Player Previews: Part 8 – Peter Harrold

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By Ryan Jahnke

#10- Peter Harrold- Defenseman

2013 Season Stats 

Games played: 23

Average Time on ice: 17:37

Points: 5 (2g,3a)

Plus/Minus: minus-8

Analysis:

Season Grade: C-

The role of Peter Harrold with the New Jersey Devils is a difficult role to define.  Before last year’s lockout-shortened season, Harrold was the 7th defender; a plugin player that could step up and put together a solid professional performance whenever he was needed.

As the season progressed, that well-defined role lost some of it’s meaning.  Inconsistencies and injuries led to Harrold being used for longer periods and the results often showed on the ice.  I’m sure that we all remember Tampa Bay’s comeback in March of last year.  Four goals weren’t enough to keep the Devils ahead of the Lightning that night as the Devils lost a 4-4 game in another shootout.  In that late season game, the defensive pairing of Peter Harrold and Anton Volchenkov, which should probably never be seen again, gave up the first three of those goals to Tampa Bay. One was a breakaway by Nate Thompson where he split the two defenders and beat the them to a free puck, placing him all alone against Brodeur for the Lightning’s second goal of the night.  That one still gives Devils fans fits.

While the last two seasons have shown that Harrold has what it takes to compete at the NHL level, they have also raised the question of whether he can handle a big workload.  Harrold has never played more than 69 games in a season and while he has shown in his limited appearances the potential to be a moderately productive blue-liner, his consistency, particularly over the course of a full season, is still a question mark.

2014 Preview

Harrold is fighting a war for playing time on two fronts.  Even with the trade of Henrik Tallinder in the offseason and the poor play of Volchenkov last year, Harrold’s small stature and even smaller résumé leaves him as the odd man out of the starting six once more.  This reality combined with the looming threat of incoming young talent like Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill means that playing time in the defensive zone will be at a premium this season.

That’s not to say that Harrold’s chances are nil.  He has an experience edge that puts him higher on the depth chart than any rookie, and enough two-way skill to make him the go-to-guy whenever coach Peter DeBoer is looking to spell Andy GreeneMarek ZidlickyMark Fayne, or even Adam Larsson.

Harrold will have his impact this year, starting nearly half of the team’s 82 games this year.  But, the quality of these appearances can’t really be judged by a game here and a game there.  The Devils will need him most during those unpredictable long stretches where an injury leaves a starter sidelined.  It’s in these situations where he needs to be the reliable 7th man that the Devils signed him to be.

Projections: 

We’re going to see Harrold in at least 35 games this year, and, taking into account the Devils’ recent history of injury problems, I’d wager that the number could go as high as 40 or 45.  This will stretch Harrold to his very limits, especially towards the end of the year leading to the playoff stretch.

In terms of offensive production, don’t expect much.  I don’t see him going much higher than 2 goals and 5 assists.  Not bad, of course, but nothing that’s going have him creeping into a permanent gig.

You can, however, look for him (and the rest of the Defense for that matter) to clamp down significantly in their own zone.  Harrold will improve on his minus-8 rating from last year, and, as long as he and Volchenkov aren’t paired together this year, games like the one in Tampa should be a thing of the past.

In case you missed them, here are the first six parts of the series: 

Part 1: Andy Greene

Part 2: Michael Ryder

Part 3: Cory Schneider

Part 4: Andrei Loktionov

Part 5: Patrik Elias

Part 6: Jacob Josefson

Part 7: Adam Henrique