Could New Jersey Devils Keep Seamus Casey In College One More Season?

The New Jersey Devils top prospect Seamus Casey saw his Michigan Wolverines fail in their quest to win a National Championship. Is there more value in signing him to play in the AHL over dominating the NCAA one more season?
Michigan v Michigan State
Michigan v Michigan State / Michael Miller/ISI Photos/GettyImages

Michigan Wolverines superstar defenseman Seamus Casey is the latest New Jersey Devils prospect to don the maize and blue. Last season alone, Luke Hughes, Ethan Edwards, and Casey took Michigan to the Frozen Four only to lose to Quinnipiac. Casey scored a tying goal in the first period, and Luke Hughes had a primary assist on Adam Fantilli's second-period goal, but that was it.

This year, Casey was THE man on the Wolverines defense. With Hughes playing in New Jersey, Casey was able to take a bigger role, acting as the top defenseman on this Michigan team. He took them as far as they went last season, losing in the Frozen Four to Boston College. Now, just about everyone expects Casey to sign his first professional contract with the Devils.

We just saw Lane Hutson, the superstar prospect for the Montreal Canadiens and Casey's counterpart in terms of NCAA defensemen, sign his NHL contract. Most expect Casey to try and get a few NHL or AHL games under his belt to prepare for next season. Even if the Devils don't want to blow a year on his ELC, they can sign him to an ATO and have it turn into an entry-level contract next season.

While the start of Casey's professional career seems likely, is it the best route forward? We tend to look at prospects as if they have a finite level they can grow in certain leagues. Whether it's the OHL, SHL, or NCAA, players who are a certain age are expected to grow at a certain rate and eventually peak. For the super-duper stars like Jack Hughes, staying in their junior level does have its limits (although Hughes might have progressed faster if he spent one season in college).

Casey has been at Michigan two seasons now, and his stats upgraded this season. He finished the year with 45 points (seven goals and 38 assists). He did get hurt in the NCAA Tournament, which might explain why the Devils have not signed him.

However, what if the Devils didn't sign him because they feel his next step towards greatness is to stay at Michigan?

Michigan has a very good recruiting class coming in, with Russian Matvei Griden and Americans Christian Humphreys and Asher Barnett coming in as freshmen. They've gotten to the Frozen Four on nine-consecutive occasions. They haven't won a National Championship in any of them. If Casey can return to college and bring a championship to Michigan, it would make him a legend in Ann Arbor.

That would also give him a chance to go after the Hobey Baker Award as the best player in college. Adam Fantili won it last year, and former Devils Will Butcher Jimmy Vesey, and Tom Kurvers all won the award. He could come back for fame, glory, and development. Casey could fill his trophy case, build some confidence, and he'd be ready to dominate the NHL.

Of course, there is something about playing in the pro game that's different. There are a few factors. The obvious one is money. Of course, with NIL deals, Casey can make something in college, but will he make the $80-90,000 plus signing bonus he'd make in the AHL (yes, it's that low)? Plus, if he gets called up, that will jump by tenfold. He would literally make more in a week than he's probably ever seen.

On top of that, he would have a chance to prove himself at the NHL level, which is his ultimate goal. It's an outside chance, but a chance nonetheless. The Devils will allow Casey to play with the NHL squad in training camp and in preseason games. If he's a star in those games, they might add him to the NHL roster. If he dominates with the Utica Comets, he would eventually get a callup to the NHL.

Casey was just named an All-American. That's huge for him. There isn't much else for him to do, but Hobey Baker and National Champion would make him one of the great defensemen in our era.

Still, most would agree that starting Casey's pro career makes sense. It's probably a moot point because Casey will likely sign once the season ends.