To say the least, it has been difficult being a New Jersey Devils fan this season. Over the past month, it certainly has not gotten any easier. Injuries have piled up to a season-high, and it has made it difficult for some Devils fans to even recognize the names of the skaters in the lineup. This is mainly due to all the call-ups the Devils have had to make, and in a sense, it’s exciting. Most of the players getting time from call-ups are either in the team’s future plans or trying to work their way into it. This article will take an in-depth look at how all the new faces have performed and evaluate their likelihood of being a part of the Devils’ future.
After making his NHL debut earlier in the season, forward Nathan Bastian made his return and has appeared in three more games. Through four games at the NHL-level, he has one goal, six shots, and 13 hits while averaging just 12:34 of ice time per night. Excluding his debut which came two months earlier, he is +27/-24 in shot attempts. This ratio is not bad at all, especially when comparing it to his fellow teammates.
All-in-all, Bastian has been a lot more impressive than anyone thought he would have been. He’s used his large size to put together a few pretty nice performances in his most recent call-up. Unfortunately, he was injured during the Mar. 1 game against the Flyers and it remains to be seen when he will return.
The former 12th overall pick is finally getting another chance with the big club. After one appearance all the way back in November, McLeod has played in the past four games. Unfortunately, he has yet to tally any points in his young career, but his play has been encouraging. As a center, McLeod has taken 27 faceoffs, winning 19 of them which is good for 59%. This is something the Devils have struggled with in years past, so this is an encouraging sign. From an analytical perspective, McLeod has been impressive. He owns a Corsi For % (CF%) of 53.49% over the last four games, which ranks second on the team. He also ranks first on the team in High Danger Chances For % (HDCF%) with a 75% rating.
Overall, even though McLeod has not recorded any points, his presence has certainly been felt. One way to help correct his lack of scoring is by shooting the puck (He only has one shot on goal). He is already creating chances, but by shooting the puck more he’ll be creating even more. Overall, McLeod’s play has been encouraging.
The Binghamton Devils’ captain has been with the NHL club in two different segments. The first was for four games spanning from late October to early November. The second has been from early January to now. Over these two different segments, Rooney has served as the fourth line center with a role on the penalty kill. He has tallied four goals, a -4 rating, and 22 shots while averaging 11:24 of ice time per game.
Overall, Rooney has struggled significantly at five-on-five. He owns a CF% of 40.2%, which is woeful. You can make a compelling argument that this is due to his defensive zone start rate of 76%, but his struggles are evident to the naked eye. Interestingly, the way Rooney’s contract is structured will put him on a one-way deal next season. This means he will need to be placed on waivers if the team wishes to keep him in the AHL. Hopefully, Rooney gets his play together. If he doesn’t, then expect him to be on waivers come next season.
Like his teammate Rooney, forward Blake Pietila also has served two different segments with the NHL club. The first was at the beginning of January and now he has been with the club since the end of February. Over this time, he has only tallied one assist in 10 total games. Along with his one assist, he only has six shots on goal while playing an average of 11:43 a night. His struggles are also evident via his possession numbers. Pietila owns a CF% of 36.2% which is extremely below average and a relative CF% of minus-12.9. Both of these numbers confirm that when Pietila’s on the ice the Devils usually struggle. Expect for Pietila not to be around the big club come next year.
Forward Nick Lappin is one of the newer call-ups for the Devils. He has played five games and has yet to tally a point. Over these games, he has been averaging 14:01 minutes a night, which is one of the highest out of the call-ups. He surprisingly served on the team’s first line when he was first brought to the team. Compared to the other call-ups, Lappin has fared pretty well.
During his most recent string of play, he owns a CF% of 50.88% which is fourth among Devils forwards over that time. His relative CF% is 1.72%, which is also a good sign. This means the Devils are generating more chances than they are conceding with Lappin on the ice. Overall, it would certainly be nice to see Lappin actually contribute on the scoreboard, but he has not been terrible. However, do not expect to see Lappin around next year as he will always be considered a primarily AHL player.
Thanks to a broken ankle, Joey Anderson has been in and out of the Devils lineup all season. He has been able to play in 20 games and contribute three points, 29 shots, and 25 hits. His play — despite the lack of scoring — has been encouraging. He owns a relative CF% of 3.8, which is a very nice rating. Further indicating this number is impressive is the fact he starts in the defensive zone 58% of the time.
Anderson is definitely in the future plans of the Devils, and with more ice time should come as he is only playing an average of 12:12 a night. Look for Anderson to be a strong candidate to earn a roster spot come next season.
Forward Kurtis Gabriel brings a different element to the injury-riddled Devils. His size and toughness are a welcome addition to a lineup that struggles in these categories. However, everything else he brings is not. Gabriel’s tendency to take undisciplined penalties and the fact his line is usually outworked shows he is not an NHL player.
Through his 14 games played this season, Gabriel has racked up three points, 44 penalty minutes, and 54 hits in only 6:54 of average ice time. His 32.5% CF% is one of the worst in the league, and his -12.9 relative CF% signifies how outplayed the Devils are when he is on the ice. Expect Gabriel’s NHL ice time to come to an end after this season.
Egor Yakovlev is quickly earning the nickname of “swiss army knife” due to his recent employment at forward. The career defenseman has been playing up front recently due to the high number of injuries the Devils have. Overall, he has totaled 18 games and has contributed six points and 15 blocked shots while playing almost 16 minutes a night.
His underlying statistics are a little below average as he owns a 47.0% CF% and minus-1.2 relative CF%. Each of these numbers can be better but they aren’t awful. What is concerning about Yakovlev’s play is the number of giveaways — he has 11 in 18 games. If he is able to limit these turnovers his other numbers should rise. It’ll be interesting to see how the Devils handle Yakovlev, who’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Overall it has been a rough go of it for the call-ups. Forwards Kevin Rooney, Blake Pietila, and Kurtis Gabriel have all struggled mightily. But there are some bright spots, as Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian, and Joey Anderson have impressed. To many, these games down the stretch mean nothing. However, to these call-ups it means everything. It’ll be interesting to watch how these younger players continue to develop and who will emerge as pieces for the future.