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Which Devils should you draft for your fantasy team?

by Staff Writer / New Jersey Devils

NHL.com's fantasy hockey staff is breaking down each team's fantasy landscape. From most valuable assets to underrated options, impact prospects and more, this guide should help fantasy owners prioritize players for drafts.

Starting at the top: Taylor Hall, C/LW

New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider figures to finish among the top five at his position, but Hall is the more intriguing player heading into this season. The Devils haven't had a forward of Hall's caliber since Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. One player has scored more than 60 points in a full season for the Devils since 2011-12 (Jaromir Jagr, 67, in 2013-14), but Hall should have no problem eclipsing that number. The 24-year-old forward fits coach John Hynes' attacking style perfectly and will have no trouble meshing with the Devils' ninth-ranked power play. Chances are Hall will play with former junior teammate Adam Henrique on New Jersey's top line, which could ease his transition. Hall led the Edmonton Oilers with 65 points (26 goals, 39 assists) and had an NHL career high 286 shots on goal in 82 games last season. Duplicating those numbers with the Devils won't be hard, and Hall's new home could boost him into a top 20 finish among forwards.

Undervalued: Andy Greene, D

The Devils defense is very thin with Adam Larsson gone, but somebody has to pick up points from the blue line. The most likely candidate is the Devils captain, Greene, who isn't known for his offense but is very capable. Greene's best two seasons came in 2009-10 and 2013-14, when he had 37 and 32 points, respectively. That production was a proponent of Greene's time on the power play, something that has diminished over the years but could return this season with no other defenseman better suited for the job. The Devils offense should drastically improve, and their power play was already potent, so Greene has a realistic shot at 30 or more points. The veteran likely will go undrafted in a standard league but is definitely worth selecting with a late-round draft pick with clear potential to finish among the top 75 defensemen.

Overvalued: Kyle Palmieri, LW/RW

Nobody expected Palmieri to make such a big improvement in his first season with the Devils. The Montvale, N.J., native set NHL career highs in nearly every major offensive category last season: goals (30), assists (27), points (57), SOG (222) and power-play points (23). He also played a career high 82 regular-season games with an average ice time per game of 17:48. Palmieri finished among the top 50 forwards (No. 47) after being drafted on average at pick No. 154. You won't be able to land Palmieri that late in a standard draft this time around, and it will be hard for him to top the numbers he had last season, particularly his 23 PPP, one shy of matching big names Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Tyler Seguin. Hall's presence should eat into Palmieri's time on the power play and overall production.

Sleeper: Devante Smith-Pelly, RW

After having 12 points through 46 games with the Montreal Canadiens, Smith-Pelly finished last season strong after being acquired by the Devils, with eight goals and five assists (13 points) in 18 games. He played well skating with Henrique on the top line and could join him and Hall to start this season, which would boost his fantasy value considerably. Smith-Pelly's category coverage will be strong; he had 30 PIMs, 94 SOG and 105 hits in 64 games last season. It's hard to justify selecting Smith-Pelly in a standard 10-team draft, but he's worth a flier in deep formats with his potential to land in the Devils' top six. He has the potential to score 20 goals and finish among the top 150 fantasy forwards.

Bounce-back: Travis Zajac, C

It may be difficult for Zajac, 31, to turn back the clock to 2009-10, when he had a career high 25 goals and 67 points. But the two-way center certainly can become fantasy relevant again if the Devils offense improves, which is likely with the addition of Hall and some injection of youth. Zajac had his best seasons centering elite wings Parise and Patrik Elias, and though most believe Hall will be centered by Henrique, it shouldn't surprise anyone if Zajac and Hall started the season on New Jersey's first line with Palmieri potentially at right wing. A staple on New Jersey's surprising PP, 17 (six goals, 11 assists) of Zajac's 42 points last season came with the man-advantage. If he can maintain that power-play production and pick up more assists centering two proven goal-scorers, Zajac has a shot to return to the 50-60 point range. He's another Devils player who likely won't be drafted in standard 10- or 12-team leagues but is worth monitoring early in the season.

Impact prospect: Pavel Zacha, C

The Devils prized forward got fans excited in his NHL debut with two assists and a plus-4 rating in 16:51 in the last game of the regular season. Zacha, 19, also looked good in his brief stint in the American Hockey League with six points in eight games (three regular season, five playoffs). He had 64 points (28 goals, 36 assists) with 97 PIMs in 51 games for Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League and is viewed as a skilled forward who can play in all situations. Zacha appears to be NHL-ready but will have to earn his place on the Devils roster in training camp. His future is likely in New Jersey's top six, but a spot on the third line seems more likely this season. Zacha could see time on the power play, and a 40-point rookie season doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility.

Goalie outlook

Schneider has been one of the most consistent fantasy goalies since joining the Devils before the 2013-14 season. He never has had a save percentage lower than .920 in a season when he has played 20 or more games, and boasts a career goals-against average of 2.16 in 270 NHL games. The 30-year-old is in the midst of his prime and is coming off a career high 27 wins, a category that has been the only thing holding him back from becoming a top-five fantasy goalie. An improved offense should help the Devils win more games this season, which should lift Schneider to at least 30 victories given his projected heavy workload. If you believe New Jersey has what it takes to get Schneider to 35 wins, he's worth reaching for in standard and deeper leagues. Keith Kinkaid or Scott Wedgewood will be the backup, but neither is anything more than a handcuff in fantasy.

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