News: Seamus Casey Has Arrived to New Jersey Devils

New Jersey Devils top prospect Seamus Casey has decided he is ready to jump feet first into professional hockey and battle for an NHL roster spot
New Jersey Devils 2023 Development Camp
New Jersey Devils 2023 Development Camp / Rich Graessle/GettyImages

Seamus Casey is ready to swan dive into the deep end of professional hockey. 

At his end-of-season availability, New Jersey Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald indicated that he believed the 46th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft was leaning towards turning pro but cautioned that Casey shouldn’t do so if he wasn’t ready.

"And to me, when you forfeit the rest of your college career, you need to be more than two feet in the water. You have to you have to jump right in and you have to really want this. Any hesitations then it may not work. So we’re gonna give him all the time he needs."

Tom Fitzgerald

Casey sacrificed the final two years of his already illustrious NCAA hockey career at Michigan University when he signed with the Devils on Monday. He was a key contributor on the Wolverines team that went to back-to-back Frozen Fours, losing in 2023 to the Quinnipiac Bobcats in overtime in the championship game and falling to Boston College in the semifinals this past season.

During his freshman season, he played with two other Devils draftees on the Wolverines, 2021 first-rounder Luke Hughes and 2020 fourth-rounder Ethan Edwards. He was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team, and scored 29 points in 37 games. 

In his sophomore year, Casey leveled up his game, locked in on the Wolverines top pairing with Hughes leaving for the NHL. His 45 points this season ranked third among all NCAA defensemen, behind soon-to-be-first round pick Zeev Buium and Montreal Canadiens top prospect Lane Hutson. He also quarterbacked the Michigan PP1. The unit lead the NCAA in scoring, scoring on 33.6% of their powerplay opportunities. 

Casey was ranked by The Athletic as the Devils 2nd best prospect this past season. Scott Wheeler praised both his offensive and defensive game: 

"He looks effortless out there at times, weaving in and out of coverage, and mixing in delays and fakes with the puck to create space for himself or take it from others. He’s a fabulous puck transporter through neutral ice and a tactile player inside the offensive zone, where his footwork shines through. He’s undersized, but his feet and stick help compensate and he has made his fair share of stops in college."

Scott Wheeler, The Athletic

Casey is unlikely to be a substantial contributor to the NHL roster next season unless the defense core suffers the misfortune of a similar string of serious injuries they experienced this past season. That’s not a slight on Casey at all, but a testament to the defensive talent that Tom Fitzgerald has brought into the Devils organization since taking over as the GM. 

There’s a chance he could make the team out of a training camp as the team’s number 7 defenseman, but it seems unlikely. He’ll likely head to Utica to start the year and lead the Comets in ice time. He will also almost certainly be on their top power-play unit. It’s fair to think of Casey as a better version of former Devil Ty Smith, who was part of the NHL All-Rookie team in 2020-21 but was never able to defend well enough to be a consistent NHL regular after that. 

Looking at the long-term prognostication for the Devils Stanley Cup contention window, Casey will be an incredible asset to the Devils as a middle or bottom pairing defenseman. He should be able to make a substantial offensive impact, and will likely need to be paired with a defensive stalwart partner, play sheltered minutes, and lead the team’s defensemen in offensive zone starts. 

He could also assert himself as a power-play quarterback on one of the Devils top two power plays. That may need to wait until either Dougie Hamilton or Hughes is no longer on the roster. However, it’s possible that the Devils like what Casey brings to the power play so much to move either he or Hughes to the wall and go with a 2D/3F look on the power play. 

Having productive NHL players on entry-level contracts is the secret recipe to being a Stanley Cup contender. If the Devils are able to develop Seamus Casey into an NHL regular and second-pairing defenseman, making less than one million against the cap each season, their odds of winning the Stanley Cup will increase dramatically from 2025 through 2027. Casey will also be joined by a high pick in the 2024 NHL Draft, with the Devils currently having the 10th best odds for either the 1st or 2nd pick and guaranteed to pick no lower than 12th overall.

On the other side of the coin, it’s fair to wonder what this signing means for the long-term organizational fit for other right-shot defensemen signed in New Jersey. Dougie Hamilton is signed through 2027-28 and will be a stalwart as RD1 until then. Simon Nemec is likely to be the RD2 next season.

Does Casey’s signing signal a lack of confidence from the Devils in the long-term viability of John Marino, even as a bottom-pairing defenseman? It remains to be seen, but it’s something to continue to monitor as Fitzgerald retools the roster to rebound from this past horrific season.