The Devils recalled Andrei Loktionov after two games with AHL Albany. You may recall the Devils acquired Loktionov from the L.A. Kings in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick last week. Loktionov was called up Wednesday to take the roster spot of the injured Dainius Zubrus, who was placed on injured reserve as deals with an upper-body injury.
Lou Lamoriello said he and the coaches wanted to get a better look at Loktionov, but Pete DeBoer said he could stick around longer than that.
Okay, but where does he fit? The Devils have been searching for a left wing on the top line and DeBoer loves versatility.
Corey GriffinThe trade for Loktionov made a lot of sense. The compensation was minimal, the talent is definitely there and the overall value makes the deal a no-brainer. But I do have to point out that the center-heavy Devils (the YOUNG center-heavy Devils), added a player who has proven he’s unable to play the wing and just asked out of L.A. because they had no room up the middle for him. So where does that leave Loktionov given the current makeup of the Devils’ roster? He’s obviously not going to unseat Travis Zajac or Adam Henrique and DeBoer has made it clear those two are both centermen. Ryan Carter? Nope, not with the way that line has played since being put together last season. That leaves the fourth line and the current fourth-line center, Jacob Josefson.
We said at the time of the trade would eventually have to fend off Loktionov to keep his spot in the lineup, although Zubrus’ injury has certainly sped up the meaning of “eventually.” Make no mistake, Loktionov is a legit NHL player. After the trade, Hockey’s Future ranked him immediately as the top forward prospect in the Devils’ system. That’s not to say he has a higher ceiling than say, Reid Boucher, but he is probably the most NHL-ready forward they have in the system. So Josefson should be worried. He has had legitimate trouble finishing in the offensive end this season despite multiple chances. Josefson’s biggest asset is his ability to play both ways and kill penalties. Unfortunately, Loktionov is also a two-way centerman that kills penalties and has a bit more offensive skill than Josefson.
So should Josefson be worried? Probably. Is this a convenient way to send a shock to Josefson’s system in the hopes it jump starts him? Perhaps. There’s also the possibility that the Devils like what they see from Loktionov in practice today and tomorrow and move Josefson to left wing on that fourth line with Bobby Butler on the right side for Friday’s game. That would essentially turn Krys Barch into a spare part most nights, which is what enforcers should be these days. Josefson has proven he’s comfortable enough on the wing to give it a shot for a short time while the Devils evaluate Loktionov’s skill set and ability to contribute on an NHL level. The only problem would be when Zubrus is healthy enough to return, the Devils would have a decision to make. Thankfully, the Devils would have options at that point — but that’s another post for another day.