The New Jersey Devils drafted the number one rated international skater, defenseman Adam Larsson, with the fourth overall pick in yesterday’s NHL Entry Draft.
The organization filled one of their biggest needs with a very talented prospect. He joins an impressive list of young blueline prospects that will form the defensive corps for years to come. But many of those players remain two to three years away from making the NHL. With the lack of offensive talent on the Devils’ blueline, one question remains – can Larsson make an immediate impact on the NHL level?
Many believe Larsson is the most NHL ready defenseman. The 18-year old began playing for Skelleftea of the Swedish Elite League two years ago, becoming the third 16-year old to break into the league. He finished the season with one goal, eight assists and a plus-12 rating. Don’t let those low offensive numbers fool you – Larsson posses some serious offensive potential. Skelleftea used him primarily in a defensive role last season, limiting his production.
Playing against men for two seasons prepared him for the physicality of the NHL. He still needs to add strength, like most other young players. Devils’ president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said he’ll have every opportunity to make the team this season.
“We’ll have an opportunity to see him in the summer camp and training camp,” Lamoriello told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “All of that will determine it. He’s played two years in the elite league, so it’s not out of the question that he can do that.”
The Devils need immediate offensive help along the blueline. Last year, all defenseman who dressed for at least one game combined to record 88 points. Andy Greene led all defenseman with 23 points as the top offensive threat. That’s a pretty putrid number. New Jersey hasn’t had solid offense from a defenseman since Scott Niedermayer left. It’s a hole they’ve failed to fill year after year. Larsson could potentially be the answer to their never-ending problem.
“Larsson is going to be a top offensive defenseman,” New York Rangers Director of Player Personnel Gordie Clark told Gulitti. “If a team feels that their priority is an offensive power-play D, if he goes one, it’s not a problem with me.”
The problems come with his experience. Like Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson, he needs to gain some experience on North American rinks. Both spent time in the AHL last season, learning how to adjust to the rink and playing style. Both came up and found success later in the season.
There’s no denying Larsson’s potential impact. Right now, he seems like one of the best options for offense along the blueline. His performance in both the prospect and training camp will ultimately decide his fate. He should play in the organization next season, and may see some NHL time.
The New Jersey Devils stockpiled impressive depth up the middle. The team’s brimming with talent, and many players are ready to take the next step to the NHL.
Travis Zajac leads the brigade, firmly entrenched as the team’s top center. Patrik Elias, a converted left-winger, seems destined to finish his career as the team’s number two center. Jacob Josefson‘s solid rookie debut will undoubtedly lead to a roster spot next season. Rod Pelley will look to fend off Adam Henrique, Tim Sestito, and others for a spot on the roster.
That talent flows right down into Albany. Seven of Albany’s top ten scorers were centerman, an astounding number that shows the true talent in the position. Most won’t develop into first line scorers. But the depth is pretty amazing, and should provide the team with solid players for the future.
Albany Devils (AHL)
Matt Anderson – 76 GP, 55 points (23 G, 32 A), minus-3 rating
Anderson was an All-Star this season, netting a goal in the midseason showcase. He led all centers in every significant category despite never playing with a consistent line. In his three AHL seasons, Anderson improved his performance, posting a career high in points last season. Henrique will get the call first, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Anderson get a look in the prospect camp this summer.
Adam Henrique – 73 GP, 50 points (25 G, 25 A), minus-3 rating
Henrique had one hell of a rookie season. While his 50 points aren’t overly impressive, he managed to produce offensively without a consistent line combination. His 25 goals are a rookie record. He shifted to left-wing for the second half of the season, which probably helped his numbers. His 50 points put him sixth among rookie scorers. He won’t need any more time in the AHL and should compete for a spot next season.
Steve Zalewksi – 81 GP, 44 points (15 G, 29 A), minus-8 rating
Zalewski came to the Devils organization in a February trade, where he found his game. He posted 11 goals and 17 assists in 31 games after the trade. He’s had a taste of the NHL, playing three games with the San Jose Sharks last season. He’s had AHL success, but never found a foothold. He seems destined to be AHL fodder who may get a few games here and there.
