New Jersey Devils: Quarter Season Defensive Grades

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - FEBRUARY 20: Mackenzie Blackwood #29 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the San Jose Sharks at the Prudential Center on February 20, 2020 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Sharks 2-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - FEBRUARY 20: Mackenzie Blackwood #29 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the San Jose Sharks at the Prudential Center on February 20, 2020 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Sharks 2-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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New Jersey Devils
Will Butcher #8 of the New Jersey Devils: (Elsa/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports) /

Matt Tennyson

GP:10 G:0 A:1 Pts:1

Matt Tennyson continues to surprise early season. After beating out Ty Smith last season, he beat out Will Butcher this season for the final spot. His play early on was actually quite good for an AHL defender, but a lot of that should be put on being paired with Smith. His physical play improved early on but dwindled late before he was finally pulled from the lineup. As a depth man, he is mediocre, but being able to get some good games out of him is fine in this case, especially being a +6 even if his underlying numbers show this would not last.

Quarter season grade: C

Will Butcher

GP:3 G:1 A:2 Pts:3

Not making the opening lineup was a huge shock for fans and likely for Will Butcher. After getting back in the lineup after a year off due to injury, the season’s start time, and Tennyson looking good ended up keeping Butcher out of this lineup. He will never be the star it looked like he could be. Butcher is still is a pretty good number-six defender. His puck movement in the short time was rather good and putting up 3 points in 3 games will go a long way to getting him some more games this season.

Quarter season grade: B

Sami Vatanen

GP:4 G:0 A:0 Pts:0

After being traded last season, Sami Vatanen was unable to find a long-term home so his return to the Devils was a happy surprise. Unfortunately, he has not found his stride this season in a short time. Despite not being thrown into tough matchups every shift, he hasn’t been able to find his stride yet. His passing is still a little off and he is looking more of a bottom-pairing defender versus the strong middle pair guy he was last season.

Quarter season grade: C