A few weeks ago, the New Jersey Devils re-signed Kevin Bahl to a two-year, $2.1 million contract. This was a smart signing by Tom Fitzgerald, as Bahl adds size and depth to the Devils’ defensive core. Last season, Bahl demonstrated his skillset during the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. His combination with Damon Severson was one of the more consistent defensive pairings. It was one of the reasons why the Devils overcame a 2-0 deficit and beat the New York Rangers in seven.
Bahl climbed the rankings throughout the regular season. He was initially used as a seventh defenseman but later became an everyday player. In 42 appearances, Bahl finished 14th on the team in blocks (38), 13th in defensive point shares (1.4), and 11th in hits (64).
Hypothetically, had he appeared in more games, his impact certainly would’ve been noticed more. When the announcement of his extension was made official, Pucks & Pitchforks had the chance to speak with Bahl at his press conference and asked him how he felt like he was utilized last season.
“I kinda needed to grow,” Bahl said. “I think I came a long way just because I was learning how to play certain situations…Fast forward a couple of months, and going into the playoffs, I was learning how to be that physical guy. That’s a big element in the playoffs because you’re playing seven games straight. It was a big learning curve.”
Bahl set goals for himself next season. Near the top of the list is to be more productive on the penalty kill. Given the size of his frame and length, Bahl should certainly see his role increase in that aspect.
“I think a big thing for me is that I want to work on being a better PK guy,” he elaborated. “I want to be relied on more in that regard for defensive situations. I think that can be a big part of my game. Because it was something that I was really good at growing up.”
Watch the full discussion on Locked On Devils below:
In a recent interview, Pucks & Pitchforks also had the chance to speak with three-time Stanley Cup champion, Ken Daneyko. Daneyko is the color commentator for MSG broadcasts and was very impressed with Bahl’s development. He has high expectations for him going into next season.
"“I say this about any young defenseman, it doesn’t matter the position you play, but it comes down to consistency,” Daneyko said. “Can you have eight good games out of 10? You’re not going to be perfect. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s a part of the game…He’s big, they’re [the Devils] going to need his physicality, and he showed that in the playoffs against the Rangers. He’ll get more penalty-killing minutes with Graves gone along with Severson…I expect a lot from Kevin Bahl this season. I expect the consistency, the physicality, and he’ll be a good solid defenseman.”"