The New Jersey Devils lost to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night which is never fun. However, the season is almost over and you’d rather see them have a better draft pick anyway as long as the young guys are playing well. Speaking of young guys, Nikita Okhotiuk made his NHL debut.
It was great to see the defenseman out of Russia finally make it to the show after developing in the system over the last few years. He was New Jersey’s second-round pick (61st overall) in the 2019 NHL Draft so you know they think very highly of him.
Not only did he make his NHL debut playing on the third pair with a former Norris Trophy winner in P.K. Subban, but he also scored his first career NHL goal. It was a great play to take advantage of the puck finding his stick as he didn’t hesitate to take a big shot for the goal.
Unfortunately, his teammates weren’t able to help him get a win in his NHL debut, but scoring is the next best thing. He might not be this almighty scoring defenseman (he has five career AHL goals), but it felt like he could do it early on in the game as he had three shots prior to scoring on his fourth. That is not bad for a defenseman making his debut and getting 15:54 of ice time.
Nikita Okhotiuk could be a great player for the New Jersey Devils going forward.
There is no telling what is going to become of his career but he is going to have a chance to be in the NHL. The Devils wouldn’t have spent a second-round pick on him if they didn’t believe that he would eventually make it.
With Okhotiuk, Kevin Bahl, Ty Smith, and Luke Hughes amongst others in the system, there is a lot of young talent at different points of their careers. If they all play at their best at any given point, they could form a really good team.
You need guys like Smith to bounce back next year with great development from the rest of them. Now, after the first game for Okhotiuk, you can believe that he might be able to become a pretty good full-time NHL player.
Some of these Utica Comets that have played in the NHL lately have been great. That team is stacked going into the playoffs and has a legit chance to win the Calder Cup. Okhotiuk is going to be a big part of that but seeing him get his first NHL taste first was nice.