Despite Recent Demotion, Santeri Hatakka Is Built For A Run With New Jersey Devils

Pucks & Pitchforks had the chance to speak one-on-one with Santeri Hatakka over the summer during development camp.

New Jersey Devils LHD Santeri Hatakka
New Jersey Devils LHD Santeri Hatakka / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils acquired Timo Meier from the San Jose Sharks in a blockbuster deal almost a year ago. Meier was the main centerpiece of that package. He is an All-Star power forward who tallied 40 goals last year. But one of the underrated assets that the Devils obtained with Meier was left-handed defenseman Santeri Hatakka. During his two-year tenure with the San Jose Barracuda, the 23-year-old appeared in 49 games and posted 14 points (three goals, 11 assists).

Unlike Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec, Hatakka is not an "offensive-minded defenseman." Instead, he knows where to position himself without the puck and makes the correct play defensively. He also skates very well. His skill set was on full display when he made his unofficial Devils debut in July during development camp. Pucks & Pitchforks had the chance to speak with Hatakka one-on-one shortly after the camp concluded.

Suiting up in a Devils, just want to get your thoughts on that

It's great to be in the colors, I like the red.

What went through your mind when you realized that you were going to be traded to the Devils organization?

It was a huge shock when I heard about the news. But I was super excited and happy to get traded to a great organization. [They're] one of the best in the league right now... I was happy.

How was the adjustment going from Barracuda to now Utica?

It was pretty [much] the same. Of course, I didn't play with Utica [last year]. But everything went super smooth [when I went] there. All the people there were super nice to me, and the boys were good. It was super smooth.

What are some of the goals you have going into the season?

I come in mentally [ready] for training camp. I want my spot on the team and compete from there.

For anyone who might be unfamiliar with your game, how would you describe it?

I'm a fast skater, move the puck well, good in the D-zone, can play in the O-zone, [I'm] a two-way D (defenseman).

Ever since Brendan Smith went down with a sprained knee injury in January, Hatakka has taken full advantage of his opportunity and has quickly become a fan favorite. He's been a bright spot for a Devils blue line that's been mediocre all season long. So far, he has a plus-minus rating of +7, two assists, in seven game appearances, and is well on pace to top his career high in games played (nine).

The Devils announced on Tuesday that Hatakka was being sent back down to the AHL after Smith returned. However, with how well he's played, it shouldn't be long until he's back on the NHL roster.