Mattias Tedenby: An Untapped Resource
By Mike Luciano (@MikeLuci)
It’s great to be back writing hockey. I’m in Ithaca this weekend on a much needed getaway after getting some immaculate stresses lifted off my shoulders from the unrelenting academic demands of my class schedule, but have and always will find the time to write and talk hockey. On an unrelated note to this article, Cornell’s mens ice hockey team has won four of their first six games, defeating Harvard last night 4-2 on the road. Tonight, they’re facing Dartmouth, where they hope to string together back-to-back wins.
Getting on the Devils now. Last night’s loss against the Washington Capitals brings their record to 7-6-1. They’re at a relatively slow start, but anything looks better compared to how they fared last year at this point. Offensive production continues to be a glaring issue for this team, which currently ranks in the bottom-five with goals scored (thirty-four). Far as how the power play is concerned, I’m going to take it for granted that you, the reader, automatically assume the Devil’s goal totals reflect their efficiency in that category.
One of the team’s main offensive concerns is the lackluster production from wingers Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. Both players have combined for seven goals and seventeen points…there are currently twenty-four individual players that have just as many, or more goals on the season, just to make a comparison. Parise and Kovalchuk headline the offensive disappointments dotting this team early on, and while you can provide excuses such as Parise taking time to adjust after returning from injury and Kovalchuk having trouble finding consistent chemistry, I think the team’s biggest disappointment has been sophomore winger Mattias Tedenby.
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Since being drafted twenty-fourth overall by the Devils in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Tedenby has been one of the most hyped up prospects the team’s had since Zach Parise was drafted in 2003. After getting called up from Albany at the expense of injuries on the big team, Tedenby stuck around for the remainder of the season. In fifty-eight games, he accumulated eight goals and twenty-two points, all the while averaging just over twelve minutes of ice time per game. Going into this year, it was thought that the stage was set for Tedenby to embark on a breakout season, which looks like wishful thinking at this point if he continues at his current pace. In fourteen games, Tedenby has yet to register a goal and has just three assists for the year. He’s currently averaging just 11:50 in ice time, which ranks above the team’s fourth line and depth players such as Rod Pelley, Ryan Carter, and Brad Mills.
I think I reflect the beliefs of the majority of the Devils community when I say Tedenby’s lack of production this year is not entirely a skill-related issue. Tedenby has proven countless times he possesses the speed and skill to become an effective point producer in the NHL. The issue seems to be the tight leash head coach Pete DeBoer has him on. Although DeBoer was quoted a few days ago saying that the principles keeping Tedenby from playing more apply to all of the team’s young players, I’m beginning to suspect they’re more focused on the speedy winger if you consider the noticeable margins in average time on ice other young young players on the team have such as Adam Henrique, Jacob Josefson (before getting injured), as well as Mark Fayne and Adam Larsson (despite them being defensemen, while Tedenby is a forward).
Pete DeBoer identified one of the causes behind the restrictions in Tedenby’s play as him lacking confidence in his defensive play, especially during different scenarios that may arise at the end of games and when the team is only up by a goal (keep in mind the Devils have won the majority of their games by just a goal this year). Last year, I suspected that interim head coach Jacques Lemaire had found his annual doghouse occupant in Tedenby, citing those same exact reasons. The fact that DeBoer has identified the same flaws in his game proves this is indeed something the kid has to work on.
With the concerns of his defensive play aside, I will admit there are additional aspects of his game he needs to work on. His small size considered, Tedenby’s very prone to being an effortless target to knock off the puck. A game against the Boston Bruins from last year comes to mind when Tedenby was crushed on two or three separate occasions by defenseman Mark Stuart the second he touched the puck. It’s essential for Tedenby to get physically stronger and become more involved battling in the corners and wreaking havoc in front of the net. Simply put, he needs to develop a feistier element to his game, the type that players with similar profiles like Martin St. Louis and Nathan Gerbe feature.
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
What could potentially be attributing to withholding Tedenby’s highly anticipated breakout is a prolonged adjustment to the North American style of play. Having played entirely in Europe until last year, Tedenby has been used to the conventional European ice rinks that are longer and wider than the standard North American ones. Starting last season in the AHL, it’s plausible to consider that Tedenby may have been called up prematurely without having enough time to fully adjust to the North American ice skating rink, as well as the North American style of play, which possesses a much more physical element to it. In the AHL, his adjustment period could have panned out on his time, whereas his promotion to the NHL required him to fulfill demanding expectations to produce and play that Devil’s style of hockey that prioritizes defensive responsibility. Obviously, for a player of Tedenby’s stature, a comfortable and easy transition is a necessary requirement in order for him to be on the right path to excel.
Mattias Tedenby undeniably has improvable aspects of his game, but he is also undeniably equipped with a set of skills that requires the proper nurturing for him to be utilized to the fullest extent. Tedenby has not ascended no further than the third line on the Devil’s depth chart despite his blatant capability of becoming a resourceful top six forward. I think his profile makes him a highly considerable candidate to play with Ilya Kovalchuk as he possesses the speed to keep up with him and set of hands to create and compliment plays. His current stand in the bottom six has him playing with line mates that aren’t healthy for his development. Tedenby will not mesh with players like Ryan Carter, Brad Mills, or Nick Palmieri (who’s periodic stints in and out of the top six have caused me to raise a few eyebrows).
Ultimately, it’s up to Mattias to do two things: Improve the shortcomings his game currently features, and earn the trust of Pete DeBoer to become more committed to start experimenting with him in the top six. I consider Tedenby a steal at twenty-fourth overall and as mildly justifiable as DeBoer’s handling of Tedenby is, he also needs to realize what a usable asset this kid could become if his development is steered in the right direction. The Devils need offense anywhere they can get it from and Tedenby could be the key in making or breaking this ailing characteristic of the team’s game.