The defense for the New Jersey Devils has really not gotten much love this season. The Devils have been very poor at allowing goals against, and with Dougie Hamilton not always playing due to injury, and with Ty Smith not yet becoming the star first rounder many had hoped, there has not been much to discuss on this front. It has been a mostly deserved silence on the positivity, as how much is there really to discuss when the team is playing so poorly, the lone positive really coming with offensive outbursts recently?
But one player who deserves some love, and where Tom Fitzgerald deserves some love in getting him here via a steal of a trade, is Jonas Siegenthaler. The Devils acquired the then-24 year old back in April for a 3rd rounder, and with the Devils having already gotten an extra 3rd from Arizona from the Taylor Hall trade, they were still able to keep their own selection in the round. That pick eventually ended up in the hands of the Rangers, who selected Ryder Korczak at #75 overall. So in reality, the Devils gave up an extra minor asset for a 24 year old on an affordable contract and who would be an RFA, someone who they could keep around if he played well. As a 2nd-round pick himself back in 2015, there was certainly potential there.
And boy has he manifested a lot of that potential this season. One of the ways to see this, which is pretty cool, is by looking at defensive pairs. Natural Stat Trick will showcase defensive pair stats, and among pairs who have played at least 200 minutes at 5 on 5 together this year, the Devils have 3 pairs who are in the top 30 in CF%, out of 112 pairs in the NHL. Two of those pairs contain Siegenthaler. Check out an abbreviated list of these stats:
Between playing with Severson and Subban, Siegenthaler has accumulated close to 800 minutes at 5v5 play. And it really doesn’t matter which guy he is with, his pairing plays well and does positive things for the Devils. And keep it in mind, it isn’t like Severson and Subban are similar defensemen, they play very different games. But it makes no difference, Siegenthaler plays well with both. Both pairings have dominant possession stats, hovering near 54% with Severson and 53% with PK. The Severon pairing has an incredible xGF% near 56%, but the other pairing is over 53%, a really strong number as well. And if you look at both pairings with Jonas, it is not like he is being sheltered. Both have offensive zone faceoff percentages below 50%, so he is not getting an excessive amount of sheltered faceoffs. But it does not affect their possession and xGF stats.
The only other Devils pairing that is close is the one of Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Graves, who also do a good job overall, with numbers similar to the Siegenthaler pairing numbers. But of course, Siegenthaler has done this for near 800 minutes, while those two are only a little over 300, less than half. That isn’t to disparage what Hamilton and Graves have done together, they have been solid, but they just have not had as much time.
With the Devils, there is only one other pairing with 200+ 5v5 minutes together that has a CF% above 50%. Ty Smith and P.K. Subban have 247 minutes together and have a 50.1 CF%, but at the same time have a 46.65 xGF% and are sheltered big time with a 63.31 OZFO%. Overall, that is not great considering they get loads of zone starts in the offensive zone. To have such a low xGF% despite this knowledge basically negates that net neutral possession.
There actually is only one other pair on the Devils that has reached the 200 minute threshold at 5 on 5 play to make the list, and that is the pairing of Subban and Graves. They have a 49.66 CF%, 52.34 xGF%, and a 48.30 OZFO% across nearly 215 minutes together. Those stats are slightly better than the Smith-Subban stats, but considering how well Graves and Hamilton have been together when both are healthy and playing, it makes sense to have them together and not this pairing.
But overall, just looking at those pairing stats, it really highlights how well Siegenthaler has played, regardless of who he is with. His time with Severson is basically dominant, they are a shut down pairing in many ways. But his time with Subban was no joke either. And considering that Subban is on this list two other times, but his best play is with Jonas, that also speaks volumes. The kid has found a real home here in NJ, and he is currently on a real team-friendly deal that pays him only $1.125 million per season for two years, and still leaves him as a restricted free-agent after the 2022-23 season. He could be someone that NJ keeps around for years to come, and for good reason.