When the New Jersey Devils signed 2017 Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher as a college free agent out of the University of Denver, the club knew that he would become an impact player at the NHL level.
Boy, were the Devils right.
In his first season as a professional, Will Butcher shattered expectations of a traditional rookie defenseman. Butcher's 44 points (5g-39a) recorded was good to tie Kyle Palmieri for third-best on the Devils roster and ranked first among all New Jersey defenseman. The 23-year-old blueliner skated in 81 of 82 games and all five postseason contests, constantly quarterbacking the NHL's 9th best power-play unit (tied with VAN and VGK).
Check out some of the best work from the Devils defenseman from Will Butcher's rookie campaign.
1. Ballad of Billy the Kid
Video: NYR@NJD: Butcher rips slapper past Lundqvist for PPG
Video: NYR@NJD: Butcher snipes second PPG of the game
New Yorker Billy Joel once sang "The Ballad of Billy the Kid" about a legend on the rise. He wasn't singing about Will Butcher, but he should have been.
2. If there's a Will…
Video: TBL@NJD, Gm3: Butcher rips home top-shelf PPG
The spotlight of the Stanley Cup Playoffs wasn't too bright for Butcher, who blew the roof off of Prudential Center with a perfectly placed PPG.
3. Scoring at Will
Video: NJD@PIT: Butcher wires wrister past Murray for PPG
The defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins and goaltender Matt Murray stood no chance against this snipe.
4. A Wild wrister
Video: NJD@MIN: Butcher roofs a rocket from the circle
This top-shelf snipe from Will Butcher made Devan Dubnyk do a double-take.
5. Introducing Bill the Butcher
Video: NJD@WPG: Butcher scores first career NHL goal
You never forget your first NHL goal. A relentless attack was capped off with Butcher's first professional tally.
6. Knifing through the defense
Video: VAN@NJD: Boyle pots PPG on Hockey Fights Cancer night
Carving up the defense and setting up a quick dish for Brian Boyle was cooked up by Butcher on Hockey Fights Cancer Night at the Rock.
7. Tip drill
Video: NJD@EDM: Gibbons deflects one home in front
The Devils went drilling for goals against the Oilers and got their wish. Will Butcher's slapshot had a heat-seeking missile attached that directed it towards the stick of Brian Gibbons and into the back of the net.
8. Pucks on net!
Video: NJD@NYI: Wood bangs in the rebound on the doorstep
Will Butcher's emerged into one of the Devils top power play performers, tallying 23 points (3g-20a) out of his 44 total points (5g-39a) while on the man advantage.
Butcher is already eager to get back to Prudential Center with the goal of improving his shot and taking the next step in his game. He is currently one of four Devils representing Team USA at the 2018 IIHF World Championships, along with teammates Keith Kinkaid, Blake Coleman and Brian Gibbons.