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Most underused defenseman in the NHL this season?

November 26, 2019, 11:34 AM ET [19 Comments]
HockeyBuzz Hotstove
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In this edition of the hotstove, we share our thoughts on the most underutilized defensemen in the NHL this season.

Todd Cordell

Adam Fox.

Going from NCAA to the NHL has been a rather seamless transition for the 21-year-old blueliner.

Offensively, he is as advertised. Fox has put up 11 points in 22 games – an impressive 40-point pace – and has generated 5v5 scoring chances at a higher clip than every other defenseman on the team. That’s impressive considering Jacob Trouba and Anthony DeAngelo are rostered.

He’s driven possession, he has a strong goal differential, and his defensive numbers are miles better than you’d expect from a rookie touted most for his offensive game.

With Fox on the ice, the Rangers allow 12.61 fewer shot attempts, 7.8 fewer chances, and 1.24 fewer goals per 60 minutes than they do without him. Those differentials are astonishing.

Despite Fox’s remarkably statistical profile, and the fact the Rangers are a rebuilding team, he ranks 6th on their blueline in average 5v5 ice per game, and 5th across all game states.

Michael Stuart

I'll go off the board and take Dylan DeMelo.

DeMelo has been stapled to Ottawa's third pairing on most nights this season, while Nikita Zaitsev gets primetime minutes with Thomas Chabot. This, despite the fact that DeMelo is the team's blue line leader in CF% and xGF% at five-on-five per Natural Stat Trick. Zaitsev, for his part, ranks dead last.

On a team as woefully thin as the Senators, it doesn't make an ounce of sense to have the leader in those categories play anywhere other than the top pairing. We've seen DeMelo have success with Chabot in the past, and in limited action this season. It's true that DeMelo's ice time totals don't suggest underuse in a traditional sense, but as long as he's playing anywhere other than alongside Chabot, he's being underused by the Senators.

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