Photo Credit: Dave Janosz

Expectations for the 2023-24 Devils Defensemen

After a historic season for the Devils, many were wondering how the team would do next season. Since we already looked at the expectations for the forwards, it is time to look at what the defensemen can do this season based on their 2022-23 regular season statistics.

Kevin Bahl #88

Towards the end of last season, Bahl showed he can be an everyday NHLer. After having a rough start to the season, which no doubt was caused by nerves and learning new things, he showed the potential he has.

I expect to see Bahl more often than not. Since he is still a young player, I do not expect him to be an amazing consistent defender. But when he is playing I expect him to be smart on the puck, use his size and strength to win puck battles and slow down his opponents and bring a little grit to the team while defending his teammates.

I am excited to see the strides Bahl takes this season as he is growing as an NHL player. I believe the version we see of Bahl this season will be a completely different one from previous years. I expect him to be a smarter, more physical player and use his underrated shot more often. His confidence is going to grow as he plays more games, which is exactly what he needs to excel.

Cal Foote #52

The Devils newest addition, Foote is a question mark coming into the season. A terrific depth signing, but we will most likely not be seeing him play every single day. With the amount of talent we have on defense and Hughes and Nemec most likely making the opening night roster, it is hard to know where he will fit into place. When playing, I expect to see Foote slot into the third pairing alongside Bahl.

I believe that it will be hard to see Foote’s role on this team until training camp starts. If he has an amazing training camp, then we may be seeing him more often than we think. I also believe if he ends up playing in the AHL, that would be an amazing move for Utica to strengthen their defense.

Dougie Hamilton #7

Coming off a career-year, I expect Hamilton to continue his offensive power while being paired with a defensive defenseman like Jonas Siegenthaler. He scored 22 goals last season while assisting on 52 goals, putting up a total of 74 points.

Hamilton is at his best when he can use his offensive skills, which is why pairing him with someone like Siegenthaler or John Marino is so important. With his size, he is also able to get between players and the puck or use his long reach to slow down the opponents.

I would like to see Hamilton make smarter plays. Since he has such offensive skills, sometimes his defensive mistakes get overlooked. Since he plays with defensive defensemen, people usually do not realize because they make up for it.

He will continue to be one of our star players and a very important player to this Devils team as we go for another playoff run this season. I expect him to end around 20 goals again and end with 45 assists for a total of 65 points, give or take a few.

Luke Hughes #43

Stardom runs in the Hughes family, which is why I have high expectations for Hughes in the upcoming seasons, but not necessarily this season. In the two regular games he played in last season, we saw glimpses of what we can expect to see from him when he becomes a full time NHLer. Not only did we see his skills, we saw a sick first NHL goal from him that ended the Devils' regular season with a win.

Next season, I expect Hughes to take a few games to settle in. I would like to see him paired with Marino so he can use his offensive abilities, while having the knowledge that Marino is a defensive defenseman.

Since it will be his first full year with the team, I believe he can score around 10 goals while putting up 25 assists, ending the season with around 35 points. Would I love to see more from him? Yes, but as a rookie defenseman I would rather have low expectations and have him blow through those expectations.

John Marino #6

Marino is one of our best defensive defenseman, if not the best. Also, not to mention one of the most underrated defenders in the league.

I expect Marino to do everything he did last season. Points do not show what he means to this team and the things he does. He is always there if the forwards make a mistake or if the other defender needs help. While being one of our best defensive defensemen, he will put up a few points, assisting on more goals than actually scoring them.

I also believe he will maintain his role as one of our shutdown defenders and continue his role on the penalty kill. As one of our smartest defenders, his presence on the penalty kill and in situations where he is defending a one-goal lead is so important.

Colin Miller

One of our latest offseason additions is a perfect depth signing for the Devils. Miller is an everyday NHL player who does not produce much offense, but can definitely help defensively on the third pairing.

With Nemec coming in, we are unsure if he will be ready to play a full season so having this type of player who has NHL experience will make the transition for Nemec easier.

Simon Nemec #5

As much as I would love to see Nemec as a full time NHL player, I’m not sure if that will be his role this season. Nemec is still developing and will have to adjust to the NHL style of play.

I believe he will play games with the Devils and the Utica Comets, developing his skill more, but also not keeping him out of games for too long. Nemec will be a star defender for us long term, whether his time with the Devils starts this season or starts next season.

When he does play for the Devils this season I expect him to lean on players like Hamilton and Siegenthaler for advice and to learn this new style of play. If he has an amazing training camp and seems like he is NHL ready, I expect him to have around seven goals and 13 assists for his first season.

Jonas Siegenthaler #71

Last season, Siegenthaler was one of our most consistent shut down defensemen. Him and Marino play a very similar style of play, being smart on the puck but not producing many points. I expect him to play on the first pairing with Hamilton, letting Hamilton use his offensive power to balance out the pairing.

I believe Siegenthaler was a bright spot in last season that some people forgot about. Since he was not constantly putting up points, some of the focus would drift away from him. But, he is always making smart plays on the puck and keeping the opponents from getting the puck to the back of the net.

Plus minus is not a statistic that should be used to look at how good a player is, but when a defender has a +27, it is hard to ignore. This shows how often the team does not get scored on when he is on the ice, showing his importance to this defensive group.

I expect Siegenthaler to do much of the same as he did last season. I do not expect many points from him, but that is not what makes him such a valuable player to this team.

Brendan Smith #2

Smith is someone that will bring veteran leadership to this young defensive core. With Hughes and Nemec coming up, Smith most likely will not be seeing the NHL ice everyday. But, that does not mean he will not be making an impact with the Devils.

As he is someone with NHL experience and has a good amount of playoff experience, he will bring a lot of leadership to this team and be someone for the younger players to lean on.

When he is playing, he will bring some grit to the defense while being on the third pairing as a depth player.

The Devils are in good hands as their defense is extremely balanced. After years of having a rough defensive lineup, fans can finally celebrate that defense is actually a bright spot in the team now. With training camp starting next month, we will see which defenders will shape out the lineup for opening night.

Gabrielle Nordstrom