In this week’s Q&A, Devils Analyst Ken Daneyko gives his take on what to expect from New Jersey in the second half and answers questions about Stefan Noesen, Miles Wood and Taylor Hall.
MSGNetworks.com: The Devils lost their final game of the first half to the Capitals, but one of the positives that came out of the game was the play of Stefan Noesen. Can you talk about his debut and his chances to stick with the team?
Daneyko: You want to impress your new teammates, coaching staff and management right away [when you join a new team]. Noesen certainly did that with a real nice goal on a beautiful feed from Pavel Zacha. [Zacha’s play] was another positive for me. Pavel Zacha, with healthy scratches, is having an up-and-down season, which is what you’d expect from a 19-year-old. He’s really come on for me and you can see his confidence growing. He made a real nice play to Noesen.
It’s not easy to put one by Braden Holtby in tight, so for Noesen to show the poise to go upstairs with the shot on Holtby — one of the elite goalies in the NHL — was impressive. It was a good start for him. You just hope there’s some consistency and hope that he’s a piece of the puzzle because he’s getting an opportunity in an organization that picked him up. He looked good for his first game with the organization with a real nice goal.
MSGNetworks.com: Speaking of young players, Miles Wood has come into his own in the last few weeks. What do you think of his development and how does his speed put pressure on opposing defenders?
Daneyko: For anybody that plays against him, you just have to be aware of him. A lot of teams didn’t really know who Miles Wood was. We’ve seen him get at least a half-dozen clear-cut breakaways, catching defensemen by surprise because he’s a rookie in the league. You don’t realize the blazing speed that he has. [His speed] is what [hockey] is all about right now.
Wood has brought an excitement, something for the fans to really look forward to in the future. He’s trying to find his way in the National Hockey League with consistency, night-in and night-out, like any young player. That’s what it’s about to be a young player; to not only show flashes, but to be a big part moving forward as well. I think he will because he brings so many elements.
He’s big, he’s got great size, he’s strong, he’ll battle, and he’ll drop the mitts every once in a while when he has to. His blazing speed, it’s fun to watch when you call a game! Now, all of a sudden, you got guys like Taylor Hall, like Miles Wood. It’s guys you build around with speed and it makes the Devils that much more dangerous. It’s very difficult for defensemen to contain.
MSGNetworks.com: You mentioned Taylor Hall. He’s going to the All-Star Game for the first time as a Devil. What are your impressions of his first half with New Jersey? Has he been everything as advertised since coming over from Edmonton?
Daneyko: For me, yes! He’s going to get better and better. I think there’s been an adjustment for him. You see so many top players traded. It’s a shock to their system. The moment it happens, you’re set back. It takes some time to get accustomed with your new organization no matter who you are. It’s not easy for any player to get up and leave. He was such a popular player in Edmonton, he was the No. 1 overall pick. You have to factor all those things in.
Coming here to New Jersey, he was dynamic early, scored some big overtime winners and a couple of highlight-reel goals.
He’s a bona fide star, a guy that’s a game-changer. You’ve got to be ready for a pass because he’s an excellent passer who thinks quickly. As the Devils continue to build towards the future, Taylor Hall is a type of player you need to build around. I think he’s the biggest piece moving forward for this Devils team. He’s going to have a terrific rest of the season. He makes players around him better.
MSGNetworks.com: Looking ahead to the second half, what can we expect from the team? Could we see the Devils make a move at the trade deadline?
Daneyko: I’d love to be a fly on the wall in general manager Ray Shero‘s office. I think Ray has done a real good job retooling this team. They’re deeper down in Albany, there are more assets. He drafted well last year — Mikey McLeod, the No. 1 overall pick [for the Devils] last year will be part of the future, he’s another guy with great speed.
So it’ll be interesting and there are a lot of home games here. Players like to think they can go on that run. I think [the All-Star] break is good for them to regroup and reset. Let’s see if they can get on a little run at home.
They have to get that home-ice advantage like they had early in the season, and get that feeling and confidence. Let’s see what happens. I have real high hopes for this team in the future. I know it gets real frustrating sometimes, but they’re getting closer and they’re not that far away.