The New Jersey Devils are off to one of the best starts in franchise history. After sweeping their road trip in Western Canada, they are 9-3-0. As of this writing, the Devils sit atop the Metropolitan Division. After the Carolina Hurricanes lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night, the Devils led the division in all metrics (points and point percentage).
It’s a crazy start to the season. After losing the first two games of the season, it looked like it would just be another Devils season. Then the Devils won nine of their next ten games. Lindy Ruff moved on from hearing “fire Lindy” at home to save her job. Ruff has done a good job of righting this ship, but it depends on the players. They are the reason the Devils have won nine of their first 12 games. They are the reason analytics are off the charts.
A few players make a real difference on the ice. Some players have been waiting a long time to see something like this. Others are new to the franchise. The Devils wouldn’t be in this position without those five players.
5. Jack Hughes
It seems crazy that the Devils franchise player is only the fifth most important player in a 9-3 start. This is the situation of this team. Jack Hughes was good, don’t get me wrong, but he wasn’t, like, that world-conquering superstar that he was in the past.
Hughes has 12 points in 12 games. He’s literally a points-per-game player, and fans still say Hughes hasn’t hit his ceiling. It’s mainly because we saw Hughes in his prime, and this isn’t it. Hughes is eighth on the team in CorsiFor Percentage, fourth in first assists and fourth in goals (all stats via Natural Stat Trick). He’s been good even in his counter stats, but his underlying stats are even better.
Hughes is the first of the team in individual xG. He’s also second in the team for individual high-risk chances with 22. Only Nico Hischier has more. While he may not be the team’s most important player as most would expect him to be, Hughes is still incredibly important to the Devils’ departure.