On Severson's usage, Zacha's penalty killing, and more
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One thing I'll be watching closely this season is Damon Severson's usage. His underlying numbers suggest he is a top-4 defenseman, he is being paid like a top-4 defenseman, but his ice time doesn't always reflect that.
It was a different story opening night vs Edmonton as Severson played more than 20 minutes and led all Devils in even-strength ice time.
He can be frustrating to watch at times but the good outweighs the bad. If he shows more assertiveness around the net, which I thought he did in the opener, there really is no reason to play him less than 20 minutes on a nightly basis.
Severson is capable of contributing in a lot of different aspects of the game.
During the off-season I wrote about Pavel Zacha's penalty killing ability
and made the case he should be used more heavily in that game state this season.
Though we've only seen one game, it looks like that could be in the cards. Zacha led all forwards logging 3:10 while down a man vs Edmonton (for perspective, he ranked tied for 5th among Devils forwards in PK ice per game last year).
Zacha made good of that ice, to say the least, as the Oilers didn't record a single scoring chance, or shot on goal, during that time.
Zacha's offensive ceiling may not be as high as anyone hoped but he's still developing into a really useful player.
As much as I think Will Butcher deserves a top-4 role, maybe sheltering him and letting him feast vs depth players isn't the worst idea in the world. He finished 1st, or tied for 1st, in on-ice shot attempt differential (+12), chance differential (+10), and high-danger chance differential (+5) while recording more 5v5 shot attempts than all but Taylor Hall. Offense is the strength of his game and the role he's being used in really allows it to shine through.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com.
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