Travis Dermott has only played four career NHL games, so there isn’t any meaningful data at the NHL level from which to draw any conclusions about his future just yet and data is what I usually lean on in my #analysis.
What we do have, however, is our totally unbiased and infallible eye test™ and mine is a huge fan of what it’s seen from Dermott early on. So much so that I went through his shift logs from two of his first four games and watched every shift he was on the ice for. I don’t get out much.
Below are clips I’ve gathered from each game which display Dermott doing things which stood out to me as being positive signs that he will be an effective NHL player in some capacity, which I believe he already is. Luckily for the reader, he didn’t play too many minutes (27:21, to be precise), because this piece has the potential to be a long one. SPOILER ALERT: I’m a big fan of Dermott already.
January 8 v. CBJ (3-2 OTL)
16:21 TOI on 26 shifts (16:04 5v5 + :17 3v3)
+6 on-ice 5v5 shot attempts (20CF-14CA)
2 SOG on 3 shot attempts
I have no idea if Dermott saw Mitch Marner or van Riemsdyk curling through the neutral zone here, but he breaks up the odd man rush while creating one in the form of a two on one with one swipe of the stick. Also kudos to Gardiner who gets his stick on the original pass which created the bouncing puck Dermott was able to swat away.
The result here is a deflected shot which never gets to the net, but it’s an example of Dermott’s aggressive instincts. Polak had just come out of the box, so that’s why he’s so deep in the offensive zone. Dermott sees that the Blue Jackets have caved in on their net, giving Polak no passing options in front, so he pinches down to the faceoff dot. Polak finds him for the one-timer, but it gets deflected by a stick and Dermott quickly gets back into position.
Dermott gains the red line and doesn’t have any room to either carry the puck in himself or pass the puck to a teammate as the Leafs are changing. He makes a bit of a weird decision by dumping the puck on net, but makes up for it by sticking to his winger and not giving him any room at all to get the puck out. The board battle lasts a few seconds beyond this clip and the Leafs get it back to the point were van Riemsdyk is covering for Dermott and he floats a weak shot on net. Nothing exhilarating here, but it’s another example of Dermott giving his man no space whatsoever.
Off the ensuing faceoff, Dermott shows off a burst of speed to beat Matt Calvert to the puck, keeping the puck in the offensive zone. Calvert somehow ends up on his back and he is likely quite done with this shift, as he was also the Blue Jacket forward Dermott was all over along the boards on the previous play.
Yet again Dermott shows off his skating ability and aggressive instincts by racing across the ice to stop Boone Jenner from skating the puck into the zone. He successfully gets a stick on the puck and his body in front of Jenner and all Jenner can do is kick the puck into the zone right to Tyler Bozak.
Dermott skates like a thicc Jake Gardiner.
He is just bullying Calvert at this point.
Dermott lays the old fashioned hip check on poor, unsuspecting Tyler Motte, while Gardiner scoops up the puck and gets the puck to Matt Martin at the far blue line. I would love to see this pairing given an opportunity to play some games together consistently. They would not spend much time in their own zone, if I were to bet.
This guy is just an absolute treat to watch skate with the puck on his stick. Here he skates the puck out of the defensive zone before effortlessly dancing through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, where he then hands things off to Auston Matthews, which is always a pretty good idea.
Can confirm Travis Dermott has some sort of personal vendetta against Matt Calvert. Looking into this further, will report back soon.
Dermott played 17 seconds of 3 on 3 overtime so I had to include his first overtime possession.
January 16 v. St. Louis Blues (2-1 OTL)
11:00 TOI on 14 shifts(all at 5v5)
-6 on-ice 5v5 shot attempts (9CF-15CA)
2 SOG, 3 individual shot attempts
I said this on twitter already, but Dermott’s ability to create deception with his feet by using his strong edge work to open up his feet and then spin off whichever way he sees an opening is Jake Gardiner-esque. That’s the ultimate compliment I can give a defender in this situation as I think Gardiner is one of the best in the world at evading forecheckers in this manner. Dermott was a decent skater when he was drafted 34th overall in 2015, but I don’t recall him being dynamic like this. It would seem that he’s spent some time with Barb Underhill during his time with the Marlies.
This is the remainder of the sequence Dermott began in the first clip. Polak wisely gets Dermott the puck back, although he puts him in a bit of a tough position to receive the pass by wrapping it around the boards. Dermott also has a man right on top of him, so he does a quick shoulder check before getting to the puck and sees Tyler Bozak curling through the middle of the ice in the neutral zone. Dermott wastes no time scooping the puck off the boards and onto Bozak’s tape in stride for the successful zone exit with possession, leading to a shot off the rush for James van Riemsdyk.
BONUS: Polak leading the rush resulting in a primary shot assist!
Here we get to see more of Dermott using his skating ability and aggressiveness in the offensive zone. He comes off the bench and jumps right into the play behind William Nylander, giving the puck carrier (Zach Hyman) a second option with more space. Hyman puts the pass a little bit behind him, but Dermott reaches back and chips it into the corner for Nylander who skates it up the wall back toward the blue line. Nylander draws in two Blues forwards, leaving Dermott open in the middle. Dermott keeps himself available while keeping his feet moving and it results in a shot on net from in between the tops of the circles. Dermott doesn’t seem remotely tentative in any area of the ice for a guy just getting his first looks at the NHL level.
This is a very forgettable play, but it seems as though Dermott denies zone entries like this on a regular basis. This adds up over the long run and it’s a big contributor to shot suppression, obviously. If you don’t let the opposing team in your end, they can’t get shots on your net and you’re more likely to get shots on theirs, which is ultimately how you outscore the opposition. His gap control at both blue lines has looked really good to me and it seems mostly due to how aggressive he is able to be because of the confidence he rightly has in his skating ability.
Once again, Dermott steps up in the neutral zone to get his stick on a pass. Marner is right on top of the same guy, so Dermott backs off a bit and ends up intercepting as pass before giving the puck to Polak with time and space. Dermott then heads toward the far boards on his side of the ice and receives the D to D pass before making a seam pass to Patrick Marleau in stride, who is entering the offensive zone with speed.
Once again, we only have a very limited sample to go off of as of now, but Dermott looks to have all of the raw skills and instincts required to become a play-driving defenceman at the NHL level and that’s exciting. He is always trying to push the play instead of letting it come to him, which is something I love to see, especially from a player with his skill set. It’s really hard to say what his ceiling is at this point, but that only makes him all the more intriguing to me.
We’ll have to wait and see if he can put it all together, but Dermott’s play has been extremely encouraging.