Jacob Josefson has had a bumpy start to his NHL career with the New Jersey Devils — he has shown flashes of brilliance, but has also fallen victim to the injury ninja. Not just any injuries though, ones that last months rather than days or weeks. Now in his third season as a pro (2009 NHL Draft, 20th overall/74 career NHL games), he is hoping to solidify his spot as one of their key players as New Jersey pursues a return to the Stanley Cup Finals.
JOSEFSON’S INJURY HISTORY:
OCT 2010: torn ligament in left thumb
OCT 2011: broken right clavicle
APR 2012: broken left wrist
He still has yet to crack the top two center spots on the Devils (currently behind Travis Zajac & Patrik Elias), but he is still a valuable contributor to the team, providing them with quality ice-time and is becoming better at winning face-offs. Even when Adam Henrique returns from injury, he will still likely be the third center, as Elias will slide back to his natural position on left wing. But he has also played time on the left wing of the top line in certain in-game situations.
Josefson already has had a strong start through five games, which could at least partially be a result of having played in the AHL for 30 games (20 points) during the NHL lockout. “Obviously it’s a little bit of an advantage for me,” he said after the Devils fourth game of the season. “I’m already in game shape and for some guys its tough to start playing games after only a week of practice/training camp. It should only be an advantage for the first couple of games though (I think).”
But stats don’t always show a players’ value — his coach Peter DeBoer has shown the utmost confidence in the 21-year-old Swede, using him on the PP and on the PK, as well as end of game situations. The coach’s confidence has not gotten past Josefson, who cracked a smile when asked about the responsibility (and trust) he has been given since DeBoer took over as head coach before the 2011-12 season.
“I just try to work hard everyday,” said Josefson when asked about the increase of ice-time. “Of course every player wants to be out there on the ice in all situations. I like to play a lot of minutes during the game and so far I have this season.”
“We are still playing the same system as last year,” he explained, “it’s basically the same guys, so everyone remembers that. Everyone is comfortable; everyone (in here) knows how we should play. With a short season like this, you really don’t have time to have a slow start; it’s good to have our system in place.”
Against the Washington Capitals on January 25, Josefson registered his first point of the season, an assist on Stephen Gionta’s goal that gave New Jersey an early 1-0 lead. Watch the silky moves he made on this video clip as he finds his way through two Caps and is able to somehow get the puck back to Gionta:
If he keeps making shifty plays like that he could be a key contributor for the Devils, not just this season, but for many more after. His teammates are hoping he can stay in the lineup and are aware of how valuable his contributions have been to the team when he is in there, especially the depth he gives them down the middle.
“He does a lot of things well out there,” said Zajac of Josefson. “He’s great on the PK, he makes plays offensively; he’s becoming and going to be a good player.” Even though the 21-year-old is a center and primarily a puck distributor, the baby-faced Swede is able to finish when given the opportunity as you can see in this snipe against Tampa Bay:
Most Devils fans like Josefson and his skill set and are intrigued by what they think he can bring to the team. In the back of their minds they also hope that he has bubble wrap under his uniform to prevent another bizarre injury that could stunt his development again.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.