As NJ Advance Media continues its trek through the potential Devils depth chart for the 2019-20 season, it’s time to turn to right wing.
After exploring centers and left wings, we’ll now take a deep look at what’s suddenly a very crowded field at right wing.
Kyle Palmieri will be back as a top-six staple, and the Devils added Wayne Simmonds in free agency. Here’s a look at how they and everyone else could fit into the fold.
When the Devils were a lot thinner on the wing, Palmieri often jumped between the top line and the second line as coach John Hynes aimed to balance out the scoring. That’s not to say Hynes won’t move Palmieri around at some point if things get stagnant for a stretch in 2019-20, but the added depth and talent on the roster will allow Hynes to routinely roll out Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri as the team’s top trio without sacrificing depth scoring.
Devils left wing depth chart: How does Nikita Gusev fit in behind Taylor Hall?
Taylor Hall is a lock to be the New Jersey Devils’ top line left wing in 2019-20, but there will be plenty of competition for spots behind him.
When grouped with Hall and Hischier, Palmieri helped make the trio one of the most efficient lines in the league. The three have great chemistry together, and it’s a safe bet to see them reunited to start the season.
With the departure of Marcus Johansson late last season, it seemed like a safe bet Jesper Bratt would slide over to his natural left side in the top six, with Wayne Simmonds potentially jumping onto right wing on the second line after his signing with the Devils in free agency.
But now with the addition of Nikita Gusev, the Devils have another player capable of taking that left-wing spot on the second line. So where does that leave Bratt? He’s proved more than capable of handling top-six minutes in the NHL, and he’s done so playing right wing. The Devils could keep him there on the right side in a top-six role.
While Simmonds’ 5-on-5 play has dipped a bit during the past few seasons, he’s still one of the best net-front players in the league on the power play. Outside of Brian Boyle, the Devils didn’t have a player capable of consistently filling that role in 2018-19. Regardless of where Simmonds skates 5-on-5, he’ll see plenty of time on the power play in front of the goalie.
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The biggest question is where he’ll fit 5-on-5. If he’s healthy and back to form after an injury plagued him throughout last season, he could easily jump into a top-six role. At worst, he’ll be a player still capable of adding some scoring down the lineup.
Wood, like Bratt, was listed with the left wingers on the depth chart, but he’s another player capable of playing on his off side. He often times skated with Blake Coleman and Travis Zajac on a line last season, so that could be a group that’s reunited on the third line.
While the Devils made plenty of big offseason moves, one of the smaller ones that hasn’t gotten a lot of talk was the addition of John Hayden, who was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks for John Quenneville at the NHL Draft. He’s a veteran of 113 NHL games over the past three seasons, and he can add a gritty presence while chipping in some scoring in the bottom six.
Adding Gusev and Simmonds to the core of wingers made the competition for roster spots at the bottom of the roster much tougher, but Hayden is someone capable of filling a role on the fourth line.
Boqvist was listed on the left wing depth chart, but he’s also capable of playing on his off side. Left wing will likely be his clearest path to a spot in the NHL, especially this season, but he’s worth mentioning here.
Anderson and the next two players made their NHL debuts last season and got plenty of time with the Devils down the stretch. Now they’ll be in competition for one of the final roster spots.
Anderson played his best hockey early in the year prior to suffering a broken ankle, but he started to round out his game again toward the end of the season. He’s a hard worker and competitor, and even in a bottom-six role, he could bring a solid element to the lineup.
Bastian is another big, physical player who will make a name in the NHL by using his size to grind out shifts and offense. He showed some promising flashes in his seven NHL games, and he, like Anderson, could fill a spot in that bottom six.
In terms of skill and offense, McLeod has more upside than Anderson and Bastian, and he’s an equally hard worker. Though he’s been developed as a center, he played some right wing in the NHL last season. With a strong showing at camp, he could earn a spot if the Devils seek to build a more skilled fourth line.