Devils team can perform in front of him.Embed from Getty Images