Report Card: Defensemen

It’s time to break down the Trenton Devils defensemen through the first 25 games of the season.  Again, this is done for the purposes of discussion, so if you agree or disagree with any of these grades, be sure to state your case in the comments.

#2 T.J. Miller
20 GP: 1G-5A-6P, -10, 6 PIM

Given his status as a Devils draft pick, Miller can most likely be categorized as somewhat of a disappointment in his first 20 pro games.

His minus ten rating puts him third worst on the team and second worst among defensemen, and he’s registered just six points so far.  The latter number is hardly surprising given his lack of involvement in the offense — he has just eight shots on goal in 20 games.

Miller has his moments.  Sometimes, he’ll play a solid 20 minutes, and there are others where his inexperience shows.  I can still remember a particular early season game where it seemed like he was giving the puck away at least one a shift.

Miller will miss a good part of his freshman season due to an upper-body injury, but is expected back before the season ends. 

Grade: D

#5 Andy Thomas
18 GP: 1 G-3A-4P, -3, 15 PIM

I’ll give you a hint on how to tell my thoughts on a defenseman.  How often do I write about him?  How often does his name come up in my game story?  I almost NEVER mention Andy Thomas.  Truth is, I don’t notice him too often.  But that’s a good thing.

Thomas is a solid, steady defensive minded blueliner who is comfortable playing huge minutes on a nightly basis.  There’s a clear top half and bottom half to Trenton’s D corps, and he’s easily in the top half.  Only complaint is he could stand to improve a little bit on the offensive side of things, but only if it doesn’t detract from his solid defensive play.

Grade: B

#7 Justin Coutu
25 GP: 1 G-9A-10P, -5, 53 PIM

It’s been nice to see the steady improvement of Justin Coutu since he was first acquired during the 2008-09 season.  He’s really gotten better in every apsect of his game.  When he first came to Trenton, he was a one-dimensional player who was fighting for a roster spot by standing up for teammates and dropping the gloves whenever he could.  His overall game was shaky, and he had little offensive skill to speak of.

Now, Coutu has still maintained the physicality in his game, but he’s much more disciplined with it.  He still is the team’s designated tough guy — his 53 PIM’s lead the team — but there’s no more eliminating power plays with silly penalties of his own.  Better yet, he’s stepped up the offensive side of his game and isn’t afraid to jump into the play anymore.

This season, Coutu is one of just two players on the team to play in all 25 games and is tied for the team lead among defensemen with ten points.  While solid defensively, he still has some work to do there…although I’d still consider him a defense-first guy.  And he’s still prone to the occasional unnecessary penalty.

Grade: B-

#8 Martin Nolet
14 GP: 2G-1A-3P, +4, 10 PIM

Nolet was solid while he was around.  Not great, but solid.  Now on the 21-Day IR, there’s no word on if and when he’ll return.

 The first-year pro didn’t seem out of place in his 14-game debut.  He was solid defensively (his plus-four rating is evidence of that) and was relied upon heavily offensively…perhaps more than he should have been.

It will be interesting to see where he fits in — and perhaps more specifically who doesn’t fit in anymore — once he comes back.

Grade: C

#20 Brad Miller
3GP: 1G-3A-4P, +1, 0 PIM

Miller’s Trenton Devils debut was one to remember.  His most recent game was likely one to forget.  It’s hard to judge a guy on just a few games.  I was able to do it with Shane Connelly because I’d seen him a few times prior to playing with Trenton.  I’d only seen Miller once with the Jackals…so for now, he’s going to get an incomplete.  If I had to grade him, he’d probably be in the C+ range.

Grade: INC

#26 Dave Leaderer
21 GP: 3G-7A-10P, -6, 12 PIM

You can pretty much file this one into the Andy Thomas review category.  I don’t mention Leaderer too often because I don’t notice him.  When I don’t notice a D-man, that’s good.  Are we good?  Good.

Leaderer’s been good this year — possibly not as good as in seasons past, but still solid — and finally got to enjoy a much-deserved and long-awaited AHL call-up.

Leaderer can do a little bit of everything.  Doesn’t do any one thing particularly well, but he won’t burn you.  Brings just enough physicality to get by.  Only issue I noticed recently is he was a little too hesitant with shooting the puck during a recent game, which had never seemed to be a problem in the past. 

Grade: C+

#27 Justin Pender
23 GP: 1G-5A-6P, -12, 30 PIM

You can pretty much take anything I’ve ever written about Pender and apply it here.  He is incredibly frustrating to watch sometimes.  He leaves a lot to be desired defensively, and is slow to react on some plays.

Offensively, he has gotten better, I’ll give him that.  His shot has gotten more accurate, and he’s actually third on the team with 60 SOG.  He has an absolute cannon, and while he still misses the net quite a bit, at least he’s putting it on net more frequently.  Now, he needs to find a way to put it in the net…one goal on 60 shots isn’t going to cut it.

Maybe he’d be better as a forward.  Yes, he’s big and isn’t a particularly strong skater…but maybe that would worth experimenting with.  Maybe even try him up front on the power play for some one-timers from closer than the blue line.  The Devils have something with that shot of his.  I’m not advocating giving up on him all together.  But I am saying that maybe the current plan isn’t working.

Grade: D-

#28 Jordon Southorn
15 GP: 0G-2A-2P, -8, 18 PIM

Southorn hasn’t really made the kind of contribution that had been hoped when he joined the team prior to the start of the season.

The big first-year player hasn’t made much of an impact this season, and is still awaiting his first professional goal.  He’s tallied just two assists, and his minus-eight rating is tied for the fourth worst on the team.

The experiment of him playing up front didn’t work, so he’ll be on the blueline for the foreseeable future.
 
Grade: D+

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4 Responses to “Report Card: Defensemen”

  1. Shtikl Says:

    I can guess who’s not going to be buying YOU a Trenton Pork Roll basket for the holidays!

  2. Langhorrne Devil Says:

    I think maybe a little harsh on Brad Miller. I realise it is a very very small sample size but I do feel this recent (allbeit very short) uptick in Trentons performances is in part due to him.

  3. ashmore Says:

    That’s why he was graded as incomplete, really…not enough to go on.

  4. trentondevilsfan Says:

    Pender is horrible. D is awful through the whole org so if one of these guys can put a run together….well let’s just say there’s room to move up.

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