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No average Joe

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Jacob Josefson                                    GETTY IMAGES

Jacob Josefson never did get the puck from his first NHL point. But if the early feedback is any indication, the Devils’ rookie will have plenty more milestone pucks to gather down the road.

Josefson assisted on Ilya Kovalchuk’s goal in Sunday’s shootout win on Long Island. He carried the puck out of his own zone before dishing to Kovalchuk inside the Islanders blueline. It was the kind of play that reflects not only his offensive abilities, but also his keen hockey smarts.

“This kid has it, there’s no doubt,” Jacques Lemaire said of the Devils' 2009 first-round pick. “He just turned 20 a couple of days ago. He’s a good player right now. If you look at his stats, his stats are not that great, but as a hockey player, you want him on your team.”

So far, there’s a lot to like about Josefon’s game.

“I think how he understands the game, where he goes on the ice,” Lemaire said. “When he plays when he doesn’t have the puck, what is he going to do; when he has the puck, what he’s doing with the puck. He’s quick, he’s strong, he’s got good hands, sees the ice well. So he’s got a lot of qualities. As soon as he gets that scoring quality, he’ll be a player.”

Josefson appeared in just six October games before suffering a left hand injury that required surgery. After a stint in Albany, he finally returned to the New Jersey lineup on Feb. 19.

Josefson’s time in Albany was an important part of his rehab. He centered a line with Matt Anderson and Adam Henrique while putting up three goals, nine assists in 11 games.

“I think it helped me a lot,” Josefson said. “After the injury I had to play a lot of games because before the injury, I played [six] games. The most important thing for me back then was to play hockey and that’s what I did in Albany. I got my confidence back so I could handle the puck and make some passes.”

The Feb. 28 trade of Jason Arnott to Washington opened up an opportunity at center for Josefson, who has blossomed under Lemaire’s tutelage.

“Since I came back here to New Jersey, I’ve learned some stuff from Jacques, especially in the defensive game in our own zone,” Josefson said. “I think the way we’re playing back there makes it very easy for the centerman to always have an option when you get the puck. That’s good.”

He finally collected the assist in his 11th game, but never got impatient for that first point.

“As soon as the team was winning, I didn’t really care,” he said. “But you always want to put up some points and I was kind of relieved that the first one went in there. It was fun.”

The Stockholm native has been a quick study and continues to adjust to the North American game. He has already made measurable gains.

“When you don’t think, that’s where you want to be,” said Josefson. “When you’re in your zone, you just play. In the first games here, I thought a lot where I had to be on the ice, but I think that I really feel more comfortable now and know how the team should play and where I should play.”
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