Last month, I wrote a piece about how I thought it was a good thing that John Hynes and Co. were giving numerous different young skaters a chance at some ice time for the New Jersey Devils. I still feel that way; for a team that is tied for dead last in the Eastern Conference, even with the nice comeback win last night, giving numerous players some looks is not a bad idea. You could argue that the Devils are not as bad as their record, and if they had some more competent, consistent goaltending could be competing, but I think the point of trying out some youth still stands.
John Quenneville made the team out of camp and played decently well. He has not produced a point yet, but that does not instantly mean he has been bad. He has been sheltered somewhat, which is understandable, but in 67 5v5 minutes this season, he has a CF% over 57, and a High Danger CF% over 65. Down in Binghamton, he has been a point per game player, with 9 goals and 10 assists in 19 contests.
Last night, his line was outstanding in terms of driving play. He got the nod alongside Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt, and those three dominated the run of play. Bratt and Zacha have been a decently good combination together. Bratt is a little short of a point per game, with 12 points in 16 contests. Zacha of course still cannot score, but has been a great driver of possession when with Bratt, to the tune of a 54.62% CF when together. They have been with Marcus Johansson mostly, and he is a good addition to that line, but with Taylor Hall out, Johansson got moved up and Quenneville got the play on this line. And last night, it was a brilliant move. Now, literally everyone on the team was a positive possession player against Vegas with the exception of Ben Lovejoy, so there is that. However, Bratt and Zacha had the best relative Corsi percentages on the team, with both sitting over 20%. Quenneville was also positive as well, riding their coattails, with a relative Corsi of 5.68%. When out there, New Jersey had 15 attempts for and only 7 attempts against. Those are good numbers for the former first round pick.
Those numbers really help to highlight that when playing in New Jersey and not Binghamton, Quenneville has not been bad. Yes he is not scoring, but he does produce points fairly well in the AHL. Besides his point per game this season, last year he produced 34 points in 43 games, and the year before it was 46 points in 58 games. If he has more time and opportunities to play in the NHL this season, I would expect some points to show up. The underlying numbers showcase that he has not been a pure anchor, which is important. Hopefully he can score more than Zacha has been able to at least.
With Stefan Noesen on the IR for a few more days, Quenneville will get at least one more look today against Nashville, which will hopefully only help his cause to remain with the big club. If Noesen does come back when eligible, Tuesday against Toronto, it would mean only a short two-game stint this time around for John. I hope that does not end up happening. I would love to see him up for a longer look, and really gauge how he can do with more data to show after each game.
Quenneville’s entry level contract expires at the end of this season. He will be an RFA, and I would be fairly confident that Ray Shero will look to qualify him and keep him in the system further. However, it would be nice to know beforehand if he really has the potential at this point to play meaningful minutes at the NHL level, or if he is really just an AHL player still. At 22 years old, he still has time to grow, although forwards usually develop quicker than defensemen do. By 22, many already show flashes of their NHL capabilities. With Quenneville, I think some more time in the NHL will really help to showcase those flashes, if they are indeed there. And this is really all on top of the fact that in his 6 appearances so far, he has played decent hockey. He has not been dreadful, and has shown to decently hold his own.
Today against Nashville, I will definitely be keeping an eye on how Quenneville plays. If he has another strong game like he did last night, I hope he still is in the lineup come Tuesday against Toronto, even if Noesen gets over his illness.
What do you think? Do you think John Quenneville deserves a longer look in the NHL this time around? Do you think his play has been deserving of a longer look? Or, do you think he should just go back down to Binghamton, and that NJ needs their best, most seasoned players out there each night in order to potentially climb back up the standings in the Metropolitan? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading.