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Devon Toews Off to Promising Start

It’s only three games, but thus far the blueliner has excelled without being sheltered.

New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs
Toews has played well enough to get a longer look.
Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Devon Toews has only played three NHL games, but so far his 5v5 stats, while paired with Luca Sbisa (12:49) and Scott Mayfield (34:21), appear promising.

Toews is top-10 for each of the four major on-ice shot-percentage measurements, among 151 NHL defensemen who have played 40+ minutes of 5v5 in their past three team-games, according to Natural Stat Trick score-and-venue-adjusted.

What is more, the high percentage is mostly driven by limiting opposing shots, particularly in and around the slot area. This is good news for a (perhaps) slightly undersized defenseman who is adjusting to the NHL game.

In addition to that, Toews is also top-20 among the 151 defensemen in his rate of 5v5 shot attempts (5th), unblocked attempts (20th), and shots-on-goal (16th). While all of his shots are from distance (none of the 15 has gone down as “SCF”), this is nonetheless encouraging.

Sure, Toews hasn’t been given the heaviest ice time at 5v5, but while Sbisa and Mayfield each have some good attributes, he also hasn’t been given a partner known for playing dominant 5v5 hockey.

While Toews was not necessarily intended to face top forwards for the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs in the past three games, coach Barry Trotz did not appear to make much of an effort to shelter Toews against some of the league’s most dangerous play-makers.

A handful of All-Star candidates are among the 20 forwards Toews faced most in his first three NHL games: Auston Matthews, Alexander Radulov, Matt Duchene, William Nylander, Tyler Seguin, Mitch Marner, Jamie Benn, and John Tavares.

There has been talk in the past week that the Islanders may send Toews back down to Bridgeport once the regular seven defensemen are fully healthy.

For a 24 year-old who is performing better than most defensemen in the NHL, I question the logic of such a move, even if it is only for a week. As the Islanders fight for a top-3 spot in the Metro, every point in the standings matters.