New Jersey Devils: Analyzing A Pattern of Failed Swedish Prospects

Alexander Holtz playing for the Devils in preseason. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Alexander Holtz playing for the Devils in preseason. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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New Jersey Devils
Jacob Josefson #16 and Mattias Tedenby #21 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Big Dreams for Mattias Tedenby, Jacob Josefson, and Adam Larsson

Mattias Tedenby was selected with the 24th overall selection in the 2008 draft and would spend the next two seasons developing in Sweden. Tedenby was a very skilled offensive-minded forward with great puck-handling skills. He would sign with the Devils before the 2010 season and was in line to make the opening night roster for that season. Under coach John MacLean, he would make his debut on November 10th and immediately got his first point.

Under MacLean, Tedenby succeeded offensively. He had eight points in 18 games as a 20 year old, something that was encouraging. However, with the team not playing up to standard, MacLean was replaced with defensively-minded coach Jacques Lemaire. While Tedenby would stay in the lineup, Lemaire did not like where Tedenby’s defensive game was. He drastically reduced his time on ice during games by three minutes. Under MacLean, Tedenby averaged 14:30 a game. However, with Lemaire, he only averaged 11:30.

That stat is misleading. It was not until after the trade deadline when the Devils traded away veteran players that opened lineup space where Tedenby’s time on ice went up. In between the firing of MacLean and the deadline, Tedenby’s average ice time went to 9:45. He would only come up with 14 points in the final 40 games of the season after starting off hot.

The next season he was not a fit in the Pete DeBoer system and saw his ice time drop even more. After that, Tedenby was cast aside by the organization. His last appearance for the Devils would come in December of 2013. He would go back to Sweden where he has succeeded and is currently still playing.

After drafting Tedenby, the following season the Devils drafted Jacob Josefson to potentially be a number-one center for Tedenby. The 20th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, Josefson played one more year in Sweden before being brought over and immediately making the roster in the 2010-11 season. It was clear that Josefson was not ready for the NHL. He was sent to the AHL after just six games. After the trade deadline, like Tedenby, Josefson was given an opportunity where Josefson showed a little bit more than his original opportunity.

The next season, Josefson made the roster out of training camp again, but again showed pretty quickly he was not ready. Unfortunately, the injury bug hit. He broke his clavicle and would not come back until January. During this time, Josefson would carve out a more defensive-minded, bottom-six role that would follow him for the rest of his career. He was known for his shootout moves, so his offensive prowess was there, but given the Devils system and faulty development of the young Swede, he would never realize his full potential.

Josefson would see himself in and out of the lineup due to injuries and poor play for the next few seasons. He would never have a season with more than 15 points in the NHL. After the 2016-17 season, he would leave the Devils organization, signing with Buffalo. While Tedenby and Josefson were similar in their failed paths, one needed more playing time and the other needed more seasoning. The point remains that the Devils failed to realize each player’s development is different. That is something that plagued Lou Lamoriello’s later years with New Jersey.

The trade was one-for-one. However, before the famous trade, Adam Larsson was being compared to Nicklas Lidstrom. Many hockey pundits claimed the Devils won draft lottery gold by moving up to take Larsson. However, in the most famous example of failing a prospect, Pete DeBoer and Lou Lamoriello would break Larsson down just as fast as they built him up.

During Larsson’s rookie year, he would be given opportunities and would play consistent big minutes. He would receive some Calder Trophy votes despite suffering a few injuries. Then, for some reason, DeBoer sat Larsson during the beginning of the playoffs in favor of Peter Harrold. Larsson would sit until Round 2 where he promptly scored in his playoff debut, but would be moved to the press box once again.

The next season, the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Larsson was left off of the opening night roster. He would remain a healthy scratch for the first part of the year, much to the bewilderment of fans. It seemed as if DeBoer would try and find ways to not play Larsson. During the 2013-14 season, Larsson had a couple of injuries. However, it was clear he belonged in the NHL. But, Lamoriello and DeBoer would keep Larsson in the AHL more than he saw NHL ice time that season. It seemed like Larsson was an afterthought.

In the 2014-15 season, Larsson would be a healthy scratch for a few games once again for no reason whatsoever. Then, the NHL mumps outbreak happened and shelved Larsson for more time. He finished the 14-15 season and the 15-16 season as an NHL regular, however, the damage to his development was already done. After his first full season in the NHL, he was dealt by Ray Shero for Taylor Hall, a trade that worked out in the Devils’ favor.