John Quenneville was one of the New Jersey Devils’ lone prospects to make the team out of the preseason, and he earned it. He tallied a couple of goals and improved his defensive play. However, his start to the regular season wasn’t as smooth. He didn’t total a point in his first four games and had just three shots on goal. He was returned to the Binghamton Devils (AHL) and has since found his scoring touch, netting three goals and nine points in nine games. Is it time for him to return to the NHL?
What Quenneville Has Accomplished in Binghamton
One of the main reasons he made the team was because they needed secondary scoring. Since he wasn’t providing that, Devils head coach John Hynes thought it’d be good for him to return to the AHL to work on his offensive game.
“When you look at his play without the puck defensively, he’s done a good job. He’s been responsible. He’s working hard, he’s trying to play at a high pace,” Hynes told Chris Ryan of NJ Advance Media on Oct. 26. “But he’s a guy where he has an offensive element to his game. We talked to him, he’s got to go down and get his feel. He doesn’t have a quality shot on net. He’s not using his shot. He’s not getting into the grade-A areas to score, and that’s what we need from him.”
Quenneville has found his shot since returning to Binghamton and in a big way. He has 26 shots on goal in nine games, which comes out to an average of 2.89 shots on goal per game. He’s the team’s third-leading scorer, despite playing in just nine of their 16 games, and is getting to higher-danger areas and scoring goals such as this one in a 5-2 loss to the Syracuse Crunch.
— Binghamton Devils (@BingDevils) November 15, 2018
It hasn’t been fourth-line minutes for Quenneville, either. He’s played on Binghamton’s first line and found success with Marian Studenic, the team’s leading scorer. He’s been one of their best players, which should help his cause in getting a call-up.
How John Quenneville Can Help the Devils
Quenneville more than held his own with the big club, even though he didn’t score a goal. The Devils had a 63.41 expected goals for percentage (xGF%) with him on the ice. They also out-chanced their opponents 28-23 and held a 14-8 advantage in high-danger chances with him on the ice.
He was also a part of a formidable third line with Miles Wood and Travis Zajac. It’s a small sample size, but in 36 minutes together, they had an xGF% of 71.47% and out-chanced their opponents 19-11. They also held a 44-28 advantage in shot attempts and didn’t give up a goal against.
The Devils secondary scoring is starting to come along, but it couldn’t hurt to add more. Jesper Bratt’s return has helped, but Wood and Marcus Johansson are still struggling to rack up points. Quenneville’s numbers show he’s capable of having a positive impact, and he could help make up for the lack of offense from Johansson and Wood, or better yet, help them get going.
Is There Room for Quenneville?
If the Devils are going to call him up, they will have to make some lineup changes. Stefan Noesen hasn’t scored a goal at five-on-five this season and has poor shot rates, making him a possible candidate to come out of a regular spot.
The Devils would also be over the 23-man roster limit, so they’d have to make a move or two to free up a spot. Brett Seney and Joey Anderson aren’t waivers eligible, but both have played well and have earned the right to stay in the NHL. Pavel Zacha has looked better since being recalled, despite not having any points. It wouldn’t be an easy decision for the Devils no matter how you cut it up.
Quenneville’s done what he’s needed to in the few weeks he’s been in the AHL. The Devils shouldn’t force him on to the roster if they don’t have space. But it shouldn’t be much longer before he’s back in the NHL if he keeps producing at his current pace. He’s made his mark in the AHL. It’s time for him to show he belongs in the NHL, and he appears ready to do so.
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Alex Chauvancy is a New Jersey Devils writer for The Hockey Writers who has a penchant for advanced stats, prospects, signings and trades. He previously wrote for Devils Army Blog, a New Jersey Devils fan blog, from 2015-2017