I can’t say for certain how many fans expected the New Jersey Devils to be good in this truncated, condensed 2021 season. I can say though that I don’t think many people would have predicted the Devils to be “third worst points percentage in the NHL” bad, which is where they currently are. The team just has had a rough season, brought on by goaltending issues that have been compounded by defending and scoring issues.
While the season has been a waste, player development for some of the younger guys has not. Ty Smith in his first season playing professional hockey has looked (and played) fantastic; he should be a staple on the back end for the next decade or more provided the Devils play their cards right. Janne Kuokkanen has finally gotten a chance as a full time NHL player and has done extremely well (so much so that Alex wrote this excellent piece on him to round out last week) this campaign also.
Lost under those narratives (particularly the Smith one) sometimes is the play of Yegor Sharangovich. Entering tonight’s game, Sharangovich sits 5th on the team in scoring, and is tied with Pavel Zacha for second in goal scoring. Not bad at all for a guy who bounced around the lineup a bit before finding chemistry with Kuokkanen and Travis Zajac prior to the latter’s trade.
Training camp play had a lot of us fans encouraged about Sharangovich, and his making the team only served to increase the hype. While the season started off slowly for him (only 3 points in his first 14 games), as I mentioned before he was bounced around the lineup a bit, and also had to deal with basically the entire team being placed into Covid-19 protocl, which halted the season. Once he settled in with Zajac/Kuokkanen (and now with Jack Hughes as his center), Yegor has taken off with his remaining 21 points having come in his 33 most recent appearances.
Across a full NHL season, 21 points in 33 games would be a 52 point pace. If he is able to maintain or increase his current points per game, the Devils could have themselves a quality Top 6 wing for years to come. An encouraging sign would for this would be his 11.8 shooting percentage. Yegor isn’t afraid to put the puck on net, and it isn’t as though he is scoring on a ridiculous percentage of those shots. 11.8 is a number traditionally seen as sustainable in the NHL, and while we don’t have multiple seasons of Sharangovich data to go off of, this could be a good sign that we don’t have to worry about goal scoring regression.
The Devils have played a brand of hockey under Lindy Ruff where they tend to control the run of play, and Sharangovich has been helpful with this. His Corsi % on the season is 51.4, and while one could argue that it isn’t all that great (he sits 13th among anyone who suited up for 10 or more games this season) it’s a pretty good number for an NHL rookie who hasn’t needed much if any sheltering.
While 2021 is bound to be just another season to forget in the history of the New Jersey Devils, the development of Sharangovich should not be lost with it. He has looked the part of a true every night NHL player even while dealing with the many challenges presented both by the team and the season itself. The 2021-22 campaign will be extremely important for Yegor, because it will be the start of him proving whether or not this season was a fluke. Based on the nightly play, and the effort he contributes to each contest, I think we’ll be seeing a lot of this #17 in New Jersey for a while.
What are your thoughts on the season that Sharangovich is having for the Devils? Are you impressed with the play of this rookie in a very different and strange season? Do you think his stats are sustainable? Can they be improved upon? What is your outllok on Sharangovich’s future with the Devils? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!