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World Hockey Championships will be a good litmus test for Will Butcher

April 30, 2018, 10:48 AM ET [29 Comments]
Todd Cordell
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The 2018 World Hockey Championships begin in just a few days and the New Jersey Devils will have several representatives.

Headlining the group is 23-year-old defenseman Will Butcher, who registered 44 points during a very strong rookie campaign.

Butcher should get plenty of opportunity to pick up where he left off as USA isn't exactly bringing over a who's who of defensemen.

Beyond Butcher, USA is rostering Alec Martinez, Neal Pionk, Connor Murphy, Jordan Oesterle, Nick Jensen, and 2018 draft eligible Quinn Hughes on defense.

That group features one player who has played top-4 minutes consistently at the NHL level (Martinez) and zero capable of matching Butcher offensively.

In New Jersey, he played almost exclusively on the 3rd pairing and was sheltered with a lot of offensive zone starts. He wasn't asked to play hard minutes.

USA's defense core makes the Devils look like the Nashville Predators – that may be a slight exaggeration – so it's probably safe to assume that will change. More minutes. Tougher competition. Less offensive zone starts.

While it's important never to put too much stock into a couple weeks of hockey, I'm really interested to see how he handles it.

There's still room for improvement over the summer, obviously, but it'll be a good litmus test to see if Butcher's ready to take on more responsibility.

Hopefully he is because the free agent defense crop is pretty thin, especially on the left side, and the Devils' ceiling will be low as long as John Moore is on the 2nd pairing.

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