New Jersey Devils' Goaltending Answer Just Came off the Injured Reserve

The New Jersey Devils’ goaltending issues have plagued them throughout the first two months of the 2023-24 season. Nico Daws, who recently returned to the Utica Comets from the Injured Reserve, might be the solution.
New Jersey Devils Nico Daws
New Jersey Devils Nico Daws / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils didn’t make a goaltending move in the offseason, and that’s turned out to be a big regret. It’s been a rocky road for Devils this season, and much of that is attributed to their goaltending issues. Akira Schmid has had some strong starts recently, including a 2-1 win over the Seattle Kraken. Vitek Vanecek, however, has continued to struggle as he has since the beginning of the season. 

The Devils need an answer to their goalie question. Their goaltending depth disappeared this season. They could seek an external answer via trade, but the market isn’t great. It’s best to ride Schmid as the starter for now, but the Devils still have a goalie crisis on their hands.

Enter Nico Daws. The 22-year-old started the season off on the Injured Reserve after he underwent offseason hip labrum surgery. He was activated off the non-roster list and assigned to the AHL Utica Comets ahead of their match-up with the Bridgeport Islanders on Friday. 

Daws didn’t miss a beat in a solid and steady return to action, earning a 4-1 win in his season debut. He made 31 saves on 32 shots, a .969 SV % with 1.00 GAA. Daws was one of the AHL's Stars of the Night. It’s best not to have high expectations for a goalie when they are working their way back from hip surgery, so this result is a sigh of relief for the Devils organization.

In the 2022-23 season, Daws was the Comets' AHL All-Star representative. Daws has 25 games of NHL experience, all of which came during the 2021-22 season. He earned 10 wins and 11 losses in an ugly season where the Devils earned just 27 wins. Daws had the most wins among Devils goalies that season.

The Devils’ goalie situation is dire, but that doesn’t mean they should pluck Daws from the Comets and throw him into the NHL right now. One solid AHL game after rehabbing from a major surgery does not mean he’s ready for NHL action. He will need some time and AHL play before he’s ready for a call up.

If he continues to play how he did in his season debut, the Devils should turn to Daws to see what he can give them. Considering what they’ve worked with so far this year, it’s worth seeing if he can give them the consistency they’ve lacked. While Daws might not be ready for the NHL this second, having him back on the ice is huge. If Vanecek or Schmid were to get injured, Daws would likely be the first call-up.

2023-24 has not been what Devils fans hoped for so far, but they’re still in the conversation for the Stanley Cup Playoffs despite the Metropolitan Division looking very tight this year. There’s a lot of hockey left to play, and Nico Daws should be a factor down the stretch.

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