Tonight, the 3-0 Toronto Maple Leafs welcome the 2-0 New Jersey Devils to the Air Canada Centre for an early season tilt.
The Devils are hungry for their third straight win to open up the regular season. In order for the Toronto maple Leafs to beat the Devils, Mike Babcock needs to game-plan for Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier.
Let’s take a look at Hall first.
In his childhood, Hall played bantam and minor midget hockey for the Greater Kingston Pedrators. Scouts saw great talent in Hall’s game and he was selected second overall in the OHL entry draft by the Windsor Spitfires.
Hall had quite a stint in junior hockey. He helped the Windsor Spitfires to win back to back Memorials Cup in 2009 and 2010.
He was selected number one overall in 2010 NHL entry draft by the Edmonton Oilers. In six season with Edmonton, Hall tallied 298 points. Hall played on the top line alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle. He is one of the NHL’s best players, when healthy.
Enter Peter Chiarelli
Peter Chiarelli, Edmonton’s General Manager took over the reins in April of 2015.
Chiarelli isn’t a huge fan of young talent and had made some very questionable trades in his past with the Boston Bruins. He was responsible for trading Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars after he claimed Seguin wasn’t mature enough to be a Bruin.
Shortly after Chiarelli joined Edmonton, he dealt Hall to the Devils in the most lop-sided trade in recent NHL history. The Oilers received Adam Larsson from the Devils.
I understand that Chiarelli felt that Edmonton struggled on defense and had a week top 4, but, trading Hall surely wasn’t worth it. Edmonton’s winger depth now is atrocious. Milan Lucic is past his prime, Patrick Maroon is inconsistent, and the Oilers’ prospects, Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi are still developing. The only elite winger the Oilers have right now in their top six is Leon Draisaitl, and he should be a centre.
The Oilers could use Hall right about now especially as they are looking at making a run for the Stanley Cup this season.
Welcome to the Garden State
Last season was Hall’s first in the Garden State. Hall had a decent season, but missed a few games early on with a torn meniscus. Hall was still able to provide the Devils with strong offensive play last year and tallied 20 goals and 33 assists.
To begin the 2017-18 season, Hall has three assists in two games. Hall is keen on getting the puck past Frederik Andersen tomorrow to notch his first goal of the campaign.
I am more concerned about Hischier than Hall.
Hischier hails from Naters, Switzerland and played for the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads last year.
Hischier had an impressive season in Halifax, totaling 38 goals and 48 assists in 57 games.
The Devils selected Hischier number one overall in the 2017 entry draft and Hischier is already making a strong impact in the Garden State. In his first two games with the Devils, he has an impressive corsi-for percentage of 59.1 and fenwick-for percentage of 58.8.
Hischier is being paired with Marcus Johansson, who had a career high in goals last season with the Washington Capitals. With Johansson at his side, Hischier has the potential to have a very strong offensive season.
As long as the Leafs game plan involves shutting down Hall and Hischier, they should feast upon the Devils tonight.
My prediction for tonight’s game is that the Leafs will continue their winning streak and will defeat the Devils 5-2.
Until the Devils decide to pair, Hall, Hischier and Johansson. The Devils will fail to produce stellar offensive hockey.
Yes Devils’ fans may argue, that they have been doing quite well to open up the season. But, the Devils haven’t faced tough teams yet. They beat the Colorado Avalanche and the Sabres. Both teams who are destined to be golfing in mid-April.
I do believe that the Devils will have strong offensive seasons in the next five years. But, they need to add a few more pieces to their offense in order to really have a strong season and go far into the playoffs.