Hey guys! Sven here with our stop in New Jersey for 31 in 31. Over the next month, I will be taking a look at each team’s players to watch out for going into the 2018-19 fantasy hockey season: The 31 in 31 daily segment. This analysis features everything from surefire studs, to sleepers, to prospects that may make an appearance at some point this season. Please let me know if you guys enjoy this type of material!  Reminder that the stat totals are from last season.

Forwards

Taylor Hall – 76GP 39-54-93. Reigning Hart Trophy winner and proven draft lottery specialist, Hall was able to lift the Devils into the playoffs despite having the first-overall pick the season prior. Though there is no question the Devils played over their heads last season, I am confident Hall will be able to have another monster year. There will be less of a proven supporting cast around him, but with young players maturing around him he may be able to help them through the Sophomore Slump. Hall is a no-brainer second-round pick.

Nico Hischier – 82GP 20-32-52. The 2017 first overall pick was able to put together a solid rookie season for the Devils. With little competition battling him for the #1C (meaning Taylor Hall will be on his line), I have a hard time thinking Hischier will have a Sophomore Slump. Though we have a small sample size, 50 points as his floor seems reasonable. I don’t think this Devils team will be in the playoff mix again this season, however that will not stop their top line from producing. Hischier will likely be available rounds 10-12 and though there is some risk involved, I think he will have a solid season.

Jesper Bratt – 74GP 13-22-35. A sixth-rounder in 2016, Bratt fast-tracked his way onto the Devils roster last season and put together a respectable rookie campaign. It is currently unclear to me where he will slide into the top-nine, but if his role is anywhere but first line wing I think he will suffer from the Sophomore Slump. He will almost certainly be available deep into your draft if you want to take a risk, but unless he is confirmed playing with Hischier and Hall I would hold off.

Marcus Johansson – 29GP 5-9-14. Johansson was only healthy for 29 games of last season, but was on pace for roughly 40 points if he played the full season. Likely headlining the Devils’ second line, he will look to have a bounce-back year and provide some consistent secondary scoring. With the development of younger players around him, Johansson will have to earn his spot in the top-six, however he is capable of putting up 50 points under the right conditions. This whole forward corps is a big question mark to me at the moment, so I would hold off on Johansson and look to stream if he is receiving big ice time.

Miles Wood – 76GP 19-13-32. Two seasons removed from his Boston College tenure, Miles Wood is slowly developing into a force on the left wing. Teams have either recognized his speed or gotten exposed by it, and with a respectable 30-point season in 2017-18, there is nowhere to go but up for Wood. At 22 years old he is still very young, and in my mind he has earned a permanent top-six role with the Devils. With plenty of upside and hopefully the ice time to let it shine, Wood is a potential late pick in deeper leagues that could break out. As an RFA he has yet to be signed by the Devils, and hopefully his party and the team are able to work something out.

Kyle Palmieri – 62GP 24-20-44. After two very impressive seasons with the Devils, Palmieri’s point totals regressed a bit last season due to appearing in 18 less games. That being said, Palmieri will still have a top-six spot and his chances of playing on the top line are looking pretty good. Though Bratt and maybe even Wood may challenge him for that spot, his experience and proven scoring make him the front runner, and his ESPN ranking reflects this (101). I am not expecting a breakout season from the 27-year-old, however 55-60 points seems to be a very realistic total for him.

Defence

Sami Vatanen – 72GP 4-28-32. After being traded last season from Anaheim, Vatanen stepped into the top-pair role in a very young defensive corps in New Jersey and put together a solid season. Though he hasn’t historically put up more than 40 points, he will be provided with plenty opportunity on New Jersey’s top pair and likely #2PP. He is a low-risk pick in deeper leagues that require more defencemen.

Will Butcher – 81GP 5-39-44. Aside from the month of February where he only had one assist in 13 games, Butcher had an amazing rookie season fresh out of the NCAA. Werenski had a similar rookie season out of college and regressed ten points, and I expect roughly the same for Butcher. This is not to say that he will never be a near-50-point producer, however I expect a decent hit due to the Sophomore Slump. He is a shoo in for #1PP but will likely continue to receive second-pair minutes. Ranked 189 by ESPN he is worth taking a look at later in your draft, but beware of the Sophomore Slump.

