For some reason, New Jersey Devils fans have a hard time staying in their lane. Granted, that lane is probably the Jersey Turnpike, which is understandable they’d want to get off to head to Pennsylvania. For hockey purposes, they love to compare their young stars to the Flyers youth, but more often than not it’s a losing battle.
Carter Hart vs Mackenzie Blackwood
Honestly, this one is a bit closer than I thought it’d be. Both goalies were recalled to the NHL on the same day, Hart just 30 minutes after Blackwood, and faced each other head-to-head at their respective nine-game mark. Blackwood picked up the W in that game, making 32 saves to Hart’s 23 in a Devils 3-2 win. It was the second time they faced off at the professional level, with Hart earning a 4-2 victory over Blackwood when the Phantoms clashed with the Binghamton Devils on 10/27/2018.
Since that meeting on January 12, 2019, they’ve posted similar career numbers. Hart has recorded 40 wins in 74 career games while posting a 2.59 goals against average and .915 save percentage. Blackwood, meanwhile, has 32 wins in 70 games with a 2.72 goals against average and .916 save percentage.
Hart truly shined for the first time during the 2020 playoffs when he recorded a 2.23 GAA and .926 SV% and two shutouts along with nine wins in 14 games. It was a proving ground for Hart, who has by-far the bigger spotlight on him of the pair. Both goalies are entering their sophomore season and with the projected schedule for the covid-shortened season the Flyers and Devils will probably see a lot of each other this year, so we’ll see which one gets the upper hand at season’s end.
Decision: Carter Hart
Pavel Zacha vs Ivan Provorov
With the benefit of hindsight, what were the Devils thinking? This comparison stems from the 2015 draft with the Devils selected forward Pavel Zacha sixth overall and the Flyers picked up Ivan Provorov at number seven. Since then, Zacha has taken up residency in the Devils’ third line and has scored 37 goals and 108 points in 266 games. Provorov, meanwhile, has quickly become the Flyers’ number one defenseman and has posted 43 goals and 133 points in 315 NHL games. Considering Mikko Rantanen, Matt Barzal, Thomas Chabot, Brock Boeser, among others were selected later in the first round, the Devils worked by not only the Flyers, but a half dozen other teams as well.
Decision: Ivan Provorov
Nico Hischier vs Nolan Patrick
The first and second overall picks of the 2017 draft haven’t really aged well. Nolan Patrick has been M.I.A. since the end of the 2018-19 season with a migraine disorder, meanwhile Hischier has been around, but not really blowing the doors off. He finished the pandemic-shortened season with only 36 points, though to be fair, that was good enough for third on the anemic Devils offense. So if we take the 2019-20 season off the table and just compare their first two seasons, it’s a much closer ballgame. Patrick has 145 games under his belt with 26 goals and 61 points and Hischier has 151 games played with 37 goals and 99 points. Hischier’s average TOI was much higher than Patrick’s as well, hovering around the 17 minute mark during his first two seasons comapred to Patrick’s 14:24.
Until Patrick returns and they can continue to launch a fair battle, it’s impossible to judge them evenly. Hischier is expected to take another step forward in his development this season as the Devils added a few pieced to help them try to be competitive. If Patrick can return and get his career back on track for the long-haul, let’s hope he can overtake Hischier soon enough.
Decision: Nico Hischier via No Contest
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: NJ.com/inquirer.com