It seems that everyone is talking about the moves Devils General Manager Ray Shero made this summer and New Jersey Devils forward Jesper Bratt had a lot to say about this summer's acquisitions too. Bratt talked with hockeysverige.se this week about the Devils offseason additions, the upcoming season, and more.
At the end of this month, Bratt will return to New Jersey to prepare for the Devils training camp in September. When Bratt returns to the ice, the Devils team will look quite different compared to when the season ended back in April.
Video: Shero on Devils' improvements for the 2019-20 season
"I think everyone in the organization understood that something was going to happen this summer considering what it looked like last season and that we missed the playoffs. But maybe not that much would happen," he tells hockeysverige.se with a laugh. "We had a lot of injuries last year and maybe had a little thin squad, but now we have some really cool names that will be super interesting to follow. There are four top players with both skills and strength. It will be fun to go to the camp now."
One of those top skilled players Bratt is excited to see is defenseman P.K. Subban, who the Devils traded for on the second day of the NHL Draft in June. When Bratt heard the news of the acquisition, he was scrolling on social media.
"I sat watching the draft when it appeared on Devil's Instagram that they had recruited him. Funny," he says. "It is a place in the team that we have known that if we can strengthen it then it can be really good. It's fun to bring in a player who can draw some people to the games and draw attention to the team. Then I think he can help get the team started on the ice as well."
Video: 1-ON-1 | P.K. Subban Pt. 1
Along with Subban, Bratt is excited to see this year's first overall draft pick Jack Hughes at training camp in September.
"First and foremost, he is a very good hockey player. We have never been on the same ice, but I have seen him a little at the U18 World Cup and in some highlights from the World Cup. There is talk of how good he is."
Like Jack Hughes, Nikita Gusev has not played a game in the NHL yet but Gusev has taken the KHL by storm. Gusev tallied 82 points in 62 games last season for SKA Saint Petersburg.
"He was awesome together with (Nikita) Kucherov at the World Cup. There are a lot of skills there."
Veteran forward Wayne Simmonds is another offseason pickup who Bratt believes will add to the Devils power play and bring more leadership to the locker room.
"He will play an important role, especially on the powerplay. He is one of those who has scored the most goals on guards and returns in the league. It will be important for us to bring in someone who can attract attention during a PP. We have been missing that since Brian Boyle went to Nashville. I have heard that he should be a really good leader too."
With all of those additions to the lineup, Bratt was asked if he thought that the Devils are the most improved team in the league this offseason.
"I think so. But there are many teams that have lifted themselves this summer. Dallas and the Rangers have brought in some really good players, for example. But as a whole, we have received fantastic additions."
And as if those offseason additions weren't enough, the Devils can hope to see Taylor Hall back and in healthy condition.
"Getting him back full and healthy from the start is super important. He has been the most important player for us during the two years I have played here. It seems his rehab has gone well, too," says Bratt.
Bratt himself had his fair share of injuries last season. He started the season on the IR and missed some games this summer at the IIHF World Cup Championship.
"It was most unlucky, nothing that I could have affected with preventive training. Everything feels good now and I have had a very good training summer where I have developed physically."
After two seasons in the NHL - and 68 points in 125 games - Bratt feels that he is ready to take his game to the next level.
"I know how the league works now and feel that I can take another step. Now you are no longer a junior but should be up there. I feel that I took a step last season, became more comfortable, took more responsibility and dared to challenge more. I want to continue developing this year."
With this season being the last year of Bratt's rookie contract, hockeysverige.se asked him if he feels added pressure because of it.
"No, so far there is nothing I can influence. My contract negotiation cannot start until January 1st because I was drafted late (sixth round). So I'll just go out and have fun, try to take it to the next level."
With files from hockeysverige.se's Uffe Bodin