Jumping Up with Jones Out: Can Markus Nutivaara Fill the Void on Defense?

By Paul Berthelot on September 28, 2018 at 1:19 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Markus Nutivaara looks on during a game against the Washington Capitals at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports
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Let’s preface this: there's no replacing Seth Jones.

He is one of the top 5-7 defensemen in the league, and was an early favorite to win the Norris Trophy. You can’t just replicate what he brings to the Blue Jackets, and they're in a tough spot here; one player I’m looking at to step up and fill some of Jones’ production is Markus Nutivaara.

I wrote about Nutivaara at the end of the season and covered just how strong of a season he had at 5-on-5. His possession stats were great and his transition numbers were excellent as well. He plays that same "rover" style of game that Jones and Zach Werenski do, making him a good fit stylistically to play on the top pair.

As a lefty, he may not make the perfect pair with Werenski, but regardless Nutivaara’s minutes need to be increased.

As a solid 5-on-5 player, the next step for Nutivaara to take is to play,and play well on the power play. With Jones out, there is an opportunity for someone like Nutivaara to see time on either unit. Last season, Nutivaara averaged 33 seconds with the man advantage – that number needs to rise. With how poor the power play was last season, getting some new bodies in there can’t hurt.

Nutivaara doesn’t shoot very much, as he only had 150 shot attempts in all situations last season, but when he does shoot he tends to hit the net. He had 79 shots on goal, which means when he attempted a shot last season there was a 50% chance it was going to be on the net. Those might not seem like great odds, but considering most of these shots were taken from the point, it’s pretty respectable.

Getting your shot through traffic is key for defensemen, and particularly so on the power play. If it gets blocked, you likely lose possession of the puck and depending on who the penalty killer is, it could end up as a shorthanded breakaway going the other way. We don’t have much of a sample of Nutivaara on the power play, but he did score one power play goal.

And how did he do it? By simply getting the puck through.

You don’t need the big slapper. The half-wind up works if you can place your shot, and Nutivaara has shown he can do that, which makes him a fit on the power play.

He’s only played in two preseason games, but has been seeing lots of power play time. Nutivaara has played 4:48 and 3:17 respectively in his two games on the power play, in each instance leading defensemen in that category.  He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for (though only three hit the net), and individually, Nutivaara has taken two shot attempts and hit the net once.

With Jones out of action for a month and maybe more, the Blue Jackets someone like Nutivaata needs to step up and assume some of the missing minutes. He’s been an effective 5-on-5 player, and now, should get an opportunity to prove himself on the power play.

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