Defenseman Joe Sova was signed last week by the New Jersey Devils to a two year entry level contract beginning in 2011-2012. He is currently playing for the Albany Devils of the AHL on an Amateur Try Out contract. Sova was a unrestricted free agent who gave up his last year of college eligibility to join the New Jersey Devils. In the past few years the Devils have utilized both the draft and unrestricted free agent signings out of the NCAA to build up the depth of the blue line. Sova gets added to the growing depth of defensemen that the Devils have in their organization. He also brings a much needed trait to the defensive units that he plays for and that is the ability to create offense.
To get a better idea of what type of player Sova is I reached out to Britton Anderson the editor of Alaska Nanooks Hockey blog which is a site (http://nanookhockey.blogspot.com/) dedicated to providing information on the Alaska Nanooks. Similar to In Lou We Trust, his blog is not affiliated with the hockey program and is written by the fans for the fans.
I would also encourage you to follow Britton on Twitter: @nanookhockey
After the jump I ask Britton about Sova's play over the past few years.
Joe Sova Career Statistics
Tom Stivali: Britton-Thank you for taking the time to do this. The first item I wanted to discuss is Sova leaving Alaska. Were you surprised by this move, seeing that he was a junior and part of a good group of players returning to Alaska next year? Was it simply a case of capitalizing on an opportunity?
Tom: Sova’s stats look good at first glance, but you then look a little deeper and see he scored a lot of points on the power play. It definitely seems that he had an impact there, but what about even strength? Was Sova the puck moving defenseman the Nanooks could count on or was he a power play specialist?
Britton: Joe is a great two-way player. He's a very solid defenseman, but when he gets the opportunity to jump up in the play, he does and thats where he gets his points. Having a man advantage really gave him some freedom to move around up into the play and essentially become a fifth forward. Our coaching staff relied on him in every situation, but gave him some freedom in certain situations to create some havoc.
Tom: What made him generate so many points on the power play, was it a booming shot from the point or distributing the puck to the open man?
Britton: The team really focuses on cycling the puck back to the point, and Joe's role was to get it to the open man to find the ideal shooting lane. Joe's shot was clocked around 93 mph and you can imagine that not a lot of players want to get in front of it, and not a lot of goalies can contain it. So if he can't find a pass, you'll often see him blast one towards the net and hope for a bounce/rebound to go his way. His big shot is not only fast, but rather accurate. You'll see him pick up a lot of his points this way, especially since he lead the team in shots with 101 on the season.
Tom: In the CCHA Sova played against some of the top talent in the NCAA ranks and a number of 1st round NHL draft picks, future NHLers, and accomplished upperclassmen. Alaska also played a tough out-of-conference schedule against North Dakota, Colorado College, Air Force, and Union. As a Devils fan, I hope he was matched up defensively against the opponents’ top lines. So if Andy Miele, Carter Camper, or Matt Frattin was on the ice, was Sova on the ice too? Was he a regular on the penalty killing unit?
Britton: Since about midway through Joe's freshman year, he's been on the top defensive line and faced against anybody's top forwards ever since. Overall, when you look at the Nanooks production this year, 87 goals for and 83 goals against, Joe came out a +3 on the season, tied for tops on the team among defensemen. When you look back to the Nanooks 3-2 win over Miami back in November, Joe was a +3 against the highest scoring team in the NCAA. He was an even 0 over 4 games against Miami this season, of which the collective score was 14-5 in Miami's favor.
Tom: One of the things you worry about when you look up high scoring defensemen in college is finding out that they are 5’6 or 5’7 and weigh 160 pounds. You don’t have that concern about Sova as he is 6’3 and 200 pounds. Does he play to his size and was he a physical force for the Nanooks?
Britton: He definitely does. He's not afraid to take the body at all, but also with his size, he has incredible reach and can disrupt the rush, or cause turnovers from the best of forwards. His size has gotten the best of him though at time, as he's had quite a few penalties called on him, especially this season leading the team with 58 minutes. He can deliver some pretty impressive hits, but he's no stranger to roughing and boarding calls, and has seen a misconduct or two in his time here.
Tom: Looking back at Sova’s career with Alaska in what area of his play do you think he showed the most improvement? Which area will he need to focus more on at the professional level?
Britton: I think he's improved his offensive side the most, especially if you look at his point production over his 3 years here. But I think he needs to work on that balance of defense and offense. On occasion when he pinches down into the play, you'll see him pick a bad time, and the puck gets turned over and he gets beat with an odd man rush going the other way. Maybe that's just bad luck, but a lot of high scoring blue liners you watch in the NHL are still stay-at-home defensemen, just with a mean shot from the point. I think Joe can adapt to that, and improve that decision making aspect of his game as he moves forward.
Once again, I would like to thank Britton for his time and helping me out.
During his 3 games in Albany Sova has 1 assist and is a +2. His assist came on a shot he sent wide (purposely according to the Albany website) that came back to Steve Zalewski for a goal.
So what do you think Devils fans? Excitted about Sova? Does anything Britton reported back concern you? Sound off below!