Goalie

Cory Schneider – 40GP 2.93GAA 907SV%. Schneider was lights out in his first few seasons with the Devils, however he has regressed over the last two seasons and took a seat behind Keith Kinkaid down the stretch and into the playoffs following an injury. He is currently recovering from hip surgery, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Devils are as careful about his return to the ice as possible as the 32-year-old has reportedly has this nagging injury since 2016-17. He will likely be the starter when healthy, however there will be plenty of other goalies available to draft before his name surfaces.

Keith Kinkaid – 41GP 2.77GAA 913SV%. Kinkaid was at times stellar for the Devils last season, and his 26 wins as a backup were pivotal in getting them into the second wildcard spot. He is likely to have the starting role at the beginning of the season, but I do not expect as large of a workload this season if Schneider is to stay healthy. That being said, Kinkaid’s performance last season certainly keeps him in my mind as a stream target if he can pick up where he left off.

Rookies/Prospects

Joey Anderson – NCAA: 36GP 11-16-27. After two seasons at Minnesota-Duluth, Anderson is likely the front-runner to crack the Devils’ roster this season. The 2016 third-rounder helped Team USA put on a show on home soil at the WJC, and will look to bring his tenacity and nose for the net to the next level. From what I have seen, he plays a simple game and is able to use his smarts to be in the right place at the right time. If he cracks the roster he will likely only receive bottom-six minutes out of the gate, and there are plenty other good rookies available.

Michael McLeod – OHL: 38GP 16-28-44. Despite an abbreviated fourth OHL season with Mississauga, McLeod was still able to put together a respectable season and will look to transition from major-junior to the Pros this season. Drafted 12th overall in 2016, it will likely be him or Anderson cracking the Devils roster; advantage to Anderson as he plays the wing. McLeod is a big-bodied centre with excellent vision and speed on the rush. Though he appears to have more offensive upside than Anderson, he will have to be able to play the wing as the Devils are pretty locked up down the middle with Hischier-Zajac-Zacha-Boyle.

Yegor Sharangovich – KHL: 47GP 4-8-12. Sharangovich not only catches my attention because he is the first Belarussian prospect I have looked at, but he is a 2018 fifth-rounder that the Devils have signed to play in the AHL already! This is partially due to the fact that he is already 20 years old, but it is still surprising. I know very little about this prospect aside from watching him at the WJC for Belarus, however he is a big-bodied centre that will likely take a few years to develop after transitioning from the KHL.

Blake Speers – AHL: 62GP 12-7-19. Now, I am a little biased on Speers having had the opportunity to watch him play live, thereby knowing what he is capable of. However, in his first season in the minors he stumbled out of the gate, registering just 19 points in 62 games. A third-round pick in 2015, Speers is best known for his puck skill and speed. Though he will likely need a big bounce-back year in the AHL to be looked at when injuries strike the big club, I am confident that he will find his game this season in Binghamton. After an impressive showing at the 2018 Prospects Challenge, he may even be in the conversation to crack the Devils roster.

Colby Sissons – WHL: 72GP 13-58-71. Sissons enjoyed a breakout year with Swift Current in the WHL last season, and was signed by the Devils to make the jump to the Pros. A PPG season as a defenceman is no joke, and the big-bodied Sissons skates smoothly and isn’t afraid to jump into the rush or let his shot fly from the point. It will be interesting to see if he blossoms into a pro defenceman after a promising season in the WHL.

Ty Smith – WHL: 69GP 14-59-73. Taken 17th overall in the 2018 draft shortly after the great crop of elite defencemen, Smith is a great skater that can certainly be put into that conversation down the road. I am not sure whether he will play in the AHL or head back to major-junior this season, however I am confident Smith can blossom into a great offensive defenceman. He will benefit from a big fish small pond season with Spokane in the WHL, but would also benefit from the competition in Binghamton. Either way, I will make sure to take in some games!