ILWT Audition 2014: Potential Devil in the Rough Volume 1: Peter Mueller

Writer M thinks the Devils may (or should be) interested in Peter Mueller in this audition post. - USA TODAY Sports

The ILWT Audition process continues with Writer M WAgathis. Instead of a general point or concern about the offseason, this audition post focuses on Peter Mueller, a player the Devils may be interested.

At the end of April, I put out another call looking for new writers for In Lou We Trust to write about the New Jersey Devils. I've opened up the audition to the community at large in order to get some new perspectives and additional voices on the front page with regularity. Since then, I've received eighteen entries that met the submission criteria. Regardless of how they're received, I thank the writers of each and every one of them - you know who you are - for stepping up and submitting an entry.  (One more instruction for those who made submissions and received letters, by the way.  Please do not comment on your submission or any of the other audition posts.  This will help allow others to freely judge the work and show that you can handle online reactions.  No drama is the best drama.)

Throughout the this week, I will post each one under an anonymous name so you can discuss and critique the post without regard to who actually wrote it. I can ensure you that I did not change any of the content outside of formatting it in to the SBN platform.  To that end, please note that I don't necessarily agree with what the posts actually say. I'm just letting them stand on their own. Please be constructive in any criticism and do offer your thoughts about whether you liked (or disliked) the post in addition to discussing it's content. Don't be mean, but be fair.

Now, I assigned a letter to each writer based on when I received it.  However, I decided to mix up the letters in terms of order of posting.  So this process continues with the submission of Writer M WAgathis, who's looking at under-the-radar players the Devils may be interested in this summer. Writer M WAgathis begins with one free agent: Peter Mueller/

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As a result of offseason mishaps over the years, including the loss of star contributors Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and David Clarkson, the Devils lineup is now is need of talent and without sizable contributions from youth, specifically at forward. Adam Henrique has been one of, if not the only, young bright spots on an otherwise veteran-laden squad. Not only does the future look bleak at forward, but in the meantime, the Devils have missed the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.

There needs to be some change. Most fans agree that this team needs a young player with a lot of potential. People have brought up the prospects of trading for Jordan Eberle, Evander Kane, and even Nail Yakupov, but until any rumors come out, these options are nothing more than distant pipe dreams. Fans have also clamored for the team to land a coup in free agency. In a fantasy world, it is possible for the Devils to outbid all other parties and sign both Thomas Vanek and Paul Stastny. In reality, the Devils faithful are bracing themselves for more Lou-like additions, including Brian Gionta or Mike Camalleri. Of course, a big reason for those expectations is because Lou has an affinity for older bargain bin players. He also likes former Devils - especially those that left on good terms. However, raising the team's average age - which currently sits at a league-high 31.86-years - will not do this team good in the future, lest Lou plans on dumping all of them for draft picks at the deadline (an easy way to become public enemy number one around the League).

After that lengthy briefing, I would now like to officially introduce the series that I like to call Devil in the Rough. As I established, the team could really stand to lower its average age, looking for less expensive plugs that might be able to produce in the Devils' system. Enter Devil in the Rough. As part of this first installment, I would like to look at a player who has faded from the limelight in recent years, Peter Mueller.

History

Drafted eighth overall in the 2006 NHL Draft, Peter Mueller got his career off to a lightning-quick start when he started with Phoenix. In his first NHL season (2007-08), Mueller, playing next to Shane Doan and Steve Reinprecht, put up career highs in goals (22) and points (54) while finishing fifth in Calder Trophy voting for that season, behind Patrick Kane, Niklas Backstrom (of Minnesota), Jonathan Toews, and Carey Price. For Mueller, the future looked really bright.

After that season, Mueller had a bit of an off year, playing in most of the games but never properly settling next to Olli Jokinen (with Shane Doan still on the wing). Still, he had 90 points in his first 153 games, which is not too shabby when playing for a defensive team like Phoenix (the same squad that boasted Ilya Bryzgalov in net). However, Mueller played way below snuff in Phoenix in year three. According to now-unreachable sources, the rumors stated that Mueller did not like Phoenix and was no longer finding success. In his 54 games in Phoenix that year, Mueller scored four goals and added 13 assists. At the trade deadline, Colorado acquired Mueller in a package deal for Wotjek Wolski.

In 15 games in Colorado that year, Mueller put up (not a typo) 20 points. However, Mueller took a vicious hit from Rob Blake near the end of the season, resulting in a concussion. Finally, Mueller's potential was oozing. In what seemed like a steal, Colorado re-signed Mueller for two years with a payout of $4 million. However, all started to take a turn for the worse when Mueller suffered another concussion towards the end of preseason. As a result, he missed the entire 2009-2010 season and some of the 2010-11 campaign. To expect Mueller to return seamlessly would be foolish. Still, he put up .5 points per game en route to a 32-game, 16-point output (with a 50.4% Corsi but a 56.9% zone start). Colorado did not re-sign him at the end of the season.

Though Mueller was only 24-years old, it appeared that his career was over. As we all know now, concussions can be one of the most doomful injuries in sports. In the end, Florida took a flyer on him with a one-year contract. In that season, he had a pretty high Corsi rating (52.6%) but an even higher ZS% (61.7%). Playing next to Jonathan Huberdeau and Drew Shore, 17 points in 43 games was just not enough production to get a new NHL contract.