Stephen Gionta – 54 GP, 30 points (10 G, 20 A), plus-7 rating
Gionta gained fame for playing against his older brother, Brian, this season. Other than that, he didn’t do much with his NHL callup. He found some success in the AHL, collecting 30 points. He’ll never be a scorer and probably wouldn’t move past the fourth line on the NHL level. He provides good depth but isn’t the first choice for a roster spot next season.
Brad Mills – 53 GP, 24 points (15 G, 9 A), minus-2 rating
Mills made his NHL debut this season, scoring a game-winning goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in November. He’s a decent centerman, but nothing to write home about. His 24 points ranked pretty low, which is odd considering he anchored the team’s top line. Like Gionta, he’s a depth player at this point.
The New Jersey Devils forward strength seems focused on one position: left wing. On the NHL roster, the position runs three deep, with Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and converted center Patrik Elias. Rookies like Mattias Tedenby will only strengthen that position in the future.
The one position where the team lacks depth is right wing. David Clarkson represents the team’s only veteran right-winger, and his offensive potential is limited. Nick Palmieri showed a ton of promise this year, but his offensive success was helped by playing on the first line.
While Albany does a fantastic job of breaking down the forwards by position, the Trenton Devils do not. Since all the forwards are clumped together on the website, this will be a review of all the forwards. Some seem good enough to take the leap, and others seem destined to be ECHL-lifers.
And here we go:
Ryan Ginand – 68 GP, 75 points (29 G, 46 A), plus-1 rating
Ginand was one of the few standouts on the Trenton Devils this season. He was the team’s lone All-Star representative, leading them in every offensive category. He also fired 402 shots on net, the second most in ECHL history. Ginand enjoyed a brief callup to Albany this season, and should find a permanent spot on their roster next year. His offensive skill seems promising, and he could be a can’t miss prospect for the organization.
Ryan Hayes – 63 games, 50 points (23 G, 27 A), 0 rating
Hayes is right behind Ginand in terms of offensive potential. In his first professional season, the forward recorded 50 points, good for second on the team. His transition from the Plymouth Whalers of the CHL (where he played with Tyler Seguin) went better than expected. He’s also big into humanitarian work, which is a plus for any professional athlete. Hopefully he’ll play in the Devils prospect camp this summer so we can get an extended look at him.
Jeff Prough – 48 games, 42 points (25 G, 17 A), minus-13 rating
Prough suffered through some minor injuries this season, playing just 48 games. He still produced 0.88 points per game, which is pretty solid. He’s been with the Trenton Devils for three seasons, so he’s reaching the limits of potential flameout. He twice recorded 30 goals and 60 points, so he’s shown he can produce. Hopefully he gets a shot to move up the organization’s ladder next season.
Matt Lombardi – 66 GP, 33 points (20 G, 13 A), minus-10 rating
Like Hayes, Lombardi made his Trenton debut this season, playing in 66 games. There was no shortage of offense on this team, and Lombardi was the fourth forward to record at least 20 goals. He came from Boston College, working his way from walk-on to assistant captain of two national champions. It was a solid debut season.
Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. Many of those breakdowns revolved around individual player performances. We broke down all players who skated in at least 40 games, because they contributed to over half the games (and outcomes) this season. In the next few days, we’ll look at “The Best of the Rest,” breaking down other players who skated in less than 40 games. Today, we’ll look at the remaining offensive players.
Throughout the course of a season, teams will count on players to fill in games. The New Jersey Devils were no different. Nine different offensive players skated in less than half of the Devils’ games this season. Some were fourth-liner fill ins, and others were rookies who couldn’t find a consistent spot. One was even a team’s cornerstone who missed significant time due to injury.
