3 New Jersey Devils Who Deserve A Bigger Role In 2024-25

Acquiring depth will be high on GM Tom Fitzgerald's "to-do" list this summer. Before he goes out spending millions in free agency, he should take a look and see what he has in-house to fill those roles.
2024 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series - Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils
2024 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series - Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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2. Santeri Hatakka

How Hatakka only played in 12 games is still mind blowing. One of the "throw-ins" in the Timo Meier trade, Hatakka had a bit of hype behind him starting back in development camp. A strong training camp and preseason kept him on the map, and once injuries struck, he earned his call-up.

He recorded two points in the 12 games he played but flashed a strong defensive game and was a steady defender. He was eighth on the team in Shots Blocked per 60 despite just 12 games, fearlessly getting his body or stick in front of shots.

The Devils likely move on from Brendan Smith this summer, leaving an open spot for the team's seventh defenseman spot. Fitzgerald may opt to add more veterans to the back end, but with money needing to be allocated to the goaltending and bottom-six, there's an avenue where Hatakka runs unopposed for that spot.

The 23-year-old is a physically mature and responsible defenseman, who even showed a bit of flash of offense in the AHL. He scored five goals and added 15 assists in 48 games for Utica this year. Hatakka's performances while he was in the lineup were much greater than those of Smith, Nick DeSimone, and at times even Kevin Bahl. The organization should take a long look at Hatakka to see if he can play regular minutes at the NHL level next season.