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Quenneville on 4th Line is a Bad Sign

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With the lineup that the New Jersey Devils are throwing out there night in and night out, it presents opportunities for younger players to showcase their talents. However, former first round pick John Quenneville is still relegated to the 4th line with minimal minutes, not a good sign.

Columbus Blue Jackets v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

If you are strictly looking at his AHL numbers this year, you might think that John Quenneville has been doing pretty well. And for Binghamton, he might be. In 32 games this season, he has 30 points, a near point per game pace, and a slight improvement on the 34 points he put up in 43 AHL games last season.

However, over the last three seasons, in truth he has been producing quality points in the AHL, but has not been able to translate that into consistent, productive NHL minutes. In 2016-17, his first time ever called up to the NHL, he produced 4 points in 12 games, not bad for a 20 year-old late first rounder who looked like he had definite improvement ahead of him. Since then, however, he has not done any better with his NHL time, and in terms of point production, has had none. In two games last season and 17 so far this year, he has yet to produce a point.

As a 22-year old, realistically there is still time to see improvement from John, but given his inability to really break through to the NHL level so far, there are definite questions about his upper limit potential. Last year, given that the New Jersey Devils were a competitive playoff team, it made sense to see him not get much time up with the big club. The Devils needed every single point they could possibly get going down the stretch just to make it into the playoffs, and there was no time to give a young player a shot, even on the bottom 6.

This year, however, the situation could not be more different. The Devils, more or less, are currently putting out an AHL lineup each and every night. The opportunities for Quenneville to have a shot to showcase his talent at the NHL level, and to do so on perhaps a mid-6 line where he could get decent minutes, should be ample, right?

However, just look at the lines that John Hynes and Co. ran out there last night against Washington. Kenny Agostino got top line minutes with quality NHL players. Nick Lappin, Michael McLeod, and Joey Anderson were all given third line minutes together to see what they could make of it. Quenneville? Relegated to fourth line minutes alongside Blake Pietila and Kurtis Gabriel. And perhaps worst of all, at 5v5, only Gabriel had less minutes. And it is not like he was overly successful in his 7:36 of 5v5 ice time either. John was on the ice for only 4 Corsi attempts for but 9 against, a poor 30.77 CF% and a -14.44 rel CF%.

Further numbers do not particularly help, either. Check out this chart from Sean Tierney showing expected goal rates among New Jersey forwards this season:

A lot of Devils are clustered around the middle there, and many skew to being dull, but none is lower on that chart than Quenneville is. He is expected to give up more goals against than any other Devils forward, and while he is expected to score more goals than some, of course he has 0 actual goals to show for it so far.

There is still a month left of hockey, and truthfully despite these poor numbers and low output so far, I hope that Hynes continues to play Quenneville, even if on the fourth line and without major minutes. This is really his biggest chance to show that he can make something of himself at the NHL level, and to show the Devils that they made a good choice by taking him in the first round. There’s been too many first round misses since 2005, and adding 2014 to that list would not be a good thing. You might be thinking that well, at best, even if he does show something, he might never be more than a bottom 6 winger at the NHL level, and that might be true. But for a first round pick, getting bottom 6 production out of him would be better than nothing. No one complains about the work that players like Blake Coleman put in night and night out, and if Quenneville can come to a comparable level, that would at least be something.