We’ll take a look at all of them, in order of games played. And here we go:
Vladimir Zharkov – 38 GP, 4 points (2 G, 2 A)
After playing 40 games last season with New Jersey, Zharkov once again got his opportunity in the NHL this season. He spent most of his time playing on the third and fourth lines. He almost exclusively played during even strength situations, pulling down a minus-0.59 rating. He only helped produce eight goals this season, and the team’s offensive numbers improved with him off the ice. He provided little value, recording a minus-0.2 GVT.
I believe the numbers unnecessarily belittle Vharkov’s effort. We finally saw some offense, as Zharkov managed to score his first two NHL goals. He’ll never be a big scorer, but I believe he’ll hang around as a solid third or fourth line player.
Tim Sestito – 36 GP, 2 Points (2 A)
Sestito helped fill the fourth-line center role early this season. The seven-year pro filled in well, but couldn’t really contribute offensively. He helped produce just three goals, assisting on two of them. The team expectedly played much better offensively with him off the ice. He didn’t really help much defensively either, with the shots against per 60 improving with him on the bench.
Predictably, Sestito didn’t finish with a positive GVT. His minus-1.3 rating ranked him in the bottom three of all players. He could probably be replaced by a rookie next year, and the organization may go that way. His cap hit wasn’t large this season (just $500,000), so he could also be brought back on a low cost, one-year deal.
Jacob Josefson – 28 GP, 10 Points (3 G, 7 A)
Josefson entered the pre-season as one of the most talked about rookies in camp. Everyone knew the organization would closely watch the development of their young Swede. After watching him this season, they can only be excited about his future in a Devils sweater.
Josefson recorded a plus-1.42 rating, fourth-highest among all skaters. He helped create offense (2.08 goals for per 60 on-ice) and prevent it (1.31 goals against per 60 on-ice). Those numbers both worsened when he was on the bench. Surprisingly, the GVT ratings put him at a minus-0.3. It’s not terrible, but it shows an area he must improve.
Josefson earned high praise from Jacques Lemaire, who doesn’t easily praise rookies. Look for him to stay in the lineup next season and keep developing into a solid center.
Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. We’ll cover the big team stories, but also offer a breakdown of individual player performances. In today’s review, we focus on Nick Palmieri.
Heading into the 2010-2011 regular season, Nick Palmieri found himself a mere name among the New Jersey Devils’ prospects. The rookie right-winger, who played in six regular season games during the 2009-10 campaign, found himself buried underneath new rookie faces like Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson. Being overlooked wasn’t a surprise, as Palmieri managed just one assist in that brief stint with the Devils. But he totalled 36 points, including 21 goals, with the Lowell Devils. The organization knew the talent was there, and Palmieri rewarded them for their trust.
Palmieri’s presence helped fill a major hole on the team’s first line. After the trade of Jamie Langenbrunner, New Jersey needed a right-winger to move up to the top spot. In came Palmieri, who developed chemistry quickly with Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk. He scored the “dirty goals,” crashing the net and battling for pucks in the corners. He collected 17 points in 43 games, becoming an important piece of the team’s offense. Like rookie counterpart Mark Fayne, Palmieri exceeded expectations last season, helping stabilize the top line and providing solid secondary scoring.
Palmieri At Even Strength
Palmieri helped generate offense on the ice, outproducing several veteran players. After his call-up on December 30, the rookie right-winger averaged 14:19 of ice time. He made the most of his limited opportunities, compiling a plus-0.40 rating. Surprisingly, he finished in the green despite his quality of teammates (minus-0.006) ranking lower than the quality of competition (plus-0.029).
Palmieri was one of the few players to make a positive on-ice impact during even strength. On the ice, New Jersey averaged 2.54 goals for per 60 (25 total) against 1.73 goals against per 60 (17 total). His on-ice plus/minus of plus-0.81 ranked first among skaters with 40-plus games played. Off the ice, all three numbers declined. Goals for per 60 dropped to 2.03, and the goals against per 60 dropped to 1.62. His off-ice plus/minus rating also fell to plus-0.41.
