Simon Nemec will soon be Sheldon Keefe's favorite player

There are many players who will enjoy a team coached by Sheldon Keefe, but young defenseman Simon Nemec might be at the top of the list.
New Jersey Devils v San Jose Sharks
New Jersey Devils v San Jose Sharks / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils introduced Sheldon Keefe as their new head coach on Tuesday. The former Toronto Maple Leafs coach was pretty clear that this as a moment of opportunity to coach the Devils. If it wasn't for the roster and the situation, he might be spending his summer on a Canadian lake (our words, not his). However, it's clear the Devils are uber talented. They have Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Timo Meier, Jesper Bratt, and Dougie Hamilton.

Yet, there are still young players who make this job worthwhile. Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec are at the very top of the list.

Keefe is going to fall in love with both of these players, but we feel like if he ever admits to playing favorites, Nemec would eek out his teammate. 

Hughes is a fantastic player, but he is still flawed in some aspects. He’s much more skilled than Nemec, but he also makes way more mistakes. That is going to frustrate a coach from time to time. 

Hughes finished last season with the most 5v5 minutes on the Devils according to Natural Stat Trick. In those minutes, he was on the ice for 265 high-danger chances for and 270 against. Only 34 players in the league were on the ice for more high-danger chances against. He was lucky, as this only led to 30 high-danger goals against. John Marino, for example, was on the ice for 245 high-danger chances but 40 goals against. 

Meanwhile, Nemec joined the lineup when Dougie Hamilton went down with injury. Some believe he was brought up earlier than expected, but he immediately made an impact. For a few weeks, the Devils didn’t totally miss Hamilton. Nemec was the perfect blend of offensive instincts and defensive consistency. 

Nemec was on the ice for 200 high-danger chances for and just 192 against. It was a much more palatable situation for a head coach looking for a young defenseman to find his footing. Nemec really didn’t make any miraculous plays, unlike Luke Hughes who did that multiple times, but overall, he helped the Devils win more than Hughes.

This isn’t supposed to be a negative against Hughes. This just shows that Nemec is going to play the style that Keefe likes much more. They will both be stars in this league, but like Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, there is a superstar who’s positive impact outweighs his negative, and there’s another star who plays the type of game that will make a coach fall in love.