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Fantasy Puck Preview: New Jersey Devils

Scott Cullen
9/23/2009 8:06:09 AM
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After a first-round playoff exit last season, the New Jersey Devils have a different approach this season, with Jacques Lemaire returning behind the bench, an approach that should tighten up the defensive scheme; old-time Devils hockey.

High-scoring Devils forward Zach Parise had a breakthrough season in 2008-2009, scoring 45 goals, 94 points and recording a plus-30 rating. If the Devils tighten up defensively, that could affect Parise's production, but he'll still be New Jersey's franchise scorer.

Veteran Patrik Elias has been a consistent performer for years, scoring at least 55 points in eight of the last nine seasons, with last year's 78 points representing the third-highest total of his career. Recovering from a groin injury, Elias will miss the start of the season, but should be productive again once he's healthy.

Few, if any, Devils ought to appreciate Lemaire's arrival more than Brian Rolston, who had three straight seasons with at least 30 goals for Lemaire in Minnesota. After managing 32 points in 64 games in his first season with the Devils, Rolston would figure to be a prime candidate for a comeback season.

Playing with Parise provides strong complementary value for both promising young centre Travis Zajac and captain Jamie Langenbrunner.

Zajac had a breakout season in 2008-2009, tallying 62 points and adding a plus-33, one of the best marks in the league. It may be asking a lot for the 24-year-old to match those numbers, but as long as he's playing with Parise, he should be productive.

34-year-old Langenbrunner is coming off a career-best season in which he finished with 69 points and a plus-25 rating, both high-water marks for his 12-plus seasons in the NHL.

Seemingly miscast in his first two seasons with the Devils, perhaps Dainius Zubrus will be a better fit under the new regime. He had scored a career-high 60 points before signing with New Jersey as a free agent and, despite playing every game for two seasons, has managed just 78 points.

For those in leagues that reward penalty minutes, David Clarkson is a promising young winger, who scores and scraps enough to have value, putting up 58 points and 347 penalty minutes through his first two seasons. 

Defence hasn't been a strong fantasy position for the Devils in recent seasons, with Paul Martin the best of the bunch. Back-to-back seasons with at least 30 points and a plus-20 rating is respectable enough, but there's not quite enough offence or enough penalty minutes to make him useful in anything but the deepest leagues.

Johnny Oduya provides similar statistical production, just not quite as much offence, so he's more apt to be a short-term roster fill-in than a player to be targeted on draft day.

A possible sleeper on the Devils blueline is Cory Murphy, the undersized point man who could get power play time. Murphy has 33 points (22 on the power play) in 79 career games, but hasn't been able to get established as a regular and that may prove challenging for him once again.

In goal, the Devils have the consistency of Martin Brodeur which, when combined with Lemaire's defensive focus, should mean another strong season for Brodeur. Prior to last year's injury, 37-year-old Brodeur had played at least 70 games in ten straight seasons; expect more of the same this year.

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