Summer Skate: New Jersey Devils

Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac will have to carry the Devils this season. Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Using the VUKOTA projection system of Hockey Prospectus, Insider is taking the temperature of key players on every NHL team, continuing with the New Jersey Devils. For a detailed explanation of Prospectus' proprietary GVT value metric, read more here.

Summer Skate -- New Jersey Devils

When looking back on the Stanley Cup winning Los Angeles Kings, it's popular to mention their improved performance over the latter portions of the regular season. But in fact, the Devils played even better. New Jersey flew under the radar despite putting up a better goal differential over both the second half of the season and final third of the season than the surging Kings.

That said, the postseason could have played out very differently for the Devils -- for instance, if they had lost their seven-game opening round series with Florida. Now, the bar may be set too high. Realistically, last season's fourth-place team in the Atlantic Division -- now without their best all-around player Zach Parise -- may well end up right in the same exact spot, maybe in or maybe out of the playoffs.

Trending up: C Travis Zajac
Last season: 1.2 GVT | VUKOTA projection: 4.7 GVT