Don’t look now but the New Jersey Devils have a bright future and that future is happening now.
Granted it is only two preseason games and just the start of training camp but the Devils rookies are showing they do not want to make an impact in a year or two but now. That is how competitive Devils training camp has been this season under head coach Lindy Ruff. With nothing guaranteed in the league, two youngsters are planting their flags to make sure management takes notice. Those players are Dawson Mercer and Alexander Holtz.
Again it is only the preseason, but showing you can play on the NHL level is important. It does not hurt that Mercer and Holtz are recording points and scoring goals as it helps in the overall player evaluation. Since the Devils are tracking to become a younger team, having those guys make an impact now, sure makes the coaching staff take notice.
“I really liked the way the kids played,” Devils head coach Lindy Ruff said post-game. “They competed hard. Obviously, both guys scored a goal and they played important roles inside the game and it’s good to see because you know those guys are going to be the future of this team.”
Ideally, the best track for Holtz and Mercer is to go through the American Hockey League first and play for the Utica Devils for a year. However, if both continue to saw promise throughout the pre-season you would think the Devils will want to give them at least a nine-game look. And maybe even more. The Devils have not had this much talent in the farm system in a long time. Having the ability to draft and develop the kids the right way will get the Devils back on track to being a consistent playoff team for years to come.
There is a reason why the Detroit Red Wings were successful for so many years. Even when the players thought they were ready for the bright lights of the NHL, management wanted them to develop for another year. A similar thing is going on in New Jersey. If both go down to the AHL it is not the worst thing in the world because they could see time later on in the season. But if not, both Holtz and Mercer are ready to make a consistent impact next year.
Confidence is oozing off of both of these players. And why not. Both Holtz and Mercer have played well since arriving in New Jersey. During the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, Holtz and Mercer played on a line with Nolan Foote. Though they were held scoreless in the first game, you could see things percolating. Holtz was firing shots from everywhere on the ice. Mercer and Holtz looked like they had been playing for years together. The result of the hard work was a seven-point night in Game 2. That translated into the preseason. Both scored goals against the Washington Capitals.
Both players are taking one day at a time as they know nothing is given considering the talent at training camp. But any time these players are in the lineup they will make sure to make an impact either by scoring a big goal or just playing the game the right way to help the team. You can see the talent both players have. And with the needs the Devils have at the third line center position and a scoring winger, Mercer and Holtz fit the bill.
It will be interesting to see how things play out throughout the rest of camp. While the New Jersey Devils future is a year or two away from taking the next step, it is hard not to get excited for what the Devils are building and how the future is so close to becoming a reality.