To say the Devils injury problems are severe would be an understatement.
Since the preseason, the team lost Bryce Salvador (concussion), Brian Rolston (hernia surgery), Zach Parise (torn meniscus) and Mark Fraser (broken hand). New Jersey also began the season without Anssi Salmela, who tore his ACL during the World Championships this year. In total, the Devils lost a combined 339 games between those five players. It's a shocking number, and one that's certainly contributed to their abysmal start.
With the rash of injuries, the Devils needed to depend on rookies to fill several spots in the roster. The Devils have already used seven rookies this season, and that number could rise throughout the season. Some rookies looked good, others overwhelmed, and others in between. Here is our evaluation of every Devils rookie who took the ice this season, in order of games played.
1. Matt Taormina (15 games, 5 points, +1 rating)
Taormina is the Devils best rookie so far this season. The undrafted forward from Providence College (where Lou Lamoriello first got his start) is in the top ten in points on the team and is tied for second in goals. Taormina stepped up and became the team's best offensive option along the blue line, supplanting Andy Greene from that position. The defenseman earned the trust of coach John MacLean, and now gets regular time on the powerplay.
The rookie defensemen continues to get it done in the defensive zone as well. He's not a Scott Stevens or Ken Daneyko, but Taormina is generally solid in his own end. Sometimes he makes a dumb mistake, as every rookie does, but he's by far made the best impression this season.
2. Olivier Magnan (9 games, 0 points, -2 rating)
Magnan made his debut in Montreal on October 21, and he made his presence known immediately. The rookie threw his body around and looked strong in his own end, drawing rave reviews from Devils color commentator Chico Reesch. Since that game, Magnan continued to earn the trust of MacLean, gaining significant minutes in his following games.
Magnan isn't going to light the lamp or make dazzling offensive rushes. His job is to play physical defense and use the body. Through nine games, he's looked good doing just that. Like Taormina, he's going to make mistakes throughout the course of a game. But his have been limited, and he's outplayed veterans like Henrik Tallinder during his time with New Jersey.
3. Tim Sestito (9 games, 0 points, -1 rating)
Sestito did his job during his time with the Devils, filling in along the fourth line and generally playing around eight minutes a night. He didn't do anything spectacular, but wasn't depended on for his offensive skill. The Devils looked for him to fill space and play well, and he generally gave them what they asked.
As a center, however, Sestito struggled from the faceoff circle. In eight games, Sestito only won 43 percent of his faceoffs (in his ninth game, against the Blackhawks, he didn't record a faceoff attempt). That ineffective play brought down the amount of shifts MacLean could use Sestito, because his faceoff percentages were so weak. In the minors, he'll have to work on that weakness.
4. Alexander Urbom (7 games, 0 points, -3 rating)
I've got to admit, the struggles Urbom underwent through seven games were a bit surprising. The rookie made the team out of training camp, even though he never played North American hockey. As a result, he looked a step too slow on the ice. He never seemed to flash the offensive potential shown during his time with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL last year either.
Urbom needs to get his feet wet in the AHL before anyone can give him a true judgment. The NHL looked too fast for him, and some seasoning should help him learn proper positioning and when to be aggressive. Secretly, I wanted him to score so Doc and Chico could do some type of John Sterling-esque goal call. Maybe it'll come next year.
For the rest of the review, follow after the jump!