New Jersey Devils Defensive Depth Showing Itself At World Juniors

(Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils recently signed 2nd round Russian draftee Nikita Okhotyuk of the Ottawa 67’s. Okhotyuk is one of those defensemen that doesn’t make headlines very often. He’s a strong defensive-defenseman despite being a player smaller than Kevin Bahl. He can provide a physical presence yet also separate the puck carrier from the puck. Okhotyuk wins a lot of  board battles by  laying his opponents against the boards.

He’s a very smart puck distributor and a very good skater, and makes really good decisions on the ice.  Okhotyuk is a meat and potatoes guy who adds authority, grit, and determination to a New Jersey Devils defense that needs youth, size, physicality, and that soul that Devils fans sorely miss.

After the Taylor Hall trade, many Devils fans weren’t so positive about 6’7″ 240 pound defender Kevin Bahl. What he has provided for Team Canada in the World Juniors is a big, strong, physical skater who will surprise you what he can do with his stature. The Devils scouts certainly see a young Zdeno Chara despite the learning curve from the skating to a few fundamental amendments like taking more shots and unleashing more of that arm span and poke checking. So far, he’s played on 2nd-line pairing for Canada just below fellow Devils prospect Ty Smith.

Daniil Misyul is another really solid Russian defender played an integral part in upsetting Canada in a 6-0 avalanche. What he has proven is to be a very agile, fast, physical, strong, and very durable against a Canadian team with Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield at the top. However, Misyul chirped and got under the skin of Canadian forward and Yukon native Dylan Cozens’ skin near the end of the game.

Ty Smith has had a pretty good showing for Canada in the Czech Republic. He’s proven to be a stellar skater, passer, and an amazing leader in the offensive zone. He’s beginning to play a more physical game and switch from an offensive-defender to a 2-way defenseman. For those who haven’t seen Ty Smith in person he skates a lot like former Devil Taylor Hall at his age.

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What this means for pre-season next year is if Andy Greene and Sami Vatanen are not here, the depth chart would look something like this in no particular order:

Ty Smith-P.K. Subban
Will ButcherDamon Severson
Kevin Bahl-Connor Carrick
Nikita Okhotyuk-Daniil Misyul

Depending on what happens after camp concludes, Ray Shero has a chance to bring in Misyul on an entry-level contract and get him to play in North America. What would help these young Russian players would be the opportunity to learn from Sergei Brylin.

With so many young players, this is a perfect storm for the Devils to prove they can build something special in Newark.