With the way the 2022-23 season has gone so far for the New Jersey Devils, there’s been a lot of positive narratives surrounding the team. If it’s not the offensive play of Jack Hughes, it’s the points coming from the back end courtesy of Dougie Hamilton. If one day the focus is on John Marino and his defense, the next it shifts to the strong play of Vitek Vanecek. With all of the strong individual and team efforts, some of the more unsung heroes are tending to fly under the radar a bit. That is exactly the case with Fabian Zetterlund.
Zetterlund may have made the opening night roster, but it took a few games before he became a regular this season. Part of the reason for this was simply the depth in front of him, however when Ondrej Palat went down to injury, Zetterlund seized the opportunity to make an impact. Starting out placed in the Top-6, Zetterlund wound up providing both production and snarl in the lineup. Bringing many of the same skills as the player he was replacing, Fabian wound up being an important contributor during the team’s 13 game winning streak.
Yet, while he had some important moments (such as the above goal), it feels as though Zetterlund is still flying a bit below the radar on this team. Maybe it’s because of the performances of his some of his teammates, as I alluded to at the start of this piece. Whatever the actual reason is, I think Zetterlund has been undervalued because one huge aspect of his game that doesn’t show up on stat sheets: his versatility. Need a player to ride along in the Top-6? Zetterlund is your guy. Need a player who’s hard to play against and brings a ferocious forecheck to the Bottom-6? That can also be Zetterlund.
His stats back up the idea of his play warranting extra attention as well; he’s tied for eighth on the team in points, He also ranks tenth among all Devils in CF% (sixth among forwards who have played 20 games) despite his being shuffled up and down the lineup; no matter where he’s been placed, Zetterlund is helping the team find success. Also encouraging is that his shooting percentage isn’t unsustainably high, and his production has been varied between even strength and power play. To add one more note to this, Zetterlund is currently tied for eighth in the NHL in rookie scoring, and he does have a few games in hand on a few of the players above him, so jumping a few spots in the next couple games isn’t out of the question.
Now I don’t think Fabian winds up getting to a Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier level of play, but I do think he can be a good glue guy for the Devils. He can play anywhere in the lineup without being a liability and he finds a way to fit with the players he’s placed with. The Devils have their high end guys situated, and are finally starting to sort things out in net. Now it’s up to the Zetterlunds of the team to help propel the group toward their goals. And for that, I think we need to make sure we’re recognizing those contributions as they come.
What are your thoughts on Zetterlund’s performance so far this season; do you think there should be more talk about his play? Do you think he’s getting just the right amount of recognition for the role he plays? Do you think there’s more potential for him to unlock, or is what we’re seeing what we’re going to get? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!