For anyone that has followed the New Jersey Devils for a while (and I'm assuming if you're reading this that you have), it's obvious how many talented defenders New Jersey has had in development since the 2009 Entry Draft. The Devils are beginning to reap what they have sewn, with youngsters Eric Gelinas, Adam Larsson and Jon Merrill all ready to assume a full-time roll with the team this year. Just because those three have graduated to the big leagues doesn't mean the Devils defensive prospect cupboard is empty however; there are still a number of highly touted defensive prospects, including Steve Santini, Seth Helgeson, Reece Scarlett, and the young man we'll be taking a closer look at today, Damon Severson.
Career So Far
Severson's junior career was spent with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League; his point totals since starting with Kelowna have risen every season since he first joined the team, with Damon recording career highs in goals and assists this past season. His plus/minus with the Rockets, while not an entirely reliable stat, has been very high, demonstrating that he isn't a complete defensive liability like some NHL players who have a penchant for scoring. Here are his complete stats courtesy of Elite Prospects, who already seemingly have him penciled in to Albany this year:
Severson's stat lines have me compelled to compare him to Marek Zidlicky; he's going to put up points for you, but at the same time he's going to take penalties. He's fairly confident in his offensive abilities as he told to Tom Gulitti over on Fire and Ice:
"I think that's one of my strengths for sure, my offensive game," he said. "It's not that I expect to be on the power play, but that's kind of my specialty. They know what I'm capable of and that's why they put me out there on the power play. So, I was confident out there and that's part of my skillset, being a power play guy, so it's nice to know that they also have confidence in me."
Severson also has a decent frame for a 20 year old defenseman (6'2", 210); with the departure of Anton Volchenkov, we can only hope that he doesn't mind throwing his body around on defense, though he might need to bulk up a bit before he can add said physicality to his game at the NHL level.
Seveson saw some preseason action with New Jersey last season before they returned him to Kelowna, and appeared in their only preseason game to date so far this year. I'm not going to over-analyze what I think he can do based on just this one game, but from what I saw he was a solid presence playing with veteran Tomas Kaberle. Their pairing played a lot, but aside from one phantom penalty call, Damon played a very solid game. While he looked a little uncomfortable to start, I think his confidence grew as the game went on; he made a few mistakes, but that's to be expected of someone who is still young and without NHL experience.
I do feel that Severson's 23:23 of ice time was a bit much for the youngster (even in a preseason game) but it was a necessity due to how awful Dan Kelly and Mike Komisarek played. As an aside, please send Kelly down to Albany ASAP and get rid of Komisarek now. I also would have liked to have seen a bit more on the offensive side of things; with the amount of points he was putting up in juniors, and the amount of power play time he received (5:21), he needs to do more than just put one shot on goal, especially if he wants to stay up with a club that already has seven defensemen ready to go for the season.
So to now answer the question I posed at the start of the article, I honestly would like Severson to make the team (come on anyone is better than Bryce Salvador at this point) but I just do not see it happening. As I previously mentioned, the Devils already have seven players signed on defense this season, and that doesn't even begin to factor in the players in training camp on PTOs; combine that with the fact that Peter DeBoer likes his veteran players, and we already have three youngsters on defense, and it just seems as though the timing is all wrong for Damon.
I do believe however that if an injury strikes (again, looking at you Mr. Salvador) and someone is going to miss an extended period of time, that Severson is the first player to be called up from Albany. While he looked somewhat jittery to me on Monday night against Our Hated Rivals, he didn't look any more out of place than Merrill did when he first started with the big club. I believe he has a bright future with New Jersey; the only problem is it will take one more season (or a long-term injury) for that future to begin.
What are your thoughts about Severson? Were you impressed by his game on Monday night? Do you think he has a bright future with this team? Leave any comments below and as always thank you for reading!