Puck moving defensemen series: New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils are in a rebuild. They finished last in the east and won the lottery, nabbing Nico Hischier with the first overall pick. Despite a down year, they have some solid pieces to build around going forward (including one on the back-end).

***Note: For further detail on methodology and explanation of the chart, please refer to the first installment of this series (Montreal Canadiens)

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In terms of ice time, Severson, Greene, and Lovejoy played the most minutes.  Lovejoy was often used against the other team’s top line and started more shifts in the defensive zone than any other devils defender (43%). He struggled as a puck mover however, posting the worst puck movement score on his team (-1.39).

Severson was by far the Devils best puck-moving defensemen. His numbers as a puck mover rank with some of the best possession defensemen in the entire league (puck movement factor of +2.51). Although his level of opposition was slightly lower than Greene and Lovejoy (~2nd line level) and he started the most shifts in the offensive zone of any defender (37%), his ability to elevate the play of his teammates is evident.

Greene was solid as well. PMF of +0.65 while starting 42% of shifts in the defensive zone against relatively strong opponents. Signed at $5M per year over the next 3 years, Greene is a solid (but aging) top 4 d-man, likely best suited for a 3/4 role.

Jon Merrill comes at a cheap cap hit of under $2M per season and shows strong puck movement ability despite playing in a sheltered role. Jon began 37% of shifts in the defensive zone. It’s not surprising to see the Vegas Golden Knights select him in the expansion draft. He excelled as a puck mover in a 3rd pairing role and likely could fill in the middle pair as needed.

Quincey, acquired by Columbus, struggled as a puck mover (PMF of -1.32). He still brings playoff experience (50+ games under his belt) and grit.

Yohann Auvitu is a 27 year-old professional hockey player from France who made his NHL debut with the devils this year. He posted solid puck movement numbers (PMF +1.04) but was sheltered (42% of starts in the offensive zone vs just 23% in the defensive zone).

Verdict: As Severson continues to improve, the Devils could truly have a top pairing puck mover to build around. With Greene aging (34 years old) and Lovejoy likely better suited for a lower role, NJ will certainly be on the lookout for a top 4 d-man as they build around Nico, Damon, and other emerging young stars.

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