Jacob Josefson: Unproven Commodity Or Draft Bust?

The New Jersey Devils drafted Swedish center-ice player, Jacob Josefson, in the first round of the 2009 NHL Draft. The scouting reports on Josefson indicated the potential to be a top-line center with high impact offensive skills.

Nov 3, 2013; Saint Paul, MN, USA; New Jersey Devils forward Jacob Josefson (16) against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Devils 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Devils selection of Josefson marked a slight deviation from their philosophy of drafting prospects. The majority of Lou Lamoriello’s tenure with the team the Devils approached the draft with the objective of building the defense and taking forwards who were two-way players with some physicality.   I have always felt that the selection of Josefson, especially with such a high pick (22nd overall) represented the changing landscape of the post-lockout NHL rule changes which opened up the ice. The Devils realized that they need to stock their system with some high-ceiling offensive prospects to compete in a new style of game which favored the faster, offensive minded player.

 

Since that Draft Night in 2009, almost 5 years ago now, Jacob Josefson has not delivered on the rather lofty expectations that the organization and the fan base had for him and his career with the Devils. He has been back and forth to the Devils minor league team in Albany several times. Last season, he was sent down when the team obtained Andrei Loktionov because the front office and the coaching staff wanted to give Josefson the chance to “regain his confidence”.   The question I have: Is Jacob Josefson an unproven commodity or a draft bust? I thought of the potential answer to that question, then I realized there may not be an easy answer.

Sample Size

The fastest way to determine the measurement of the performance of a given player in any sport is statistics. The theory being that numbers do not lie, but they also tell only part of the story. It is a small piece of what a respective front office will look at with regard to drafting, signing, or making any other player personnel decision.   The statistics for Jacob Josefson are as follows (courtesy of SI.com):

2013-14 Season

Games: 18

Goals: 0

Assists: 1

Points: 1

Plus/Minus: +1

Total Ice Time (T.O.I.) per Game: 10 minutes

Career Stats

Games: 109

Goals: 6

Assists: 17

Points: 23

Plus/Minus: +6

Shots on Goal: 101

This is the sample size for Josefson at approximately 100 games into his NHL career. His career goals total of 6 is certainly a disappointment to everyone involved. However, his career has also been marked by bad luck with injuries.

In his second game in the NHL in 2010 he injured his thumb and had to have surgery resulting in extensive missed games. In the 2011-12 season he started the season on the Devils roster and in the fifth game he broke his right clavicle and was out for most of the regular season. Then in a game in early April he broke his wrist in a collision and was out, but did return during the Devils extended playoff run to the Stanley Cup Final.

 

Jan 25, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New Jersey Devils center Jacob Josefson (16) carries sticks off ice after practice the day before the Stadium Series hockey game at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries are a part of any sport, especially a game as physical as hockey, but the timing of Josefson’s injuries really disrupted any continuity he could have early in his career. This should be considered a factor in the unrealized expectations up to this point with regard to his performance.

Is this sample size enough to label Josefson a draft pick bust? Or has he not been given a full opportunity yet to prove himself one way or the other?

The goals total for his career is low, but he has only 100 shots on goal in his entire career. One goal per approximately every 20 shots is not a horrible rate when you look at the numbers in a different way.   His draft reports compared him to Nicklas Backstrom but he has never approached those types of offensive numbers. There is little evidence at this point to predict that he ever will produce in the way Backstrom did offensively in his career.

 

2009 Draft – The case moving forward  

The 2009 Draft featured players such as John Tavares, Matt Duchene, Evander Kane, Brayden Schenn, and Victor Hedman. All of these players have produced consistently for their teams, some as role players (Schenn, Kane) and others as top line stars (Tavares, Duchene). Jacob Josefson has not been either type of player for New Jersey.   In order to qualify that statement, those names I mentioned were all taken very high in the first round.

If you look at the players taken later in the first round around Josefson and after his selection, nobody stands out. Many of the players are not in the NHL at all, so in that case, the Devils did not miss out on another top player by taking Josefson.

The recent storyline in the New Jersey media is that Josefson was quoted as saying he is out to “prove he belongs in the NHL”, but with only playing an average of 10 minutes a game, are the Devils giving him a legitimate chance?

I was at a game with a friend of mine a couple of years ago, and we were talking between periods with other Devils fans, and Josefson had several shifts on the ice in the game and had done nothing. I stated flatly “Josefson is a bust” and everyone there agreed.

In the two years since, I think it may be more of an issue that it may not be that simple, he may not have been given a full opportunity with limited ice time. He also will play two games in an entire month, which has to be very difficult to gain any kind of feel for the game or momentum to contribute.

The Devils will be in Dallas tonight to play the Dallas Stars and Jacob Josefson will not play, he is a healthy scratch by the coaching staff. This move made some waves because Devils star forward Jaromir Jagr made comments that he thought Josefson was playing well recently. The Devils respond by sending him to the bench.

In the end analysis, Josefson is only 22 years old, the guy selected one spot prior to him Chris Kreider by the New York Rangers has only 2 career NHL goals. Now, Kreider did decide to attend Boston College and then go to the NHL minor leagues, so that statistic has to be further qualified. The case being that Kreider has not yet made a big impact on the Rangers, so maybe we are judging Josefson too harshly?

What are your thoughts? Is Josefson a bust or does he have the potential to be an impact player for the Devils?

The Devils have invested salary dollars (including $750,000 for this season alone) and a first round draft pick on Josefson, I think it is time for this team to play him frequently and determine whether or not this player is the guy they drafted. If he is not then they should cut their losses. If the Devils are going to continue to bench him they should just release him and give him the chance to continue his hockey career with another organization.

(Statistics courtesy of SI.com, draft reports information courtesy of NHL.com, and salary cap information courtesy of CapGeek.com)

Topics: Jacob Josefson, New Jersey Devils

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