How Blake Coleman went from roster surprise to integral player for Devils

Blake Coleman’s inclusion on the Devils’ opening-night roster caught some people by surprise.By the end of 2017-18, it became hard to picture the Devils’ penalty kill or best defensive line without him.Over the course of his first full NHL season, Coleman became one of the Devils’ top identity players, between his speed, physicality and endless drive.That led to a lot of early-season scoring chances that didn’t find the back of the net. However, he found his scoring touch down the stretch with seven goals coming between March 6 and the end of the season.”It’s the law of averages, right? Shoot enough pucks and something’s got to go in,” Coleman said. “I think I learned a lot. Maybe at other levels, college, the American League, you score on a few shots you can’t score on in this league. And you just learn that poise and goalies’ tendencies a little bit. I think you start to capitalize more frequently. If I get the amount of opportunities I did this year, I’ll be in good shape for next season.”Devils prospects updateColeman finished his rookie season with 13 goals and 12 assists, but his biggest contributions came on the defensive side of the puck. Along with his penalty killing — a big reason he made the roster in the first place — Coleman found a role on the Devils’ shutdown defensive line alongside Travis Zajac and Stefan Noesen.Over the final two months of the season and into the postseason, the trio routinely matched up against the top lines of opponents, and coach John Hynes pointed to Coleman as one of the Devils’ surprises who kept progressing throughout the season.”If you look at what he did last year and then what he was on a team that was able to find a way to make it to the playoffs,” Hynes said,” Blake was a guy that just continuing throughout the year to make a positive impact on the team.”Embracing that role made the season even more fun for Coleman, and some success doing it helped, too.