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Damon Severson Has Been an Unsung Hero

Mackenzie Blackwood and Jack Hughes have been among the Devils who have been praised a lot early on. Severson should be among that list.

Montreal Canadiens v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The other day, CJ wrote a piece about how PK Subban has really been struggling for the New Jersey Devils. It is a relevant and telling article about a guy making $9 million a year through 2022. He is a likeable guy and someone you want to root for, but in terms of on-ice production for the team, he has not been overly helpful.

The antithesis to him, in many ways, has undoubtedly been Damon Severson, someone making $4.17 million, less than half of Subban. Whereas PK gets a lot of press coverage and is highlighted often, Severson always seems to just fly under the radar, and he is just sort of expected to be a solid contributor on the blueline. And that he has been this season, at the absolute minimum. Damon Severson has had a very solid season so far for the Devils, and is someone they have been able to count on in the back end, especially at even strength.

Severson has played the majority of his 5 on 5 time this year with the rookie Ty Smith, and that has been a dynamite combination. At 140 5v5 minutes together, the two have a CF of 63.28%, which is insanely good. But what really shows the success of the pairing, and especially Severson personally, is that Smith only has a CF of 45.83% when he is NOT with Damon. Ty Smith’s Corsi literally jumps by nearly 20 percentage points when he is playing with Severson versus when he is playing with someone else. When Severson is without Smith, his CF is at 52.73%, still a definite drop, but way better than Smith’s less than 46% when the two are apart. Severson has been the catalyst for the duo, especially when it comes to possession.

Beyond the pairing, however, Severson has simply been a beast when it comes to preventing attempts against at even strength. Here is a chart of the top 10 defensemen in the league in CA/60, thanks to Natural Stat Trick. I’ve also included goals against per 60 and xGA/60. This list is for defensemen with at least 100 5v5 minutes so far this year, and there are 209 total defenders who fit the bill (Note: this data was recorded before last night’s games):

In terms of actual CA/60 and GA/60, no defender has been better than Severson this season. His Corsi Against is incredible, second best in the league, and his Goals Against is also second best. That is an incredible combination. No one else in the top 10 in Corsi Against per 60 on this list is also in the top 10 in Goals Against per 60 with the exception of Severson’s partner Smith, who is 4th. Some have been particularly poor at allowing goals against despite having strong possession numbers against, with Brian Dumoulin at the top coming to mind. As you notice, both Dmitry Kulikov and Smith do make this list, which shows how stingy some of the Devils defenders have been, and their GA/60 has been very strong as well, similar to Severson, although Severson is tops among the three.

Where Severson falters a little, as does basically the entire Devils team as I mentioned last week, is where it comes to xGA/60. The comparative between GA/60 and xGA/60 is not kind for the Devils, and has come back to bite them a little over the last few games as they have given up 11 goals over the last three games despite having Mackenzie Blackwood in net for all three, slightly coming back to the mean of what is expected. The one player who seems to be beyond that altogether is Kulikov, who you see there is ranked 4th in xGA/60 among the 209 eligible defenders with at least 100 minutes at 5v5. Severson drops from 2nd in actual GA/60 to 31st in xGA/60. That is still very good, to be ranked 31st among 209 defenders, but is a drop somewhat from where he is right now, giving up only 0.68 goals per 60 minutes, an incredible feat.

Overall, Severson has just been a solid, strong defender for the Devils this season, holding the minutes lead among all defenders at 5 on 5 and on the penalty kill, along with significant playing time on the power play. He does it all for this team in all situations, and produces by making it very difficult for opposing teams to generate shot attempts and also preventing goals at an exceptional rate. He also knows how to get it done offensively, with strong PP time and 7 points in 15 games. But perhaps most importantly, he has been the wing man for Ty Smith, who is shining in his rookie season, in large part thanks to playing alongside Damon. The Devils need to hit on a lot of these young prospects, and there is no doubt that Smith is learning a boat load next to Severson, and his game is undoubtedly better off because he is on that pairing, and not, say, with Subban.

Anyone looking to give out early season MVP honors on the Devils would undoubtedly pass over Severson, looking to Blackwood or perhaps Hughes, but that just speaks even more to his under the radar game. Damon Severson should be an all-star candidate for NJ if he keeps up this level of play this season and should definitely get more positive coverage.