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Stafford returns on PTO, Devils fall to Sabres at 2018 Prospects Challenge

September 8, 2018, 10:08 AM ET [19 Comments]
Todd Cordell
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On Drew Stafford

Friday afternoon the New Jersey Devils announced forward Drew Stafford would be rejoining the team; this time on a tryout basis.

The 32-year-old dressed 59 times in what was probably the worst season of his career.

He set new lows in overall production and efficiency tallying .25 points per game, and .78 points per 60 minutes played at 5v5. He also averaged fewer than seven shots on goal/60 for just the second time.

Suffice to say he wasn't very effective last year, which is why he had to settle for a professional tryout.

While many are up in arms about the news, I don't think it's a huge deal.

His best days are long behind him and I won't try and tell you otherwise. It is worth noting, though, that Stafford was *really* unlucky last year. He shot 3.75% at 5v5; he had only shot below 6.5% just twice in 10 years prior. At 5.25%, he also suffered through the lowest on-ice shooting percentage of his career. Should he make the team, he's likely due for a little positive regression in 2018-19.

Oh, and he'll only be in the lineup opening night if the Devils don't deem their kids to be ready. Should John Quenneville or Michael McLeod, for example, really stand out in camp, they'll be on the team. If they don't, Stafford will serve as a stop-gap. It's as simple as that.

Devils vs Sabres thoughts

The Devils opened up their three-game 2018 Prospect Challenge schedule last night with a game against the Buffalo Sabres.

Here are some of my takeaways from the 6-4 loss:

1) McLeod's blazing speed was showcased often in the opening frame. He looked really dynamic carrying the puck through the neutral zone and he was able to draw a pair of penalties, one of which was converted on. He wasn't nearly as noticeable in the final 40.

2) As a whole, I was disappointed with the top line of Joey Anderson, Quenneville, and McLeod. They're arguably the team's three most NHL-ready forward prospects and each of them is supposed to contend for a roster spot in camp. They didn't look ready to do so last night. Beyond McLeod's drawn penalties, and a couple good forechecking sequences, this line didn't do much. I expected them to create consistent opportunities but they came few and far between.

3) Brett Seney was one of the bright spots for the Devils. He was shifty with the puck on his stick, showed good creativity, and wasn't afraid to try and make plays. A couple times he tried to do too much and it resulted in turnovers but the good outweighed the bad.

4) Fabian Zetterlund impressed me once again. His forechecking was good and he consistently showed the ability to process the game at a high speed and react accordingly – he was always in the right spot. He also showcased his quick release ripping one home from the slot.

5) Ty Smith wasn't dominant but he was good. He was really poised with the puck and made smart decisions with it. A couple different times the Devils offense was stagnated and he took matters into his own hands by rushing up ice and creating an opportunity. I'm excited to see more of him.

6) Mackenzie Blackwood started the game really well. He showed off ridiculous athleticism making a couple stops he probably shouldn't have. The final 40 minutes were not good, though. His positioning was shaky and it felt like Buffalo could score any time they wanted to.

7) From Buffalo's perspective, I was impressed with Alex Nylander, Rasmus Asplund, and Rasmus Dahlin. The latter created a ton of quality looks, scored twice, was effective breaking the puck out of the zone, and even laid a couple solid hits. He dominated the game.

Note: Stafford numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com.

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