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With next to nothing happening in the hockey world now, I've decided to take the plunge and write daily profiles for members of the New Jersey Devils.
I'll be commenting on the year each player just had as well as their projected role and expectations for 2019-20.
I've written four so far, with Miles Wood being the most recent player profiled.
Today we're going with Will Butcher.
78 games played, 30 points (four goals, 26 assists), 19:16 average time on ice
.69 points/60, +4.10 CF% Rel, +4.92 GF% Rel, +5.37 xGF% Rel, 99.0 PDO
Everything went right in Will Butcher's rookie season. He got off to a historic start offensively. He quarterbacked a power play unit that featured Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall. He put up 44 points. The Devils surprised everyone and made the playoffs. A combination of all that led to unrealistic expectations last season that were all but impossible to meet, especially given the circumstances (the team was bad and injury plagued). As such, people are down on him and consider the year a disappointment. Realistically, it wasn't. The Devils controlled a much larger percentage of the shots, chances, and goals with Butcher on the ice. That's good. He also still put up 30 points on an offensively starved team that played every game in 2019 without its best player. Still good! Had he put up fewer points as a rookie, I think most people would consider last year a success.
Butcher was worth 9.8 Goals Above Replacement, according to EvolvingHockey.com. That was good for 37th among all defenders, and matched his output of 9.8 as a rookie (his PP GAR was worse in 2018-19 while his ES GAR improved).
I think Butcher's 2019-20 campaign could be similar to his rookie year. With better team health, and a lot more supporting talent, putting up 40-45 points hardly seems out of the question. I expect Butcher will take on a larger role at even-strength as well. With the hirings of Tyler Dellow and Matt Cane, the Devils are probably a little more analytically inclined than they've been in previous years. The left side of the defense is hardly a strength, too, so the minutes are there for Butcher to grab. I think he will, and this time next year we'll probably be considering Butcher an absolute steal at ~$3.7M and borderline untouchable.
numbers via naturalstattrick.com and hockey-reference.com
top-5 defnesemen in the Eastern Conference?
top-5 wingers in the Eastern Conference?
2019 player profile: Miles Wood
2019 player profile: Travis Zajac
2019 player profile: Damon Severson
On Will Butcher's three-year extension
On the Nikita Gusev trade
Pavel Zacha will play an important role in 2019-20
Wayne Simmonds' poor 2018-19 campaign was not a one-off