The New Jersey Devils had a busy Wednesday morning, making two significant additions to the club. The first was hiring Tyler Dellow as the Vice President of Analytics. Dellow joins the Devils after writing for The Athletic the last two years. He also had a prominent role in the Edmonton Oilers’ analytics department from 2014-16.
The Devils’ second addition of the day was the signing of prospect Jeremy Davies to a two-year entry-level contract. The 5-foot-11, 188-pound defenseman was a seventh-round pick (192nd overall) of the Devils in 2016. He spent the last three seasons at Northeastern University (NCAA) and has blossomed into one of their top prospects. Both of these additions are much different than each other but are sure to have an impact on the Devils’ future.
Davies Emerged as Top NCAA Defenseman
It’s pretty rare that a seventh-round selection turns into a top prospect, but that’s the case with Davies. He started gaining attention when he had a solid freshman season with Northeastern, where he had 23 points in 38 games. He followed that up with a 35-point sophomore season and a Beanpot victory with Northeastern.
Davies’ success continued into this past season, where he was an alternate captain for Northeastern and finished with 36 points in 37 games — his 0.98 points-per-game ranked seventh-best in the NCAA for a defenseman. He also helped lead Northeastern to their second consecutive Beanpot title, the first time they’ve done so since 1984 and 1985.
“We are very excited to sign Jeremy,” said general manager Ray Shero in the team’s press release. “He is a very smart puck-moving defenseman who can transition his team to offense in all three zones. His vision, skill, competitiveness, character, and leadership helped Northeastern become one of the top echelon schools in the country during his time there. We also want to thank Jim Madigan and his staff at Northeastern for Jeremy’s development these past three years.”
Davies is the type of defenseman the Devils need heading into next season. There’s no denying his puck-moving abilities, something their blue line lacks. He’s not a lock to make their 2019-20 roster, but he’ll have a good chance. The Devils will have some openings, and he should be right in the thick of the competition during training camp.
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If he does make their roster, I wouldn’t be surprised if he received similar deployment to Will Butcher during his rookie season. The Devils kept Butcher in a sheltered third-pair role, and he thrived in that position. It helped utilize his offensive prowess, as he finished 44 points in 81 games. That may be the best way to get the most out of Davies as a rookie.
Dellow to Head Devils’ Analytics Department
Dellow’s addition to the Devils is just a tad different than Davies’. He won’t be suiting up anytime soon (although, it’d be fun to see), so it may be hard to notice what he’s doing. But he will have an influence on the Devils’ decision making, whether it’s lineup decisions or signings and trades.
“Since day one, [owners] Josh Harris and David Blitzer have supported us by investing in the staff and resources it takes to build a team, the right way,” Shero said in the team’s press release. “We have used those resources to recruit talented people who can increase our organization’s expertise in every aspect of the game. Bringing Tyler on board is just another example of our commitment to progressively building in a manner that can help the franchise achieve sustained success.”
The NHL is planning on introducing player and puck-tracking technology next season, which is a major development for hockey analytics. That will change how teams analyze the game and will affect how they build their future rosters. It’ll be interesting to see how Dellow and the Devils utilize that information.
Dellow’s hire isn’t the Devils’ first foray into analytics either. Sunny Mehta was the head of their department from 2014 until Nov. 2017. Rachel Doerrie was also a player information/video analyst for over a year, as well, but her position was eliminated earlier this season.
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The Devils’ owners, Blitzer and Harris, have also been committed to using analytics in building the Philadephia 76ers, who they also own. They have one of the largest analytics departments in the NBA, and that was part of the draw for Dellow joining the Devils. “It’s a super-high-end department,” Dellow told Greg Wyshynski of ESPN on Monday. “They’ve put a lot of resources into it and really let it influence what they’re doing.”
Davies, Dellow Part of Building for the Future
The nerd in me is excited about Dellow’s hiring. Time will tell what exactly he means for the organization. But for now, it’s good to see them continuing to invest in analytics to help them gain some kind of competitive advantage that’ll help them make better personnel decisions.
As for Davies, there are a couple of benefits to getting the deal done now. Had he returned to Northeastern for his senior season, he could’ve become an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15, 2020, which would’ve allowed him to sign with any team.
Second, he will travel with the team for their final two games, but he won’t play since his contract doesn’t begin until next season. If he played in one of their remaining games, he would’ve needed protection for the upcoming Seattle Expansion Draft. Since he’ll have two years or less of pro experience at the time of the draft, he’ll be automatically protected.
Davies’ signing should excite every Devils fan. He becomes a part of a promising group of young defensemen that includes Butcher, Damon Severson, and prospect Ty Smith. It’s possible all of them are in the NHL playing together next season, and if that’s the case, it should give the team’s blue line a major lift.