I remember a big piece of discussion in the offseason being about the Devils having a very old team. The Devils do in fact have a very old team, the oldest average aged roster got even older with the signing of Gomez. However, since very early in the season, the Devils have been getting a lot of contribution from our young guys particularly on defense. This made me want to do a bit of an investigation on a league-wide basis.
I decided to use the Play Index from Hockey Reference to output a list of all 25 year old and younger players that have played at least 5 games and 50 minutes this season. This weeds out the players who got a fluky call-up and acknowledges only real contributers. Next, I did some fancy spreadsheet work to add all players from each team to get the totals you'll see in the second chart. First let's take a look at the Devils stats alone.
Devils Players Under 25
The new stats here are the 3 on the right and the one that reads "GC". These are goals created and point shares. For those unfamiliar with those you may read my article on catch-all-statistics from the offseason. For those unwilling to put in that effort, point shares are WAR for hockey. OPS is offensive point shares, DPS is defense, and PS is intended to portray a players total contribution.
For the Devils; Henrique, Severson, and Gelinas are the biggest contributors. It's worth noting that plus/minus factors heavily into this and offensive zone starts are not directly considered so Gelinas's DPS should probably be lower. Nonetheless his offensive contribution is real and having played more games than all but Severson factors in.
The really ... really scary part is the forwards. Henrique is the only forward under 25 that has contributed points to this team (Josefson registered a -0.1). This is in line with the concerns from the offseason. I don't display the split up positional stats in this article but rest assured that the Devils were at the bottom of the pack in all forward categories by a significant margin.
Next let's take a look at how the Devils stack up to the rest of the league
Devils Youth vs NHL Youth
Below is a list of the sums of the contributions of each teams players that are 25 years old or younger.
The Devils rank at the top of the list in no categories. That is probably expected.
The Devils rank in the top half in no categories. Okay that's bad. The highest category they rank in is DPS (defensive point shares) which makes sense since all of our youth is on defense. In all of the offensive categories the Devils are bottom of the barrel.
Reasons for Optimism
Well I wouldn't call it optimism exactly so much as spite, but Pittsburgh is even worse than us. Granted when you have Crosby and Malkin and co. it's easy to not take chances on young guys on your current roster.
I kid though, there actually is a bit to be please with if you adjust these statistics on a per game basis. The Devils youngsters contribute 0.058 points per game (standings points not goals and assists) which is actually 14th in the NHL. So this is where our pessimism can take a back seat.
There is a narrative that can be written around that statistic that reads as follows:
"The Devils young players are contributing more per game they play than the average NHL team." This is hardly a glowing recommendation, but considering the bar we set for ourselves as the leagues oldest team it's far from disappointing. This means that at least the guys we do have playing are panning out for the most part.
Cultivating young talent is going to be absolutely integral to this team considering the current overpopulation of AARP-collectors. The defensive prospect pool is drying up with the call-ups from this year and the forward prospect pool has been an oxymoron the past few years so even if you accept the narrative that I posited above, it's tough to be happy with the current limited selection of kids on this team.
Are you surprised the Devils are so low?
Just kidding, are you surprised the Devils aren't last in every category? Was this information encouraging or discouraging to you with regards to the Devils' youth? Were you surprised with the placement of other teams? Leave thoughts in the comments below.