The defense of the New Jersey Devils has been perhaps the most-discussed item among Devils fans for the last several years. There are certainly a few talented blueliners on board, but there is a need for many more to arrive. With that, we look to the Devils’ pool of prospects.
For me, 2016 7th round pick Jeremy Davies has become my personal favorite prospect in the system and certainly one of the most intriguing. He had a really strong showing in his freshman year, logging 20-22 minutes of ice time a night and finishing in the Top-10 in Hockey East defensemen and rookie scoring. As a sophomore this past season, he essentially posted a point-per-game (T-3rd among NCAA defensemen), was named a Hockey East 1st teamer and played about 28 minutes (!!) a night in all situations.
Without watching full games, it is really challenging to find defensive highlights for Davies (or any defenseman below the professional level). We can research the offensive numbers for Davies or any amateur defenseman, but what does that really tell us? I decided to run a Goals For % analysis on Jeremy Davies to see how he performed at both ends of the ice. I also analyzed how he did with/without (WOWY) select teammates to see if I could draw any observations. Jeremy Davies finished 4th in points for Northeastern this season and all of the players who finished above him are notable NHL draft picks so I used all three of them in my examination. Let’s meet them:
Adam Gaudette – 30G and 30A in 38GP this year as a true junior…1st in points and 2nd in assists. Absurd. He won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s best player. Gaudette was a 5th round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in 2015. He also had 52 points in 37 games as a sophomore. He’s legit.
Dylan Sikura – 22G and 32A in 35GP this season as a senior…3rd in goals and 1st in assists. Sikura was a +1 overage draft pick by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 6th round of the 2014 NHL Draft, coming out of the OJHL before he arrived at Northeastern. So this past season he was a year older than a traditional senior, but his junior season was of the highest quality as well with 57P in 38GP.
Nolan Stevens – 24G and 18A in 38GP this season as a true senior…2nd in goals and 5th in assists.. Stevens was a +2 overage draft pick by the St. Louis Blues in the 5th round of the 2016 NHL Draft after his 2nd season at Northeastern. He is the son of LA Kings HC John Stevens and has been a point-per-game-or-better player since his sophomore season.
All three of these players signed ELCs with their NHL team after the 2017-18 NCAA season ended. After the three forwards mentioned above, the individual goal production really drops off as the next highest forward goal mark was 7. I figured this would give us a really good contrast of teammates to judge how Davies did with/without the elite and very much non-elite players.
Before we get started, take into consideration that this is a very incomplete method of judging a player. If the numbers were available, it would be great to include shots and shot attempts to draw a deeper conclusion. But…it’s what we have. Also, to get as many events as possible…I used even strength GF/GA as opposed to just 5-on-5. I also excluded extra attacker and empty net goals.
Here’s the data in both chart and spreadsheet form:
I’m not that great with charts/graphs/etc. or else I would have made the bubbles bigger/smaller based on the amount of shared events. Alas, you can see the number of events in the spreadsheet. Ok, let’s break it down.
No surprise at the blue numbers. When Davies is with one or all three of Northeastern’s top forwards, they dominate the sheet of ice. As expected.
The green and red numbers are what really stands out. When Davies is without Gaudette and Stevens, his GF% barely dips. However, when Gaudette and Stevens are away from Davies, it is a massive dropoff…though in the case of Gaudette, 52.2% is still a respectable number. When Davies and Sikura are away from each other, both their GF% plummet with Sikura performing a shade better than Davies.
The “All Three Forwards” column was really the basis of what I wanted to learn. How does Davies do when he’s not with any of Northeastern’s top players? As it turns out…really well. 60% is an excellent clip and on the flip side, when all three of the forwards were together without Davies…they had the worst % in this entire process. Now, sample size noise could certainly be in play here. Davies w/o “The Big Three” had 20 total events. The three forwards with no Davies only clocked in at 11 events. Just for the heck of it…let’s tack on those 9 “missing” events and track it at a 66% rate. Even still, that would put them at 11GF, 9GA…meaning Davies would come out slightly ahead.
Now, does this mean anything earth-shattering? Probably not. Does it really tell us how good/bad he is defensively when in his own zone? Not really.
All I know is that the biggest knock on Jeremy Davies is his work in the defensive zone…but whenever he’s on the ice, no matter the quality of teammate, he always controls the tempo, pace-of-play and scoreboard.