In the wake of the Adam Larsson/Taylor Hall swap, the new primary concern that materialized on the Devils roster was their defensive depth. Although they acquired a top-tier forward who brought an element that this Devils team hasn’t had in years, the return as we all know was costly, and had to be a top-pairing defensemen who was supposed to anchor the blue line in New Jersey for years to come. While Ray Shero made some notable acquisitions in Yohann Auvitu, Ben Lovejoy, and Kyle Quincey, the void made by Larsson’s departure still wasn’t filled, and offered an opportunity for someone on the team to step up.
Insert Damon Severson.
Entering his third season with the Devils, the 22-year old Melville, SK native is coming off a turbulent but solid sophomore season where he only had one goal, 21 points, which led Devils defensemen. In the wake of Larsson’s departure, Severson was naturally looked upon to fall into his slot on the top defensive pairing with Andy Greene, who he spent some considerable playing time with in his rookie year. It was an opportunity that Severson has seized and hasn’t looked back. Although the season is only eight games in, Severson has posted formidable numbers early on, coming out of the weekend with one goal and six points. He’s currently second on the team in scoring (one point behind Taylor Hall), and averaging the third-most ice time among Devils defensemen (19:40) only behind Andy Greene and Ben Lovejoy. Severson’s explosive start to the 2016-2017 season is encouraging, especially when compared to how Severson had no goals and three assists eight games into 2015-2016 where he scored his only tally in mid-December, an obstacle he was able to surmount early on this year.
One place where he’s cemented himself is on the Devils power play, where he’s racked four of his six points (all assists), and has been a reliable setup man for his unit’s shooters. His four power play points are tied for the team lead (with Taylor Hall), and Severson is currently second among Devils defensemen in power play time, next to Yohann Auvitu. It’s a strong testament to Severson’s development and how much more trust Coach Hynes and his staff have in the 22-year old blue liner this year. Severson averages 19:40 of ice time a night, which is fourth on the team, and averages the second-most even strength time on ice (16:39), which is about a minute under the team leader Andy Greene (17:36). Compared to last year when Severson was in Coach Hynes’ doghouse, Severson averaged 18:09 of ice time per game, which was fourth among Devils defensemen last season. He was ranked that as well among Devils defensemen in even strength ice time (16:09 per game), and finished behind defenders like Andy Greene, Adam Larsson, and John Moore.
Severson’s play is reminiscent of his performance in the first 32 games of his rookie campaign (2014-2015), when he tallied four goals and 12 points before he was sidelined with his lengthy lower-body injury. Consistency will be key, as well as keeping up his rate of improved two-way play. While he still needs to improve on little parts of his game like puck control at the point, his positioning in front of the net in the defensive zone and some of his passing decisions, he’s on the right track and in the perfect role to continue his development towards becoming the productive two-way defensemen the Devils needed to succeed Adam Larsson on their top defensive pairing.