Devils rookie D Will Butcher is already breaking team records just five games into the season.
Butcher has racked up eight assists in five games, which is a Devils record. He has been heavily involved in the Devils' early season success, and has gotten praise from teammates like F Taylor Hall who has been on the receiving end of one of his assists.
"He's got a lot of skill, he moves the puck well, and he's so smart out there," Hall told NHL.com's Jesse Spector. "That's why we signed him,a nd that's why he was so highly regarded. He's brought a lot to our power play and our power play and our 5-on-5. We need that on our back end. We need guys who move the puck and provide offense and jump in, and it's graet to see quality this early."
The Devils are happy Butcher chose them when he decided to become a free agent this past offseason. Butcher was drafted by the Avalanche in the fifth round back in 2013, but decided to play collegiate hockey at the University of Denver. It may have been his best decision as he developed his craft, and last season, won the NCAA title as well as the Hobey Baker Award for being the best play in college hockey.
Now, he is the Devils' secret weapon on defense, especially in power play situations. Five of the team's six goals on the power play have been assisted by Butcher, who admits the man advantage to be one of many strengths in his game.
"The power play plays into all the strengths of my game -- seeing the ice, trying to make plays, using the skill set that I have," Butcher said. "I was on the power play for all four years in college, and I've gone through reps in practice and seen plays, and you kind of get to know how a power play moves and flows. My four years at Denver played huge in that development in my game."
Butcher's physical strength improved drastically at Denver as well. Though he stands at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Butcher has a strong core and tremendous balance that has helped offset his height and weight disadvantages on defense.
"He might not be one of the bigger guys, but he's so incredibly smart in terms of his body positioning and his stick and how he's able to use banks and strip guys of pucks," D John Moore said. "It's really remarkable to see a young player come in and be as seamless as he has been for us."
The Devils are still weary of his size, though, as they have used Butcher's skillset in offensive zone faceoffs and power play situations. But that doesn't mean he is a liability for head coach John Hynes when the team is at full strength.
"He's got some gifts you can see offensively, but he cares about the other side of the puck," Hynes said. "He works at it, and he's very smart, so he hasn't been a liability for us on defense at all."
Butcher is dedicated to defense first, and though he loves getting involved on the offensive end, he will continue to focus on becoming a well-rounded defenseman.
"It was an eye opener the first couple of games, and I'll keep growing as the games go on," Butcher said," It's managing your ice in front of you and looking at who's out on the ice, keeping tight gaps. If you do all those things right, you can play well defensively in this league."
Butcher is at plus-5 in his five games so far this season. He has also not seen a goal against whenever he has been on the ice.