Does Seamus Casey Make John Marino Expendable In The Future?

The New Jersey Devils are watching closely to the World Junior Championship for Seamus Casey. Could he be a future star, and what does that mean for the future of John Marino?

Seamus Casey at the World Junior Championship
Seamus Casey at the World Junior Championship / ADAM IHSE/TT/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils have built a large set of supreme prospects that are slowly becoming NHL players. This season alone, Kevin Bahl, Luke Hughes, Simon Nemec, and Alexander Holtz have graduated from prospects to NHL regulars. We expect Nolan Foote, Graeme Clarke, and Santeri Hatakka to at least get a shot with the Devils at some point this season. One player who likely gets into the lineup one day is Seamus Casey.

Casey is currently representing Team USA at the World Junior Championship in Gothenburg, Sweden. He's one of the Devils top prospects right now as the team's top picks are finally graduating to the NHL or were sent to the Sharks in the Timo Meier trade. Casey might be the team's top prospect, which most would assume means he will eventually be an NHL player.

This is one of the best players in college hockey today. He has 23 points in 18 games for the University of Michigan. His four points and 19 assists has him 16th in all of hockey in points per game, which is great seeing as he's a defenseman. He's six points away from last year's total, which came on a much better Michigan team that included fellow Devils player Luke Hughes.

One would expect the Devils to find a spot for Casey, seeing as his offensive acumen fits in the Devils system now and in the future. He's also right-handed, which is worth much more than his left-handed counterparts. There's only one issue. Well, there are two really, but we'll get to the other in a moment. The main issue is opportunity.

There is nowhere to put Casey. Dougie Hamilton is signed through 2028. He got Norris Trophy votes last season and is now nursing a pectoral injury that likely cost him the rest of the regular season. John Marino is signed through 2027. Simon Nemec is a former second-overall pick, and he's proven he's NHL ready. That pretty much means there is no opening on the right side of the defense until 2027-28.

The Devils have shown in the past they are willing to play someone on their off hand, but that's not ideal for a prospect. Even the left side is pretty full, with Kevin Bahl and Luke Hughes as young prospects and Jonas Siegenthaler signed through 2028. So, what's the future hold for Casey?

Many are putting Casey in any and all trade proposals, especially those that include a superstar goalie. Not many teams are willing to dangle a prospect who has the production of Casey. The Montreal Canadiens have Lane Hutson playing just as well as Casey, and they look at the Boston College product as a main cog in their future plans. The Devils hope that Casey translates to the NHL, but it's hard to see when that could happen.

Casey is just a sophomore at the University of Michigan, so the Devils likely send him back to college for one more season. After that, he's probably going to the Utica Comets. If he plays as well as we seem to think, it won't be long until he's ready to take on an NHL role. However, Casey's size might hurt his ability to make the NHL. Casey is listed as 5'9 or 5'10. That's short for the NHL defensemen. In fact, if he is 5'9, he would be four inches shorter than any other Devils defenseman.

The Devils have to figure out what the future of the position looks like. With no real movement on the blueline, one would expect this to be a really good defense. They've actually been awful this season. While they are holding teams from getting a large volume of chances on the goalies, the high-danger chances are ending up in the back of the net, and they are coming in droves.

The Devils might look at a player like Casey as the future of this Devils offense. When looking at the right side, it's unlikely Hamilton goes anywhere with his $9 million contract. Nemec definitely isn't going anywhere as a former second-overall pick. The odd-man out might be Marino.

While Marino was an important cog to the Devils success last season, his drop-off in play is one of the reasons the team isn't nearly as good this season. Would the Devils try to find a new home for Marino when Casey is ready to make it to the NHL?

It's a hard pitch. Hamilton and Nemec are already offensive defensemen by trade. Marino is the only defenseman on the right side who focuses solely on playing defense. If Tom Fitzgerald replaces him with Casey, that leaves them with offensive defensemen solely. Add in Luke Hughes, and the Devils would automatically have four offensive defensemen locked into the defense. That puts them in the strange position where they either need an elite goalie for the entirety of their run (which even a trade likely doesn't secure), or they need to outscore their opponents all the time, which doesn't always work out in the playoffs.

It's a situation the Devils can wait on. They can stall Casey for at least two years, letting him develop in college and the AHL. They can even push it to three years, which would put them at the end of Marino's contract. That also puts Hamilton at the end of his deal, with one year remaining. That makes it much easier to move if they feel like they have to. For now, let's enjoy Casey for what he is, a top prospect with no limit to his offensive prowess.

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