Everyone thought Tyler Kennedy’s stint with the New Jersey Devils ended before it could even begin. After being invited to training camp as a tryout, Kennedy would leave partly through the preseason due to personal matters. He would reenter the scene in Late-November on a professional tryout contract, and would sign an official deal shortly after. Kennedy was for the most part, a welcomed addition. In 50 games, the 29-year old scored three goals and tallied 16 points, despite going minus 14. He was a versatile forward whose speedy style of play complimented the mold of this year’s squad. Kennedy was used by Coach Hynes throughout the lineup in every forward position and many playing situations. As was the case with several Devils this year, Kennedy experienced his own health issues throughout the season, which ultimately stifled the number of games he could have played. Granted he may have been given too much of a workload by the coaching staff due to the team’s lack of scoring depth, Kennedy was as serviceable as his skillset enabled him to be.
General manager Ray Shero’s familiarity with Kennedy factored tremendously in the decision to bring him into the fold. At 29, Kennedy is still relatively young and is in a contusive environment to potentially rediscover the level his game was at during his days in Pittsburgh. He averaged roughly .20 goals per game as a Penguin, which is the kind of production the Devils sorely need in their bottom-six. In terms of how his production rounded out this year, Kennedy’s numbers reflect that of a playmaker than a scorer. One part of his game where his offensive output became prevalent was the power play. He had one goal and six points, while averaging 1:22 of power play time per game. The numbers aren’t entirely impressive, but there’s a lot of room for growth in that department for him. While his gamely average of 1.4 shots per game wasn’t a thriving statistic for him, it was among the highest in the Devil’s bottom-six. Kennedy averaged 13:25 of ice time per game this year, and can certainly build on his performance next year if he returns to the Devils.
While 5’11’’ isn’t as small compared to Jordin Tootoo, Bobby Farnham, and Stephen Gionta, Kennedy still contained that detrimental attribute, which was part of a larger problem amongst the team’s undersized, underscoring forwards. Granted the modern day NHL has become more contusive for undersized players to flourish, the need to gain more stature up front is a glaring need for the Devils organization. Kennedy could become a casualty as a result of these circumstances, largely depending on what becomes of the aforementioned players whose free agent profiles were previously covered. There also lies the issue of Kennedy’s goal-scoring consistency. While injuries largely attributed to some of his missed playing time after initially signing with the Devils, there were stretches throughout the season where he was relegated to the press box as a result of his lackluster offensive output. It took him 30 games to register his first goal, while Kennedy’s three tallies came within a span of 20 games, and scoring once in his last 16 contests of the season. These trends especially stand out on a goal-starved team like the Devils, who need to explore every conceivable option for offense when it comes to bringing in and retaining veteran players.
Kennedy’s situation is unique from players like Gionta and Tootoo. He’s a Shero-era move and has those ties with the Devils general manager from their days in Pittsburgh. I could see Kennedy’s services retained for at least another year at the expense of the aforementioned players not being re-signed. He put up his best offensive numbers during his six seasons in Pittsburgh, where he was in a stable playing situation and had time to develop his game uninterrupted. New Jersey could offer Kennedy an ideal environment for him to have a considerably improved season, especially if the Devils thoroughly improve to their third and fourth lines. He still has a good amount of playing years left, and possesses the speedy element that Shero and the rest of Devils management are trying to saturate their roster with. While Kennedy won’t anchor or build a bottom-six unit around him, he can certainly become a complimentary piece on that part of the Devils roster if management opts to continue their relationship with No. 48 this offseason.