In part one of our New Jersey Devils Player Report Cards we took a look at how the forwards have done this year. In part two we will briefly discuss the performances of the team’s defencemen, as well as their goaltenders.
New Jersey Devils Defenseman Report Cards
Dougie Hamilton (5 Goals – 11 Assists – 16 Points)
Hamilton entered this year coming off the back of the best season of his career in 2022-23. While a repeat was unlikely, he has taken a noticeable step down this season. Hamilton was never a particularly great defender, but this season he’s been pretty poor. He has been caught flat-footed very often and has lost forwards who get behind him. In-zone defending hasn’t been great either and he looks less engaged than last year. On the other hand, he has still found a way to produce offence despite being relegated to the second powerplay. Overall, he’s a great player, but through the first 20 games, he hasn’t looked right. Unfortunately for Dougie, he looks like he may miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle.
Luke Hughes (3 Goals – 11 Assists – 14 Points)
The expectations were through the roof for Luke Hughes entering the season, and he’s been up for the challenge. Luke’s skating and offensive abilities have been exactly as advertised, but what has stood out through 20 games has been his defensive game. Yes, early on there were some rookie blunders, but he has quickly made himself comfortable with NHL speed and physicality. Most impressively, he’s done this with a carousel of partners. The offence will always be there, especially as the PP1 quarterback, but watching his defensive game in all three zones improve night after night has been a joy to watch.
John Marino (1 Goal – 9 Assists – 10 Points)
Marino was one of the biggest surprises last season. This year the surprise around Marino has been how inconsistent he’s been. While his game hasn’t been terrible, it hasn’t been at the same level it was last year. Like most Devils, it dipped heavily when Hughes and Hischier were out, and we’re starting to see more and more of the Marino from last year. But through 20 games the defence as a whole has been an issue, and at times Marino has been part of the problem and not the solution.
Jonas Siegenthaler (4 Assists)
Almost everything said about Marino can be said about Siegenthaler. Last season he was one of the best shutdown defencemen in the league, and this year he’s been inconsistent at best. “Siegs” has made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes defending in his zone. He’s been caught puck watching and chasing players behind the net far too often and it’s led directly to goals. While his track record suggests he’ll be fine throughout 82 games, his first 20 have been way below his standard.
Kevin Bahl (3 Assists)
Kevin Bahl was thrown into the fire, given second pair minutes after only playing 66 games before this season. Results, like most of the D-core, have been mixed. At times he’s used his size and physicality to stand players up at the blue line and use his long reach to break players up. Other times he loses track of his man and doesn’t clear the crease out. Looking at him through a positive lens this is all a great learning experience for someone who projects to be a long-term defensive-defencemen on this team. Similar to Luke Hughes, his game will continue to round out throughout a full season.
Brendan Smith (2 Assists)
Smith has been public enemy number one amongst the Devils fans this season. You can’t blame all the team’s struggles on a bottom-pairing defenceman, but Smith has had stretches of being borderline unplayable. The main reason he’s in the lineup is to kill penalties, but it’s Smith who leads the team with 30 penalty minutes. Smith is much more suited as the seventh defencemen, and hopefully, that’s where he stays for the rest of the season.
Colin Miller (1 Assist)
Miller has only played in six games so far this season but has looked fantastic for the most part. After struggling in preseason and then picking up an injury, Miller looked like he may never get a shot to play. But ever since making his debut against the Penguins, he has been one of the best players on the Devils. He has looked confident and is rarely out of position. When partnered with Luke, gives him the defensive support so he can skate with the puck up the ice. Miller has also been willing to fire the puck and get shot through, and it’s only a matter of time before he starts producing points.
New Jersey Devils Goalie Report Cards
Vitek Vanecek (8 Wins – 5 Losses, 3.49 GAA – .879 SV%)
Starting goaltending was the biggest concern coming in, and after 20 games nothing has changed. Vanecek had a solid 2022-23, but there were hints of future struggles. Unfortunately, everything has come to the surface for him early on. Vanecek has had a ton of trouble with consistency this season. In games against Montreal, Chicago and Pittsburgh he looked like a true number one, but followed up all those games with sub .900 SV%. He is fourth from the bottom in Goals Saved Above Expected and fifth bottom in Wins Above Replacement. Vanecek has 15 out of 20 games and has looked borderline unplayable in over half of them. It won’t be long before management looks for outside help if this continues.
Akira Schmid (3 Wins – 5 Losses, 3.27 GAA – .891 SV%)
There was the possibility that Schmid could take over the starter’s net after how great his 2022-23 playoffs were, but that has yet to happen. Despite Vanecek’s struggles, Schmid hasn’t helped his cause either. That being said, all of Schmid’s numbers and advanced analytics have been better than Vanecek’s to start the season. He’s put together a couple of bad starts against the Capitals and Jets but has done great in a relief role whenever Vanecek gets pulled. The main difference between the two is that there have been more moments of brilliance from Schmid, as to Vanecek who looks like he’s trying to just survive. The net should be up for grabs and it’ll be fascinating if anything changes over these next 20 games,
Main Photo: David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports