When Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald and head coach Lindy Ruff discuss the team's young players and their development this season, two particular names come up frequently: forwards Yegor Sharangovich and Janne Kuokkanen. Both players are in their first full NHL seasons with the Devils.
Sharangovich, 22, is a player that continues score in big moments for the Devils. Through 47 games played the rookie has 24 points evenly split between goals and assists. Sharangovich also had the game-winner in Tuesday's win against Philadelphia that broke the team's 10-game skid (0-9-1).
Video: PHI@NJD: Sharangovich tucks the puck over goal line
The primary assist on Sharangovich's game-winner was Kuokkanen, who has 22 points in 43 contests. Unlike Sharangovich, the majority of Kuokkanen's points are assists (6G-16A). The difference in points breakdown highlights the way the two interact on the ice with the other.
"I'm more of a passer and Sharangovich is more of a shooter, so I think there's a good combo there," Kuokkanen said. "We try to use that every night and try our best."
A reason why the pair is so complimentary of the other is due to the respect for each other and their individual games.
"Sharangovich is a great player. Great shot and a great guy too, so I love to play with him," Kuokkanen, 22, said about his linemate. "He's a really fast skater and can show up every night and be a great player."
"I like (playing with Kuokkanen) because he's a really good player. Fast, skilled guy who's good playing with the puck. He can always pass to me or Jack (Hughes)," Sharangovich said about Kuokkanen. "We're playing good together and I like it."
Video: PRACTICE RAW | Yegor Sharangovich 04.28.21
New Jersey is the youngest team in the NHL this season with an average age of 24 years old. As a result, Kuokkanen and Sharangovich were given the opportunity of playing time, and took advantage of it. Kuokkanen averages 14-and-a-half minutes on the ice a game, while Sharangovich is out there almost 17 minutes a night. thanks to his work on the penalty kill.
"As the season has gone along, they've gotten better. They understand the game a lot better," Ruff said. "They've been in a lot of big plays for us, they played big roles. For me, the important part is both players have grown and gotten better."
In addition to finding playing time, the duo faces more veteran packed, experienced teams in the East Division like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins. That experience has allowed these forwards to learn how to use the other to find success offensively.
"(Their) overall decisions on the ice inside of a game, being able to create their own opportunities, to read off each other, to get to open ice, to know where one another is at so you can create some of the good offensive opportunities," said Ruff about specific areas he's seen Kuokkanen and Sharangovich improve throughout the year.
These two rookie forwards are key pieces of the young core Fitzgerald is building in New Jersey. In the meantime, Ruff expects these linemates to continue to improve, especially in the final eight games of the 2020-21 campaign.
"It's a pair that we trust almost in every situation. Defensively, offensively and it's fun to see them grow," Ruff said. "They've gotten better. I still think there's tremendous upside with those players and hope to see them continue to grow through these last games."
Video: PRACTICE RAW | Janne Kuokkanen 04.28.21