The New Jersey Devils posted the best record in the Eastern Conference in 2012-13 before being bounced in the second round by the rival Putadelphia Flyers.
Expectations remain high for the Devils entering the 2013-14 season. Led by Hart Trophy finalist (NHL and HFNHL) John Tavares, the Devils are loaded on the top-two lines and on defense, although depth is a concern. Here is the projected lineup for the Devils:
Alexander Semin - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
Possibly the top line in the HFNHL in 2012-13 returns intact and is exptected to be even better this year. All three can pass and shoot and can handle the puck which makes this line very difficult to stop. Not the strongest in its own end, but with their puck skills they don't end up there very often.
Tomas Kopecky - Ryan Getzlaf - Tyler Seguin
A more balanced line, Getzlaf is an elite playmaker with size who uses it to his advantage. Seguin is pure skill. He is young and still developing, but he has great speed which he uses to his advantage. Kopecky, who can play all three forward positions, is excellent in his own end and can add 25+ goals as well.
Colin Greening - Jussi Jokinen - Maxim Lapierre
More of a two-way line, Jokinen can do everything well, but isn't great in any one area other than faceoffs. Greening brings size and defensive awareness along with some offensive ability. Lapierre plays a mean, physical game although he is probably better suited for a 4th line role.
Taylor Pyatt - Casey Cizikas - Radek Dvorak
Pyatt and Cizikas are physical players that will piss off opposing teams and amp up the Devils' fans. Cizikas is a rookie who is seen as an ideal third line center in a year or two. Radek Dvorak provides some offensive ability, but is mostly a stop-gap.
Shea Weber - Marc Edouard Valsic
Weber is simply one of the best in the game. The Norris Trophy finalist is a feared hitter who contributes on offense and is rarely out of position on defense. Vlasic is a beast in his own end. Not the biggest of players, but skates well and always knows where to be.
Marc Streit - Travis Hamonic
Streit is small and getting older, but still capable of putting up big numbers and plays a sound defensive game. Hamonic is pretty much the opposite, young, big, physical, won't put up a ton of points but won't give up many shots either.
Two of Jack Hillen / Nick Leddy / Mark Eaton
Hillen had a bit of a resurgence last year with the Capitals, playing well on both offense and defense. Nick Leddy is still learning the game, but you won't find many better skating defensemen. If only you could combine him with Mark Eaton, the veteran who is smart defensively and excels on the pk would be a top stay at home defenseman if only he had the wheels.
Mike Smith / Scott Clemmensen
Smith's numbers were a bit down last year, but over the past two seasons he has still been one of the better goaltenders in the league. Now with a long-term contract in a great system for goalies, Smith should be a very good netminder for a long time. Clemmensen provides a veteran backup, athough the team could also turn to rookie Kevin Poulin.
The Devils should be one of the top teams in the East. Expect the team to add forward depth and possibly another defenseman as the season wears on, but the team has the talent to compete right now.