Anton Volchenkov Season Preview: Anton Volchenkov is Algae
Anton Volchenkov enters his 12th NHL season with his third team after taking a buyout from the New Jersey Devils. He signed a one-year, $1 million deal and will provide depth on the third defensive pairing and act as an insurance option.
After earning the reputation of a hard-nosed, physical defenseman, Anton Volchenkov might as well be made of Legos at this point. From 2007-2014 the rugged Russian blocked over 900 shots and has been known to throw his weight around. That sort of damage to a player's body adds up, but the Devils couldn't resist and signed him for six-years anyway. He was bought out after four. Now Volchenkov and injury are just a fact of the universe; it's an inescapable force you can set your clock to and place bets. Through four seasons with the Devils, Volchenkov played over 60 games once in 2011-2012. Last year he played 56 games and, at 32-years-old, I wouldn't expect more than that this season.
Despite all these potential yucky problems, when healthy, Volchenkov can be effective in a roll that requires less minutes. Last season he had the lowest average time on ice at even-strength with the Devils, averaging just under 13 minutes. His 5-on-5 ice time has been dwindling and the Preds deep defense are strong indications Volchenkov will play a third-pairing role. However, last season he managed a .553 corsi for percentage (7th on a positive possession Devils team) all while starting 48% of his starts in the offensive end. These numbers aren't particularly eye popping but they help show Volchenkov can make the third-pairing steady, have a positive impact on the ice, and provide relief to the top four.
Volchenkov is also a defender made for the penalty kill. He was second on the Devils in shorthanded TOI/60 last year with 3.62 minutes where he primarily played with Andy Greene and Bryce Salvador in previous years. The big Russian's physical tools allow him to be able to clear forwards away from the front of the net and get pegged by non-stop 100 mph shots like it's his life's blood. (And don't forget the butt saves.)
While he's not the most mobile defender, Volchenkov can consistently retrieve pucks and make breakout passes to push play up the ice. He's no slouch in his own end either. His size, strength, and aggressiveness give him an advantage along the boards to dig and take pucks away from attacking forwards. If you ignore his black hole of physical health (and the occasional suspension), Volchenkov has all the tools to be a steady option on the third-pairing.
Here are some of his big hits. I think they are fun to watch.
Best Case Scenario
Volchenkov avoids catastrophic injury and fills the gaps when younger defenseman are having trouble with the nuances of the NHL. I believe the Predators want to give Victor Bartley the chance to be an NHL regular on the third-pairing. The signing of Volchenkov allows room for error if Bartley continues to work through growing pains. Volchenkov will not put up many points so throw any hope for more then ten out the window as hard as you can.
Worst Case Scenario
Injuries plague Volchenkov and don't allow him to play more than 40 games. Ellis and Bartley also struggle creating a hole in the third-pairing. There's also a chance all his limbs explode off his body Scanners style after blocking a shot.
Volchenkov channels his inner Bobby Orr and scores two goals. Only one will go directly in the net without hitting a stick, skate, and a goalie's pad on the way to the goal line. I know what you're thinking, "Nick, two goals seems like a lot." I know, friend. I'm being bold.
Algae. Fellow eukaryote, Anton Volchenkov, is only a piece to the puzzle and provides relief and sustainability. Algae isn't front and center in any ecosystem but they provide everything from vital nurtients and oxygen to water purification and CO2 consumption. It's also prone to injury and lacks offensive production. I guess what I'm trying to say is Anton Volchenkov is algae.