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Surprisingly Good, and Surprisingly Bad

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Taylor Hall is good, Ben Lovejoy is bad, and everyone else is in between. I look at a few guys that are a bit better or worse than you may think.

Ottawa Senators v New Jersey Devils Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Surprisingly Good

Beau Bennett

The knock on Beau Bennett was that he could never stay healthy enough to show if he had the skills to develop into the player that would live up to his 1st round draft status. He has already topped his career best marks in ice time, points, and shots. What is even more important and impressive though is his contribution in possession. Beau Bennet starts in the offensive zone in sheltered situations frequently, but according to Corsica, even in Score, Zone, and Venue adjusted stats, he has the best CF% (shot attempt ratio) on the team.

Steve Santini

Santini has been sheltered in some respects, and not in others. His zone starts are not. Of non-neutral zone starts, only 45% of his are in the offensive zone. However, according to Corsica, his QoC (Quality of Competition) is 3rd lowest among NJ saters and lowest among NJ defenders. His QoT (Quality of Teammates) was rather high, but middle of the ground among defenders. But, if you investigate his WOWY stats, you’ll see that he’s been dragged down by Stollery more than he’s been buoyed by Merrill. So given what appears to be a mixed bag of contextual information — no obvious unilateral sheltering — Santini has the distinction of having the lowest xGA60 (expected goals against per 60) on the whole team. This contributes to the 3rd highest xGF% (expected goal ratio) behind only Karl Stollery -- massive sheltering -- and Taylor Hall.

Stefan Noesen

He is 5th in expected goal ratio and 4th in corsi ratio despite being the median in zone start percentage and not having great or consistent linemates. Zacha is his most consistent partner, and the WOWY paint a very clear picture on who the generator is in that pair. Without Noeson, Zacha’s Corsi regresses. Without Zacha, Noesen is put in the defensive zone more, yet his Corsi still rises. In his short time here, there’s not a whole lot not to like about how he has played.

Surprisingly Bad

Miles Wood

Admit it, a part of you knew this the whole time. Miles Wood is a guy we all LOVE to watch. His mistakes are not normally all that obvious, and he is probably second only to Hall in “WOW!” plays. That, along with his passion, creates the perception that he is an electric player with a bright future. Unfortunately, almost no stat supports that narrative. He has 16 points which puts him in the top 10 for this dumpster fire of a roster, but its puts him smack between Beau Bennett and John Moore -- not a position someone fitting his narrative should be in. His plus/minus is bottom 3 on the team, regardless of whether or not you adjust it for time on ice. He is ahead of only DSP (stay tuned) and Gazdic for adjusted corsi (though Wood’s scoring chance and expected goals are middling). Based on WOWYs, of the 14 forwards who have played 30 or more minutes with Wood, only Blake Coleman’s Corsi improves when playing with Wood — and it’s by 0.7%. As sexy as Wood’s game is, he either needs to light up the scoreboard, or be solid in possession, or he needs to be viewed as a liability.

Devante Smith-Pelley

Okay, I concede this isn’t “surprising,” but I don’t see the relentless hate for DSP that I typically see for someone who is failing as colossally as he is. In my opinion, there is no contest between DSP and Ben Lovejoy on who the worse player has been this year -- it’s DSP. DSP has the odious distinction of being dead last on the team (>200 minutes played) in BOTH CF% and xGF%. That means he is consistently a drain on the team in both scoreboard production and possession. He has scored less goals and has less assists than Ben Lovejoy, despite Lovejoy being awful and a defender. All of his contextual information is middle-of-the-road and so the desolation of his scoresheet has no explanation other than his ineptitude.

Mackenzie Blackwood

Remember Mackenzie Blackwood? Shero used his 2nd pick as Devils GM and one of only 5 precious draft picks in 2015 to take the top Goaltender in the draft; the combine star, Mackenzie Blackwood. I really liked the move actually. Cory Schneider is a great goalie, but he won’t be here forever, and who knows what Shero may determine in asset management — Schneider could fetch a lot -- so getting a goalie of the future seemed a fine move. After the draft was over, the also scooped up undrafted Ken Appleby — the starting goaltender (over Jeremy Brodeur) on the the Oshawa Generals team that beat the Connor McDavid Eerie Otters to win the OHL championship. Ken Appleby is a fine goaltender, but he screams AHL. It has to be viewed as a disappointment that an undrafted player of the same age has outplayed the purebread Blackwood in the AHL this season. He may be young, but goaltenders don’t age as well as you might think and if you haven’t already recognized that this team’s goaltending future is murky (Schneider will be 32 next season) it’s time.

Your Thoughts

Am I right or wrong, and about whom? Is there someone you would have included in either list that I didn’t? Why should they have been on? Leave your thoughts below and thank you for reading!