The New Jersey Devils find talent in many places under GM Tom Fitzgerald and his impressive scouting staff. For many years, defense has been the backbone of this franchise while goaltending has always been the heartbeat of the team. Yet, it’s been years since that was really true. There weren’t enough physical, and gritty defensemen to protect the Devils’ goalies avoid shots.
As of now, there are a lot of really promising, talented, and skilled defensive players who are becoming more unique with their physical play. In this day in age, teams are still going to need guys to police the opponents, top tough guys, and top star players from getting into your goalie’s head.
There are two prospects in the Devils system who have a future clearing the net front and sending a message to opposing stars.
The 21-year-old Finnish left-handed defender can provide a little bit of offense, but Santeri Hatakka is known as a physical presence. He has registered seven blocks and five hits in nine games while scoring two points in his lone NHL stint with the Sharks in 21-22. 12 Sasquatch points (hits+blocks) and two points give him a 14 overall Two-Way Sasq Score.
Santeri could be a call-up in the middle of the season that can bring toughness and add that stability to the lineup. If the New Jersey Devils do make a trade involving one of their lesser-prioritized defensemen, Hatakka could get a chance to impress.
Players like Colin Miller and Cal Foote might hinder Hatakka from getting a call-up. GM Tom Fitzgerald is looking to keep as many layers to insulate any season issues if one or a few of his defensemen have any issues that can get addressed rapidly.
Hatakka, if called up could most certainly benefit from being around coaches Ryan McGill on defense, and Coach Brylin on the penalty kill, and working individually can help him become that 12-16 minute-per-game player. A guy who can kill penalties, and execute all the small things make him a very serviceable defender.
Daniil Misyul is a Belarusian draftee whom the Devils signed after playing in the KHL. Unlike Hatakka, Misyul is the breed of defenseman who ticks off many boxes, including agile skating, offensive awareness, passing, forechecking, and keeping opponents to the outside. He is the kind of player who likes to clear out the crease and go full-on old-school physical from the KHL playbook.
Daniil has to improve a bit more on his decision-making, and needs to get more accustomed to North American ice. It’ll be a lot less likely endurance will be a problem for Misyul. On the plus side, when he makes it to the NHL level and is confident under Coach Brylin, Misyul should excel. The language barrier won’t be a challenge since Timur Ibragimov is also on the Utica Comets roster if Misyul likely starts the season in the AHL. There are a lot of positives in Daniil’s game going forward in his journey to the NHL, and can help the Devils grow into a tougher team to play against.