New Jersey Devils: Simon Nemec’s Chances To Make Roster Now

Simon Nemec #5 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images)
Simon Nemec #5 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils traded for right-handed defenseman Colin Miller on the first day of free agency. It was an under-the-radar move that came just days after Tom Fitzgerald made his big move, trading for winger Tyler Toffoli. However, the move does have a long-standing effect on one major prospect. Simon Nemec now has a veteran in his way when trying to make the opening-night roster.

Nemec, the second-overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, started off last season slow, but he was a catalyst in helping the Utica Comets get back into the playoffs after their own rough start. He finished the year with 34 points in 65 games, eclipsing the half-point-per-game mark as a 19-year-old in a professional North American league.

In the playoffs, he was even better, posing four points in six games. He went on to play for Slovakia in the IIHF World Championships, posting five points in five games with most teams rostering NHL players.

The Devils are looking at a major overhaul on defense next season. Damon Severson was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets and signed for eight years. Ryan Graves signed a long-term pact with the Pittsburgh Penguins. That opened up two spots on defense, but the Devils already have seven defensemen that are locks to make the opening night roster.

Dougie Hamilton, John Marino, Jonas Siegenthaler, Brendan Smith, and Kevin Bahl (as long as his contract situation doesn’t become a dispute) will return from last year’s squad. Luke Hughes made it pretty clear he’s an NHL player with his performance in the playoffs. Nothing short of an injury would cause him to miss opening night. Now, the Devils have Colin Miller. That’s seven defensemen.

Will the Devils use one of their two extra spots to add Nemec? He would have to fight for minutes every single practice and game. The Devils showed last season with Alex Holtz they are willing to let a prospect sit in the owner’s box to get the NHL experience, but Nemec is different. He’s not a luxury like Holtz. He is a key cog into the Devils future contention plans.

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In all likelihood, Nemec is starting the season in Utica and will be called up when the first injury happens. Even if the injury is on the left side, Smith would slot into the lineup, and Nemec could be the extra for a couple of games. It’s all about patience with this team, and being in a position to allow prospects to grow will help in the long run.