For all his help producing offense, Palmieri didn’t effectively create or defend shots. While on the ice, the team averaged just 22.9 shots for per 60. Opponents were able to put 23.1 shots on net. Off the ice, the offensive shot numbers improved. New Jersey 24.7 shots for per 60, but still allowed 23.7.
The Corsi ratings exemplify Palmieri’s effectiveness. On the ice, Palmieri collected a plus-3.20 Corsi. It’s not a large number, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Playing with the top line helped improve this number, but he contributed as well. He managed to put 66 shots on net, which isn’t easy considering the talent around him. Off the ice, the rating declined to plus-2.54. The split isn’t huge, but it shows the positive impact Palmieri brought on the ice. He wasn’t a game changer, but he provided some solid play.
Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. We’ll cover the big team stories, but also offer a breakdown of individual player performances. In today’s review, we focus on Mattias Tedenby.
For the past few seasons, many New Jersey Devils fans heard about a short right-winger with unlimited scoring potential. Mattias Tedenby, known to many as one of the two great Swedes in the organization, finally got his chance with the Devils this season. In his first full season, we saw the Devils’ future on full display.
Tedenby immediately showed off his offensive potential, scoring a goal in only his second career game. He continued his strong play, converting his first career penalty shot against Braden Holtby and the Capitals on November 22. It continued throughout the month, with him collecting six points in November. John MacLean put him on the second line, where he drew rave reviews from Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias. But it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine for the young Swede.
When Jacques Lemaire took over the team, Tedenby couldn’t crack the lineup. Already struggling to score, Lemaire decided to scratch him for six straight games. The right-winger needed to improve his play, including his defense, to crack the lineup. When he finally returned, on January 17 against the New York Islanders, he made his presence felt, scoring the game-winning goal.
It was a rollercoaster season for Tedenby. At times he flashed his offensive potential, but he seemed to disappear at times. He couldn’t consistently produce offense, and he rotated between the third and fourth lines. It was only his first year playing hockey in North America, so to expect him to produce like Jeff Skinner would be irrational. All in all, it was a solid debut for the Devils’ rookie.
Tedenby At Even Strength
Playing on the bottom two lines for most of the season didn’t get Tedenby much ice time. He only averaged 12:32 minutes per game, the lowest among rookies with at least 40 games played. Despite not playing much, he managed to produce 1.38 points per 60 and record a plus-0.87 rating. It helped that his quality of teammates (plus-0.069) were better than the quality of his competition (minus-0.032).
While at even strength, Tedenby became a solid offensive weapon. The Devils averaged 2.07 goals for per 60 (21 total), third among rookie skaters with at least 40 games played. He posted that number despite playing on the third and fourth lines, a testament to that offensive potential. Off the ice, the goals for per 60 dropped to 1.76. Shots for per 60 followed a similar pattern. With Tedenby on the ice, New Jersey averaged 27.1 shots per 60. Off the ice, that number dropped to 24.7.
Tedenby’s defensive improvements, coupled with his position in the lineup, helped him finish with positive even strength defensive numbers. While on the ice, teams averaged 1.77 goals against per 60 and 24.5 shots against per 60. The goal numbers rose with him off the ice. Goals against per 60 climbed to 2.34, giving Tedenby a negative off-ice plus/minus rating of minus-0.58. The shot numbers dipped slightly to 22.8 per 60.
A look at the Corsi numbers further prove Tedenby’s solid play. Tedenby’s 5.81 rating put him among the top ten of skaters with 50 or more games played. That rating dropped to 3.91 with him off the ice. Tedenby helped his team produce offense, creating almost two more shots per shift while spending less than 13 minutes a game on the ice. It’s exciting to see him produce in limited minutes. Hopefully that production will continue to rise when he gains a more important role on the ice.
The New Jersey Devils entered January in an unfamiliar position this past season – dead last in the NHL. The team, struggling so mightly during the first half, knew their chances at a playoff shot were slim. So the organization went into seller mode, looking to make a few early deals. The captain would be the first to go.
