This week, the Devils made a much hoped-for announcement when they inked Jeremy Davies to an entry-level deal. Since being drafted in the seventh round by the Devils in 2016, Davies has shined brightly at Northeastern University, being a standout player from the moment he stepped on the ice for them and ultimately helping lead them to back to back wins in the Beanpot (the annual tourney between Boston’s four college hockey powers) as well as a Hockey East title this season. As with any standout college player nearing the end of their years in school, the possibility existed that Davies would return for his senior year and then potentially test the waters of free agency after that point. With him under contract, he is now officially a New Jersey Devil.
There has been a lot more fanfare around this signing than your typical seventh round pick, but Davies is no ordinary seventh-rounder. Since being selected near the end of the 2016 NHL Draft by New Jersey in his second year of eligibility, he went to Northeastern and immediately made a big impact. Over the next three years, he became one of the most highly regarded college hockey defensemen in the country, securing a selection as an NCAA first-team all-American as a sophomore in 2017-18. As he now makes the jump to professional hockey, what better way to learn more about him than the people who cover Northeastern hockey?
After the signing was announced, the Northeastern Hockey Blog reached out on Twitter and offered to answer some questions for us here at AAtJ. I was able to connect via email with NU Hockey Blog’s Mike Davis who has been watching Jeremy Davies since he arrived at NU. He gave some great insight into the player that Davies was for NU and might be for the Devils. So without further ado, here is the Q&A with Mike Davis of NU Hockey Blog.
All About the Jersey: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us at All About the Jersey. Fans are pretty excited about the newest Devil, as any good news in a season that has gone as poorly as New Jersey’s is welcome, though we’re sure those of you at the Northeastern Hockey Blog will be sad to see him go.
Mike Davis, Northeastern Hockey Blog: No problem Mike, I’m thrilled to be able to help. I’ve been reading AAtJ since the In Lou We Trust days, the site is without a doubt the number one source for any Devils news and analysis [Ed. note: I promise I did not tell him to say that]. Happy I’m able to help some fellow fans learn about a player I’ve been watching so closely for three years.
AAtJ: So you’ve been able to watch Jeremy Davies play for Northeastern for the past three years. What is the thing that really stands out most in his game?
NUHB: The first thing that anyone will notice when watching Davies is his puck-handling ability. Not only does he have the puck on his stick a lot, he makes things happen when he does. He can weave around and through defenders well, even in tight spaces, without losing much control of the puck. He was the most common rush-generator on the Huskies, both at even strength and on the powerplay, and he has a good sense of when a rush may be doomed to fail, opting to circle back and reset the rush rather than charge in with a poor setup and risk losing puck possession. He’s much more of a carry-into-the-zone defenseman rather than a dump-and-retrieve type, though he can play both styles. Naturally with people who handle the puck a lot, there are times where he tried to do too much, which led to turnovers, but the good far out-weighed the bad in that regard. This year in particular, his puck-possession and handling skills were the single-greatest generator of the Northeastern’s offense.
His production numbers from the past few seconds are self-evidently good for a blue liner. In what ways does he create offense from his position? Speed? Gifted passing? A big shot?
As alluded to above, his puck-handling is what gets him in position to generate offense. He has the ability to make room for himself, whether that’s entering the zone across the blue line or moving around defenders once in the zone. He is also a very accurate passer; it’s not just finding the open man, he had the keen ability to pass guys open and thread the needle through high-traffic areas to his teammates. His goal numbers steadily increased, but he does not have that big of a slap shot. His goals came from well-placed wrist shots in transition and on the powerplay, and occasionally down near the goal crease. He certainly can slap a one-timer on net, but historically it tended to generate rebounds and second-chance goals rather than go in on the first shot.
Here’s one goal he scored where he collected a puck wide and streaked in towards the net to score in close. 1:51 mark
And here is a play from the 2018 Beanpot that I want to highlight as his ability to pass quick, accurate, and through traffic. 6:17 mark, it occurs as time is expiring in the period.
Here’s a slapshot goal- 53 seconds in
The few opportunities I’ve had to watch Davies, his puck-carrying and transition game really stood out to me. Would you consider his neutral zone play among his better attributes?
