Save your sportsbook betting money on New Jersey Devils futures. Until next season, anyway.
There is no question the Devils are on the ascent again, after eight mostly miserable seasons in which they’ve only won one, count’ em one, playoff game. That span was quite a letdown for an organization that won three Stanley Cups in the 1990s and 2000s and went to a seventh game in another Final.
The Devils entered the later part of February with a winning record, though COVID-19 protocols put their season on a long pause. That’s partly why I don’t like the Devils to be one of the four teams to make the playoffs out of the East Division.
Depending on which sportsbook you check, the Devils are anywhere from +5500 all the way up to +7500 at Caesars to win the Stanley Cup as of Wednesday. Their odds of winning the East Division were as high as +5000 at Resorts.
The Devils have a younger team that needs to keep learning and developing, and I worry the layoff will be tough on that. This division is just a little too loaded this season; Boston, Washington, Philadelphia and the New York Islanders just have too much depth for the Devils to hang, even in a truncated 56-game season.
Plus the Pittsburgh Penguins figure to go hard for one of those four spots, especially with pressure on Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to convince new management the longer-term future rests with them as a foundation. The New York Rangers might still be heard from too, making the Devils a really tough NHL betting proposition in 2021.
Next season, though, I see the Devils realistically challenging for a playoff spot. First-year general manager Tom Fitzgerald already has some good young talent such as former first overall picks Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes. But New Jersey also has some nice prospects in the pipeline, including defenseman Ty Smith and forwards Alexander Holtz, Dawson Mercer and Nolan Foote (son of Adam).
The most worrisome position, now and into the near future, for the Devils is goalie. New Jersey suffered a shock when newly signed free agent Corey Crawford suddenly retired before the season. MacKenzie Blackwood keeps showing signs of promise, but he’s still unproven in anything resembling a playoff-type atmosphere.
Probably the player with the most pressure on him for the foreseeable future is Hughes, who had a poor rookie season with just seven goals and 21 points in 61 games. After a buildup that was somewhat on par with other No. 1s who went on to excellent careers, Hughes wasn’t even a finalist for the Calder Trophy, which created quite a bit of nail-biting among Devils fans.
But in 2021 Hughes looks more like the top talent he was billed. He was averaging about a point a game before the pause and just seems more confident in all areas.
Hischier, who has played just two games all season because of an injury and a stint on the coronavirus list, is still just 22. Has he met expectations since going No. 1 in the draft in 2017? No, but playing with a budding Hughes should help.
The Devils still have a long way to go before they can even think about getting back to their former glory days, or for their fans to rush to New Jersey online casinos to place their futures bets on this team. But better days finally seem ahead.