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Top 25U25: #7 Devon Toews can make the jump

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Had defenseman Devon Toews not been injured last season, he likely would have been the first call-up to fill in for Calvin de Haan. With the top six defensemen seemingly set, will Toews be able to break out this season?

(Apologies for the skipped day, some personal issues came up)

Devon Toews recently signed a two-year contract that will take him to arbitration-eligible RFA status and give the Islanders some time to give him the required games that won’t allow him to opt out as a Group VI UFA. Toews is a former AHL All-Star, winning the fastest skater competition there in 2017. He had posted 5 goals and 45 points in 76 games in Bridgeport in 2016-17, an impressive mark for the former fourth-round pick. In 2017-18, he played in 30 games, scoring 8 goals and 22 points, but his season ended early when he had to undergo shoulder surgery that sidelines him for six months.

Toews’ point-producing and quick skating has earned him high regard as an Islanders defensive prospect, and it’s made many fans wish for him to be given a chance. Unfortunately, the best opportunity presented itself after Toews had already been ruled out for the rest of the season. Then-general manager Garth Snow basically said that his hands were tied because of the double injury, a comment that was much maligned given that it seemed like the GM was relying on a second-pairing defenseman and an unproven AHL call-up to save the season. Yikes.

But Toews has earned much of his high praise, constantly growing and developing while at Quinnipiac and continuing that growth with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. On the other hand, at 24 years old and as the second oldest eligible for the Top 25U25, there are questions about whether Toews’ ceiling is just as a tweener, especially coming off the injury.

For Toews, it’ll be now or never really to break into the NHL lineup. He seems to have the talent to be a solid NHL defenseman, if just a bottom pairing guy, but whether he’ll get his shot with the Islanders is TBD. He’s ready to play and if he can beat out anyone at camp, he should get the spot, regardless of contract status. The big question for him is whether he can step in and be the Calvin de Haan replacement the organization seemed to view him as, or whether he’ll end up more like a TJ Brennan-type, a guy who always seems poised to break out of the AHL but never really does.

Rationales:

Travis Flynn:

If the Islanders have any hope for a playoff spot this season they will need a strong NHL debut from Devon Toews, whose skating ability may prove effective at preventing clean entries and covering for pinching teammates.

CIL:

By all accounts Toews would have started his NHL career last season if not for the shoulder injury. He's an AHL All Star and considered one of the league's fastest skaters. He has all the skills to be a top 4 offensive puck moving D at the NHL level, with the play making ability to put up points. If he pans out, he could be the ideal replacement for deHaan.

HockeyGoalieEh:

Devon Toews might be a scosche overrated in terms of prospect rankings. His age adjusted AHL to NHL equivalency has him beneath Sebastian Aho and Mitchell Vande Sompel, he lost half his season to an injury, and he barely makes the cut in the under 25 portion of this list. Given the age, I can't quite see all of the production carrying over to the NHL level and it seems as though many are getting their hopes up.

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