Using the VUKOTA projection system of Hockey Prospectus, Insider takes the temperature of key players on every NHL team, continuing with New Jersey. For a detailed explanation of Prospectus' proprietary GVT value metric, read more here.
Summer Skate -- New Jersey Devils
An anemic offense. A more-or-less season-ending injury to its young star player, Zach Parise. A first-year coach fired before Christmas. Salary cap constrictions all season long.
Safe to say the Devils' season did not go the way they envisioned when they inked mega-free agent Ilya Kovalchuk to his massive -- and drama plagued -- contract last summer. So the question now becomes whether the team can right itself this season and meets its top-of-the-conference expectations.
Trending up: LW Ilya Kovalchuk
Last season: 8.8 GVT | VUKOTA projection: 10.7 GVT
Kovalchuk still gets a bad rap for being a prima donna and for not working hard, but this appears to be more media trope than truth about the former Thrashers' captain, and it certainly doesn't seem to be his teammates' opinion of him.
That said, management, teammates, media and fans alike are first and foremost looking for the Russian Olympian to score, and he certainly can improve on what he has done thus far with New Jersey.