Devils preview: Rankings, predictions, playoff chances and more

Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy after an epic 2017-18 season. He'll need some help this season for the Devils to keep trending upwards. Adam Hunger/Getty Images

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios and more.

The New Jersey Devils were one of the surprise playoff teams in 2017-18. Can they take another big step forward this season?

How they finished in 2017-18: 44-29-9 (97 points), Finished 15th in NHL, 4th in Metropolitan Division.

These overachievers benefited from Taylor Hall producing one of the unlikeliest MVP seasons ever -- across all sports. Defensive woes knocked them out of the playoffs in the first round.

Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 91.5

Best-case scenario: Either Cory Schneider or Keith Kinkaid assert themselves as a dependable starter, and Taylor Hall proves that 90 points are now his norm.

Worst-case scenario: If there's any hint Taylor Hall isn't ready to sign a long-term extension in July.

Forwards overview: A young, plucky group similar to last season -- but at least they have an extra year of experience. Besides Hall, few players have a chance to be elite in 2018-19, though we also discounted this group last season and they made the playoffs. NHL rank: 19th

Defense overview: One of the weakest groups in the NHL. They made no upgrades to this group via free agency, and the results of that may be tangible. NHL rank: 26th

Goalie overview: Cory Schneider missed the preseason as he rehabs from surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left hip. Keith Kinkaid overdelivered last season as a fill-in, but the truth is he's a career backup and may return to form in extended action. NHL rank: 25th

Special teams: The penalty kill and power play ranked 7th and 10th in the league, respectively. Look for Will Butcher to continue to develop as a true power-play quarterback.

Pipeline overview: Landing skilled defenseman Ty Smith in the 2019 draft helps bolster a prospect pool that was diminished by early graduations of Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt. Otherwise, the Devils' system is a bit on the shallower side with former first-rounder Michael McLeod still needing to take a bigger step forward to reach the higher expectations placed on him. Read more -- Chris Peters

Fantasy nugget: Last season's 52 points got Hischier's feet wet as a rookie, but expectations will be much higher for his encore. Hischier scored 23 points in 34 games after the All-Star break and showed some late-season chemistry with Hall that should bleed into a prime opportunity to start this season as the team's No. 1 center. The 70-point threshold should be in the conversation with a talent like Hall at his side. Read more -- Sean Allen

Coach on the hot seat? If it were a non-expansion year (i.e. if the Vegas Golden Knights didn't go on a magical run) John Hynes would have received more love for the Jack Adams. He earned a lot of good will after a terrific job last season.

Bold prediction: Neither Schneider nor Kincaid can hold the starting job, forcing Ray Shero to look for outside options by the trade deadline to keep his team afloat. Trading within the division for a No. 1 goaltender is crazy, but since we're being bold: How would one Sergei Bobrovsky look in red and white?