When the name Matt Taormina, an undrafted 23-year old rookie who played with Lowell last season, first began to make headlines, many fans were surprised.
Taormina isn’t overpowering, and at 5’10″, 185 lbs is the smallest Devils defender on the roster. It’s a good thing size doesn’t indicate a player’s skill. Despite being the smallest, Taormina is the biggest player on the Devils blue line right now. The rookie defenseman is quickly becoming the Devils best offensive defenseman.
Taormina’s success should come as no surprise. Last year, his first season with Lowell, the defenseman played in 70 regular season games, totaling 50 points (10 goals, 40 assists). He continued that production in the playoffs, collecting four points (one goal, three assists) in five games. So far, he leads all defenseman with 3 points, and sits among the team’s top five scorers.
Success, however, hasn’t gone to the head of the rookie defenseman. He’s quick to point out the team’s overall struggle and credit other players in the lineup, including his playing partner, Colin White.
“He’s helping me every day in practice, games, on the bench, during the play,” Taormina said of White. “He’s constantly talking to me, telling me what he likes, what he does and little tricks that make the game easier on myself that I wouldn’t think of.”
Taormina hasn’t only flashed his offensive skill. John MacLean trusts the rookie, and gives him ample opportunities to play in all situations. In the past three games, Taormina received over 20 minutes of ice time, including a team-high 25 minutes in Friday’s game against Colorado.
“Playing time is usually dictated by how you’re playing,” MacLan said. “He was playing really well, so he got some good ice time.”
In a season that hasn’t had many bright spots, Taormina has been a pleasant surprise. I never expected him to produce, but he’s quickly moving himself up the depth chart. He’s shown that he can not only handle playing in the NHL, but he’s played at a high level. Has he been perfect? No. He’s made some mistakes, and those will happen every now and then. But Taormina has shown he’s capable of handling the responsibilities of an everyday NHL defenseman.
His emergence has helped ease the load on Andy Greene. The young defenseman, in the final year of his contract, hasn’t met expectations to begin the season. Greene, the best offensive defenseman for the Devils last season, has recorded two points in six games. He hasn’t looked comfortable, and the team has leaned on Taormina to provide the spark on the powerplay and in the offensive zone.
Taormina isn’t the best of the Devils’ rookies or the best on the blue line. But he’s been solid so far this season, and he’s quickly becoming the Devils’ best blueline scorer.
Photo Credit: SpeakingoftheDevils.com