Absolutely. At Northeastern Davies was point-man for, I’d estimate, well over 50% of our rushes through the neutral zone each game, and developed the skills needed to carry the puck in himself as well as know when to pass it to teammates if they were open while also giving them momentum into the zone. The zone entry drawn up by Northeastern Associate Head Coach Jerry Keefe is a pro-style entry, featuring a drop pass near center ice to a trailing skater who makes the decision either to cut into the zone or make a one-touch zone-entry pass. Davies is able to play both roles there.
Offense seems to be the more well-regarded part of his game, but obviously as a defenseman, people are going to want to know how he plays in his own end, so to speak. How would you describe his defensive abilities?
He’s definitely more of an offensive defenseman, but his defensive game isn’t too shabby either. He’s not tall or heavy in stature, but he’s what Head Coach Jim Madigan would call “heavy on pucks,” meaning he sticks to his man well, preventing them from being in a good shooting or passing lane when he’s on them. He also can hold his own in the corners and along the boards, winning those 50/50 battles and then executing a good breakout pass to get the puck out of the defensive zone. He has a good stick, he was rarely out of position or needing to dive to cover more ground- his excellent skating that he shows off offensively translates very well to his fluidity and skating around the defensive zone.
Davies has been a substantial part of one of the more successful stretches of Northeastern hockey in a while with back-to-back Beanpot titles and a Hockey East championship this season. This year he has served as an alternate captain. How do coaches and teammates describe Davies as a teammate and/or leader?
He’s been an integral part of the team and program since the day he stepped foot on the ice. The last two seasons, he has played easily the most minutes of any defenseman, some nights playing over 30 minutes of game time; I believe his average two seasons ago was about 28 minutes a game (I don’t have his numbers for this season on hand). He has always been trusted with a lot of responsibility by the coaches. Before he even enrolled, the coaching staff was high on him, telling fans “this kid is electric, he’s going to turn a lot of heads.” After he signed, Coach Madigan called him “one of the top defensemen in team history,” and Coach means that when he says it. Coach is always very proud of the men his players develop into when at NU, and he has played with and seen many of the great Husky hockey players. To add Davies to that list is quite a testament to his acumen as a player and as a person. He also is a tremendous teammate.
Any fun stories to share about Davies from his time with the Huskies?
Less of individual stories and more of just a collective of memories that he produced. Easily the most electric blue liner in my time watching Northeastern (Class of 2016, started watching in 2012), there was always a chance of something magical happening when he was on the ice. The year he was on the same powerplay as Adam Gaudette (Vancouver Canucks), Dylan Sikura (Chicago Blackhawks), and Nolan Stevens (St. Louis, AHL), that powerplay unit clicked at over 30%. There was a sense of guaranteed goals coming when they got out there. It’s a rare feeling in college hockey to be that certain, but Davies was certainly capable of providing it. One of the biggest goals he scored in his time here was a breakaway goal this season against then-top-ranked UMass, and after he scored he skated towards the student section and told them to “raise the roof.” It was a simple gesture and goal celebration, but it’s that swagger and confidence that helped make Davies such a fan favorite.
48 seconds in, you see Davies force a turnover at the blue line, outskate the chasing Minutemen, and score backhanded over the goaltender.
Finally, what should Devils fans be most excited about now that Davies is signed and in the Devils organization?
As a Devils fan myself, I’m fully aware of the dearth of blue line talent New Jersey has accumulated in recent years. Devils fans should be excited about Jeremy Davies because he brings offensive skill to a system that is sorely lacking in it. He will not be a top pairing defenseman, but he has the offensive skills and defensive discipline to stick as a bottom 4, powerplay specializing defenseman who can drive offense. I expect he’ll take some time to season and get acquainted to the professional speed and size in the AHL, but getting NHL time sooner rather, especially with the Devils needing that infusion of skill at the NHL level, than later should be expected with Davies. The Devils were right to gamble on him in the 7th round of the draft, and in my opinion, he will easily turn a profit on that investment.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some of our questions and best of luck to the Huskies, their fans, and you guys at the NU Hockey Blog in the seasons to come.
Thanks so much again to Mike Davis for answering my questions and hopefully we can all enjoy some good hockey from Davies together as Devils fans from this point forward. Everyone should go check out NU Hockey blog and their archives to see more info on what Davies and the Huskies have done over the past few years. Hope this is as informative and enjoyable a Q&A for all of you as it was for me. Thanks for reading.