Jamie Langenbrunner was one of the best candidates to leave New Jersey. His production wasn’t meeting the expectations of a first-line winger, putting up just 14 points in 31 games. He carried a cap hit of $2.8 million, a large amount for the cash-strapped Devils. Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello committed to giving younger players more ice time, pushing Langenbrunner’s powerplay and penalty time down.
Last but not least, Langenbrunner and interim head coach Jacques Lemaire had a contentious relationship. It began last season, when Lemaire sat Langenbrunner during a meaningless game against the Carolina Hurricanes on April 3. Langenbrunner wanted to play all 82 games, and Lemaire wanted to rest his captain before the playoffs. That incident seemed to divide the locker room, and the Devils’ performance suffered. Lemaire’s return put the writing on the wall.
The Devils traded Langenbrunner to the Dallas Stars on January 7, receiving a conditional third-round pick in this season’s draft. The terms of the agreement can change depending on whether or not the Stars re-sign Langenbrunner before July 1. The Stars received a proven veteran leader for their playoff push, and the Devils cleared space on the roster.
The trade worked out for New Jersey. They began their second-half run after the trade, pushing themselves into the playoff discussion without a defined captain. Brian Rolston moved into the top-six forwards and produced numbers worthy of his $5.2 million cap hit. Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby saw extended playing time because of the open roster spot. The team finally found consistency in their top two lines, something not seen during the first three months of the season.
Langenbrunner produced for the Stars as well. In 39 games, he put up 18 points and scored a game-winning goal. The team fell short of the playoffs, but Langenbrunner far surpassed the conditional pick sent to the Devils.
By the end of his Devils tenure, Langenbrunner lost the popular support of the fan base. Many called him out for his perceived attitude problems. Others lamented his declining production. Since taking the captaincy from Patrik Elias, he never helped the team reach the second round of the playoffs. Not only that, but his deteriorating relationship with Lemaire submarined the Devils playoff performance last season.
In the end, both parties got what they wished. The Devils earned cap space and found new production throughout the lineup. Langenbrunner went to a contender in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. The trade worked out on both sides, with no one losing.
Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. We’ll cover the big team stories, but also offer a breakdown of individual player performances. In today’s review, we focus on Brian Rolston.
The second coming of Brian Rolston hasn’t panned out for the New Jersey Devils. Rolston, a former 30-goal scorer with the Minnesota Wild, failed yet again to reach those expectations. As he increases in age his production continues to decline. The 2010-2011 season proved to be the most contentious of Rolston’s second stint with the Devils.
Rolston’s third season as a Devil started with an injury. He left the team’s 7-2 loss against the Washington Capitals October 9, and was diagnosed with a sports hernia. The injury required surgery and shelved Rolston for nearly a month. When he returned, he continued to struggle offensively, posting just 5 points in 19 games between November and December.
Tired of the ineffective play, Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello decided to place Rolston on waivers. Lamoriello gave Rolston permission to seek a trade, and the left-winger wanted a fresh start with another team. Surprisngly, no one wanted a 37-year old left-winger who couldn’t score and carried a cap hit of over five million dollars. Eventually Rolston worked his way back into the Devils rotation, and ended up surpising everyone with his second half.
A perfect storm during the season’s second half gave Rolston the opportunity to produce offensively, and he took full advantage. Jacques Lemaire’s arrival helped spur Rolston offensively. He collected 192 points under Lemaire during their time together with the Minnesota Wild. The trade of Jamie Langenbrunner helped clear room on the second line, giving Rolston offensive-minded teammates to help him produce points. And he did, collecting 29 points during the team’s second-half surge.
Rolston overcame significant struggles to finish the season strong. It still wasn’t the production the Devils expected, but it gave the team reason to use him as a top six forward. Rolston actually finished the season as a solid producer, something that hasn’t usually couldn’t describe his efforts.