Since then, Mueller signed in Switzerland, played 49 games in the Swiss-A league for the Kloten Flyers, and put up 46 points in that span. Right now, he is a member of the IIHF 2014 USA squad. In four games for team USA, Mueller has one goal and a -1.

Talents

Peter Mueller is an interesting talent because of his mix of size and finesse. He's not huge, but at 6'2" and 205 pounds, Mueller is deceptively fast. The scouting reports (most from his draft year) name him a speedy winger with a finesse game where he can set someone up or finish himself.

ELITE PROSPECTS: Mueller is a speedy winger with good all-around offensive ability. Handles the puck well with his smooth hands and can man the powerplay point.

HOCKEY'S FUTURE: Mueller moves with deceptive efficiency and demonstrated an ability to control play in the attacking zone. Perhaps viewed more as a finesse player, Mueller has the size to become a more physical force in the WHL.

THN (H/T to HockeyBuzz): Assets: Has impressive size, hand/eye coordinator and reach. Is at his best with the puck on his blade. Can score goals and also set up teammates with equal aplomb. Is versatile enough to quarterback a power play.

Flaws: Concussion issues linger. Isn't a great skater, which somewhat hinders his otherwise supreme offensive acumen for the NHL level. Doesn't utilize his physical gifts enough to his advantage. Takes some nights off.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: Has good acceleration to loose pucks ... mobility is good to both sides and is effective in traffic ... has excellent vision and is gifted at moving the puck using soft hands and very good anticipation ... is good at creating space for teammates and has the ability to make teammates play at a higher level ... is an efficient player who knows when to exert the proper energy and has a deceptive, heavy shot with a quick release, excelling at one-timers... would have much better numbers [in WHL] but plays in a very defensive oriented system ... is used effectively to quarterback the power-play ...was 4 of 8 in shootouts this season ... shows a willingness to work the corners and compete for pucks in traffic ... is willing to take a hit to make a play and pays attention to the defensive aspect of the game ... during the last half of the season was much stronger in his own zone

Highlights

Would Lou ever want him?

In the two tracked years (2011-12 and 2012-13), Mueller averaged a 51.5% Corsi for (which is quite good for a one-way forward) but a lot of this can be attributed to his average zone start equating to 59.3% (about 8.5% above the relative ZS% for the teams). That quality alone would likely scare off Lou, but keep in mind that he took a flier on Damien Brunner, a stunningly similar player. Brunner's Corsi for in the past two years averaged out to 53.55% and his ZS% was 58.95% on average. However, one has to factor in that Brunner played mostly with Zetterburg during his brief tour in Hockeytown in 2012-13. Mueller, when in Colorado, played with no player for over 30% of his shifts, meaning that he moved up and down the depth chart throughout the season.

Lou signed Brunner, who was phenomenal in Swiss-A for Zug (247 points in 201 games). While Brunner's output was better than Mueller's production in the Swiss league, it is worth noting that Mueller has NHL experience and this was his rookie year in the Swiss-A league. If Lou was willing to sign Brunner, he should have little reservation taking a flyer on Mueller.

Would Mueller ever want to be a Devil?

Of course, your first question is probably if Mueller even wants to come back to North America. To that, the rumors have been pretty substantial and clear: he wants back in the NHL. After that, it appears as though Mueller will be relegated to the first available job he can hold onto.

Where would he fit?

In Mueller's 297 career NHL games, he put up 160 points (63 goals, 97 assists). He is now entering his prime and could very possibly surpass his previous career highs set in his rookie season (22-32-54). However, in New Jersey, he should be no higher than second line wing. On a line with Elias, Mueller would likely fit better than Brunner because of his size and finishing ability. Bouncing around the second and third lines seems like a fair role for Mueller in his return season. He was never an apt faceoff specialist in his career, meaning that he would likely be playing on the wing more often than center.

Also interestingly, scouting reports claim that he fits on the powerplay as a potential quarterback. He played a lot of powerplay time over the last two years, putting up 10 of his 33 points with the man advantage while playing in about 45% of the team's powerplays.

As a Devil, Mueller would likely see himself on the Elias-Henrique line and the second powerplay unit, taking over Ryder's former post.

Concerns

Aside from the concussion concerns, the only issue that jumps off the page is his lack of physicality. No, he is not a major liability on defense like some scoring forwards tend to be, but he truly leaves a lot to be desired in that department. In New Jersey he would need to tune his defensive game.

Conclusion

Mueller fits what the Devils are looking for: a young scorer with soft hands and great finesse ability. The question is whether Lou looks past his defensive problems and injury history and pulls the trigger on this move. Mueller has been everywhere and back; he's had those 50-point seasons and 16-point campaigns. Hopefully, the next stop on his journey is New Jersey.

***

Now that you read Writer M WAgathis' post, I want to know what you think about it.  What do you think of the subject matter? What did you think about how Writer M WAgathis wrote this post? Based on how it was written and what was it about, is this the kind of post you would want to see regularly at In Lou We Trust? Please leave your answers and other comments about this post in the comments. Thanks go to Writer M WAgathis for the submission and thank you for reading.

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