It’s hard to find a lot of positives for a team like the New Jersey Devils, who sit at the bottom of the NHL and out of playoff contention. They also have a roster mainly composed of players who may not be around much longer. That makes trying to project things beyond this season more difficult, especially with all the team’s injuries.
Through all those injuries, there’s one player who’s stood out, Kenny Agostino. He was claimed off waivers by the Devils a little more than a month ago and has fit in well since arriving in his home state. He’s been one of the Devils’ best players at five-on-five, and if he keeps it up, he’ll have a strong case to stick around next season.
Agostino One of the Devils’ Better Forwards
The Devils have not played well since they claimed Agostino. They have an expected goals for (xGF%) of 49.15 percent and a Corsi For (CF%) of 44.83 percent, the latter of which is ranked worst in the NHL. They also rank in the bottom half of the league when it comes to controlling scoring and high-danger chances. There haven’t been many wins for the Devils, as they’ve compiled a 6-10-1 record since Feb. 12.
Even though they aren’t at their best, they’re getting positive results with Agostino: they have an xGF% of 56.91 percent with him on the ice, as well as a CF% of 50.93 percent. And they hold a 37-24 advantage (60.66 percent) in high-danger chances, ranked second best among the team’s forwards.
Agostino has scored in bunches in the AHL, but that hasn’t been the case in the NHL. It’s been a bit different since joining the Devils, though. He has nine points in 17 games, which comes out a 43.4-point pace over 82 games. He’s also averaging 2.48 points per 60 minutes (P/60) at five-on-five, ranked third on the Devils over the last 16 games.
Agostino’s results haven’t come in a bottom-six role. The Devils have been decimated by injuries, so that’s opened the door for Agostino to play on their top lines. His five-on-five numbers aren’t a total fluke either. He had an xGF% of 51.33 percent in 36 games with the Canadiens this season, and he has a 53 percent CF% in 75 career NHL games (via Hockey-Reference). He just needed a chance to play and he’s found it with the Devils.
Agostino’s Case to Stick Around
There’s going to be a lot of roster turnover given the Devils’ position. The final games of the regular season are about finding out which players are worth keeping. Veterans like Kurtis Gabriel and Drew Stafford haven’t done much to stand out, while prospects like Michael McLeod and Joey Anderson still need time to develop.
That’s a lot of bottom-six roles to fill, and the Devils aren’t going to spend all their cap space trying to fix them. They’ll have to try and fill some of those spots from within the organization, and Agostino has put his name in the conversation. He hasn’t won a job, and he won’t win one until training camp in September, but there’s a lot to like about his game.
He has positive results at five-on-five, and it hasn’t been only with the Devils. Agostino won’t drive play, or score like a high-end forward, but he’s got the scoring touch the Devils could use in their bottom six. He has 20 points in 53 games this season, which comes out to a 30.9-point pace over 82 games. That’s a nice upgrade over someone like Stafford.
Agostino will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. It may depend on how he does in the team’s final 10 games, but he’s making a very strong case to stick around. He won’t cost much to re-sign and is an upgrade over almost everyone in their bottom six. For someone who was a waiver claim, he looks to be a savvy pickup for a Devils roster in desperate need of some improvement.
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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