There is a new #9 in town. At least for the time being. The Devils have traded in their speedy #9 for an even speedier version that is more reliable. I, for one, have really enjoyed watching Mike Sislo play the last few games. That being said, I was also probably more excited than most to hear Sislo got the call on Friday. After a good camp, Sislo got an extended look from the coaching staff during the pre-season. Although he didn't make the squad, he was clearly on the coaches radar. After a successful start to his third pro (AHL) season, the UNH product has provided some solid play in his first three NHL games.
Sislo has not done anything game changing or spectacular. He may have wowed you with his speed. He has not even registered a point yet. This is not entirely surprising, because I don't expect Sislo to be a game changing goal scorer or a points machine at the pro level or anything like that. Although, if he keeps doing what he's done so far, both he and his linemates will certainly score in the near future. I do think, however, that he can contribute successfully as a depth / system player. To begin, let's quickly look at his overall stats leading up to his NHL debut - namely his four years of college and his prior AHL statistics:
First of all, his college numbers are certainly respectable from a scoring perspective. No, he is not a high profile goal scorer, but overall points totals are not that gaudy in the NCAA game. Take, for example Sislo's senior year at UNH. His 48 points was good for 15th overall in the nation(tied), one spot behind Carl Hagelin. Unfortunately, the NCAA does not track shots, so we have no idea how many pucks he got on net. His shot rate is solid at the pro level - just over 1.5 per game in his first AHL season; better than 2 per game since. Although his PPG were steady his first two seasons, his goals increased by almost 1/3 due to his increased shot rate. This season, both Sislo's goal rate and PPG rate are up; although the goal rate is probably due to a spike in shooting percentage.
Sislo has 6 shots on goal over his first three games, and several very good scoring chances. Given the opportunity, if he keeps producing a rate of two shots a game and getting in position for the types of chances he has created so far, he will score sooner or later. A two shot a game player with merely a 5.3% shooting percentage will score around 8-9 goals over the course of a full season. That's a more than reasonable contribution from a 4th line player. Now, I have no basis for tabbing Sislo as a 5.3% shooter at the NHL level. Absolutely none. But, it is exactly half of his AHL shooting percentage so far into his career.
If you did happen to watch Saturday nights game in Buffalo, you probably heard Chico say about 14 times that Sislo is the fastest player that Reid Boucher has ever seen. Sislo is certainly a plus skater. He gets around the ice effortlessly. It's actually a pleasure to watch him zip around, because unlike the previous owner of jersey #9, he doesn't just bring speed with no purpose. Possession has strongly favored the Devils while Sislo is on the ice. From what I've seen so far, he seems positionally sound and reasonably responsible throughout the ice. He is strong on the puck and does not shy away from contact. The line of Boucher-Loktionov-Sislo has injected some speed into the Devils lineup. It's nice to have another line that, given the right matchups, can fare well and actually play hockey with a reasonable amount of skill. Additionally, I think Sislo can eventually contribute on the penalty kill, although there is no reason to get him into anything more than his current role right now.
For all I know, Sislo could be returned to Albany at any time, even before this article is posted. I wouldn't personally see any reason to do so, but such is life in the NHL. He could return to Albany once Patrik Elias is healthy. The way things have gone so far this season, however, another Devil has gone down with injury as soon as one gets healthy, so who knows what will happen. For now, I am going to enjoy watching Sislo zip around the ice and create scoring opportunities, contribute a solid 7 - 8 minutes of hockey a night, and take pressure off the overused top lines.
So, what are your impressions of Mike Sislo? Have his first few games in New Jersey looked good to you as well? Would you like to see Sislo stick around longer? Is there anything you like or dislike about his game so far? Do you think he can offer anything productive at the NHL level? Thanks for reading this brief overview of our newest addition to the NJ squad. Please drop by the comments section below and let me know your thoughts about Sislo and the Devils recent 4th line made up of actual hockey players. Thanks for reading.