Rolston At Even Strength
Rolston played well throughout the season at even strength, providing a near positive impact on the ice. His average time on ice was 13.23, placing him within the top six in that category. His strong second half propelled him to a plus-0.33, making him one of only eight skaters to be in the green (minimum 50 games played). His faced the toughest opponents, with his quality of of competition checking in at plus-0.085. Playing with the second line boosted his teammates rating, as they checked in at a plus-0.035.
His second-half surge drove Rolston’s offensive numbers to near team highs. The team averaged 2.02 goals per 60 with Rolston on the ice, and dropped to 1.76 per 60 with him off. He helped the team average 26.2 shots for per 60 on the ice, and it fell to 24.7 with him off. Remember that credit needs to go to his linemates, Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus, who helped improve those dismal first-half numbers.
Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. We’ll cover the big team stories, but also offer a breakdown of individual player performances. In today’s second review, we focus on Henrik Tallinder.
When New Jersey Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello signed Henrik Tallinder last season, several fans showed surprise by the move. Tallinder, who posted point totals of 15 or more in just three of his eight seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, wouldn’t provide any offensive value. Tallinder didn’t fit the mold of a puck-moving defenseman the team desperately needed. But Lamoriello didn’t sign him for his offensive skill.
While in Buffalo, Tallinder helped mentor Tyler Myers, the eventual Calder Trophy-winning defenseman. The Devils’ new defenseman is also Swedish, and could help mentor the three young Swedes in the organization. Lamoriello believed that role played an integral part to the signing.
“In Tallinder, you’ve got somebody 6-4, 240, played under an outstanding coach (Lindy Ruff in Buffalo), mentored (Tyler) Myers in Buffalo this year,” Lamoriello told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. ”We’ve got three young Swedish players coming in (Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby and Alexander Urbom). He’s 31 years old. He’s in his prime. He’s a mature guy.”
Tallinder brought skill to the blueline, but not exactly what the Devils needed. As the season wore on, however, we saw two different Tallinders. The first half of the season he was atrocious, and the second half he became a rock on the team’s defense. His numbers in all areas display that, showing a player who played well on the Devils’ blue line this season.
Tallinder At Even Strength
Tallinder, one of only two Devils defenseman to play all 82 games, led the defense in even strength time on ice per 60 minutes with a 19.04. That number sat almost a full minute higher than Andy Greene, the next closest player. He also faced solid competition, with the opponents averaging a plus-.03 rating. He continually faced the opposing team’s top two lines (evidenced by his plus-.079 quality of team rating), a testament to his solid play and the trust both John MacLean and Jacques Lemaire placed in him.
If you’ve read some of the other previews, you’ve noticed a trend with Devils defenseman. Each carries a negative plus/minus rating per 60 minutes. With the season the team played, especially during the first three months, it’s expected. Tallinder was on the ice for 54 goals scored, most on the defense. But he also was on the ice for 64 goals scored against, once again tops on the team. His minus-0.38 rating isn’t positive, but it also isn’t terrible. The team posted lower numbers in goals scored and higher numbers in goals against, showing Tallinder’s true impact on the ice.
The positive feedback continues while looking at more data. While on the ice, the team averaged 2.46 goals, 26.9 shots and 22.7 shots against per 60 minutes. When off the ice, the numbers dipped across the board. Goals for dropped to 2.15, shots for dropped to 25.7 and shots against rose to 23.9.
Tallinder’s Corsi numbers wrap up his even-strength performance nicely. On the ice, Tallinder posted a Corsi of 9.30, helping generate offense and shutting down the opponents. Off the ice, the team’s Corsi dropped to 0.87. He clearly put those first half struggles behind him to have a solid second half.
Admittedly, one of my weaker points of hockey knowledge is the prospect pool. With so many players in several countries, I haven’t had the time to catch up on the big names and the late-round steals.
Thankfully, Jared Ramsden does this all the time. Ramsden writes for Hockey’s Future, specifically covering the New Jersey Devils. He found some time to answer a few questions I sent him about the Devils’ prospects and this year’s draft. Here is the interview: