Simon Nemec: Let him ride or let his knots slip?


The New Jersey Devils Drafted defensive man Simon Nemec in second place in 2022 NHL Project Back in July 2022. Nemec was recruited from HK Nitra of the Slovak Hockey League – his second full season with the professional team and third in total. Nemec was also a regular for Slovakia at both the youth and senior level. Last season, he played for their Under-18 team in the World Under-18 Championship and the main men’s team in the Olympic Qualifiers, Olympics and World Championships. demons She signed him to an entry level contract shortly after being selected. Nemec is with the Devils now and played in his first pre-season game against the Islanders on Tuesday. The question will be answered soon: Will Nemec play with the Devils or will he play with the Utica Comets?

At first glance, the answer is simple: comets. Nemec just played its first set of show games in North America. Although he has extensive international experience compared to most 18-year-olds, playing professional hockey in North America still needs a makeover. Not only with different arena size, but also with playing speed and talent level. With all due respect to the Slovak League, I think AHL and NHL are two stronger leagues in terms of quality and talent. It takes time for any player coming into this environment to get used to. Perhaps more than one like Nemec is a defense and his responsibilities will be in the three areas.

In Nemec’s defense, his few performances in show games have been encouraging. He’s fast enough on skates with his hands to react to the pace of play, even at a slower pace before the season. Nemec has not been bullied or harassed to the point of harming his game. Nemec was given 20 minutes against a part roster from New York and part Bridgeport on Tuesday night and played decent overall. It was not complete. He was beaten en route to the only goal the islands scored that night. Nemec was also one of the few demons that were attempted to outrun and shot at 5-on-5 in that game. But he wasn’t making massive amounts of spins, hanging out frequently, or making mistakes to make up for being hit. There was nothing on Tuesday night or the challenge of prospects that made him seem overwhelmed. He’s a young defensive man with good hands and good vision on the disc, performing like one in his first game against some actual NHL players and AHL vets. Again, it takes time for a player to get used to this higher level of hockey and that’s what I’ve seen from Nemec’s performance so far.

It also requires development. Here’s something Lindy Raff pointed out before Tuesday’s game, as reported by Mike Morial:

Reactions to this quote range from understanding to disjointed (eg Scott Wheeler at The Athletic ($) And the Here Wheeler And the Here again by Wheeler). There’s a lot to criticize Lindy Ruff for, but that’s not the case. Actually I agree with Ruff here. It is common for players, especially young players, who have excelled at one level to play in a tougher league and discover that the hard way they have excelled may not work out well. Due to the nature of the defensive man’s position, finding out the hard way can often result in a team being penalized.

Raff’s view of overthinking is particularly apt. I think it was at the root of Ty Smith’s struggles last season that it seemed to me that, at least, he was so focused on doing the right acting that he ended up missing out on the good plays, and thus made a mistake. In defense and hockey in general, one needs to be comfortable with one’s instincts, refining them to make readings and reactions as quick as possible, and comfortable solving problems if and when the play does not go as expected. This makes the difference between a talented defensive man who is effective on the ice and a defensive man who has the ability to be effective but doesn’t.

Interpreting this as Ruff’s attempt to make Nemec more ordinary or less special is just plain stupid. No NHL team would allow any player to do whatever they like, and Nemec, as much as they could one day be, isn’t good enough to let him just take the ice and play as he wants. I understand that Ruff is seen as an old boy stuck in the past. But the message of a young defensive man who is coming to the North American professional hockey game and needs to know how the team plays and realize that he doesn’t need to do everything to be effective is a perfectly reasonable point for every potential player. In no case do not try to drill square corners to fit a round hole. It would be one thing if Raf tells Nemec and his play to stay in his own zone and go from D to D on passes. But this does not happen. It’s a comment on evolution, not an insult to the player. And that’s the kind of development that Nemec can focus on at Utica.

From a demons perspective, it pays to play Nemec in Utica. For example, if Nemec is struggling to adapt to the full game pace of the regular season, the slower pace of the AHL will help. It will also not have any effect on the Devils record because mistakes made by the defenders can be costly to the team. On the other hand, there is the issue of Nemec’s entry level contract. All signed 18-year-old ELCs can play for up to 2 seasons provided the player has played no more than 9 NHL season games or any NHL playoffs. The contract slip means it continues for another season, effectively turning a three-season deal into a four-season deal. Or five if Nemec isn’t quite ready at age 19 for 2023-24. This kind of control at a relatively cheap deal is beneficial for any team. It’s particularly valuable to a team that has already dedicated significant amounts of money and space to Doji Hamilton, Jack Hughes, Nico Hescher, Ondrej Balat, Jonas Seigenthaler and Vitek Vanessek until 2024-25 as well as the addition of John Marino’s contract this past. the summer. With new deals needed for Jesper Pratt and Dawson Mercer, the Devils are at a point where they will need to get the most out of players in ELCs and relatively cheaper second contracts. Keeping Nemec at Utica until this season will only help achieve that goal.

In my view, the right move is to keep Nemec at Utica so that the contract slips for this season as he develops his game in this environment and prepares for the future. Why is there a headline that says demons can do something else? Because I want to argue that Simon Nemec can play more than 10 games next season. It’s a real possibility. Here are some of the ways I can see this happen:

  • injuries. You know them. You hate them. It is almost impossible to predict. The Devils organization can play a quick role in breaking news of someone being injured (for example, Miles Wood was dislocated for maintenance reasons in the pre-season to have hip surgery somehow). Even if they were more frank, it didn’t change the fact that injuries could happen at any moment. While the New Jersey blueline might not need a Nemec because they have Hamilton, Marino and Damon Severson, an injury to one of them could mean they do. Right-handed shooting options from Utica will be Nemec, Reilly Walsh or Robbie Russo. Russo is a 29-year-old AHL vet who played 19 games for Detroit in the 2016-2017 season. Walsh has been in the system for a while and has had a solid 2021-22 season; But his performance in endurance challenge and early pre-season training has been inconsistent. If Nemec does well at Utica right away, I can see him getting an early call even before Walsh. And if the injury is big enough to last 3 weeks, then those nine games he can play without slipping ELC will pass quickly.
  • character. Severson will be in some sort of order before NHL Trade Deadline on March 3, 2023. He is a suspended unrestricted free agent as he is in the final season of his current contract. It is entirely possible that it will be moved before or on March 3. Or in other words, with at least 21 games left in the season. (Aside: By the way, The Devils play in Las Vegas on March 3.) If that happens, Nemec could be the one to be called in to replace Severson. Again, there will be plenty of time in the season to bypass the slide rule with matches played.
  • Call offers. Let’s say demons summon Nemec with the intention of playing no more than nine games. It’s totally possible. That’s the plan if he’s required to fill in the blueline and/or if he shows up in Utica he’s ready for an even bigger challenge. Let’s say Nemec is working fine. really good. Well, by game eight or nine, obviously going back to the AHL might not help Nemec much and certainly not help the Devils. It’s a shot in the dark now, but a few months in Utica and/or some good games with NJ would add to the temptation to keep him with the demons and not let that ELC slip.
  • It is already ready. Of course, the obvious reason to bring Nemec beyond 9 NHL games for next season is because he’s ready to do it. I don’t think that was evident in challenging the prospects or in his first pre-season game. However, if he adapts much faster than expected and performs beyond expectations at Utica (or even in the next few pre-season games), consideration should be given to the possibility of him preparing for the NHL sooner rather than later. Yes, that would risk having his ELC expire earlier, but if Nemec is going to be as good as one would hope, it will cost a lot of money at some point. If Nemec makes NJ better right away, it makes sense to make Nemec NJ sooner rather than later. It’s hard to jump into the NHL, but everyone runs their own race and there’s no hard and fast rule that says Nemec has X number of seasons to actually be ready. He will be ready as he develops his game and adapts to the North American style and expectations of the organization. If it happens in a few weeks or months unlike the seasons, so be it. It is not good for development to hold someone back as much as it is not good to rush them.

I still think the right move now is for Nemec to become a culprit after pre-season. A call here and there okay. But it’s better for everyone involved that the development happens in Utica and he’s brought in when he’s able to contribute to New Jersey. Even if the Devils have a little to play by then, both Devils and Nemec will be best served by playing the minutes that are earned and not only. Will that definitely be in 2022-23? I don’t know, so I tend to think that won’t happen. So, let his contract slip instead of letting him ride in the NHL. I think it’s possible that Nemec can do so well at Utica that he can play 10+ games in the NHL and be good enough to survive after that. I just haven’t seen it and there isn’t a huge gap in the polyene that would require its presence. Of course, just like professional wrestling, plans can change at any moment.

what do you think? Do you think Nemec is the best to play in Utica right away? All season so that his ELC slips? If Nemec does well or a spot opens up in Blueline for one reason or another, are you OK with letting ELC start this season with Nemec playing 10 games or more? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on Nemec in the comments. thank you for reading.


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