Perhaps the most desirable player in hockey is a right-handed defender who can run a power play.
The New Jersey Devils found their man in Slovakia’s Simon Nemec, who finished second overall in the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal.
“It says a lot that not only did he play at the World Cup but he was in PP and 6-on-5 when they needed a goal,” said Devils Chief Scout Mark Dennehy. “The right shot D is hard to come by. We have a good one.”
Video: Simon Nemec Media Availability | DESIGN
Nemec, 6 feet, 199 pounds, felt good about his chances of being selected by New Jersey after meeting with the team’s scouting and management staff at the NHL Combine in Buffalo. However, it still came as a bit of a surprise that he admitted when he heard his name.
“I was a little nervous because New Jersey has more centers and they need a defender,” Nemec said with a smile. “It’s a big surprise because everyone said I was four, five or six (chosen). But second overall is amazing.
“I’m really, really excited. I still can not believe it.
Nemec, 18, is an offensive blueliner. His hockey IQ, skating, vision and passing make him an offensive threat and a natural power play quarterback.
“Simon is the modern defender who moves the puck,” Dennehy said. “His vision in all three zones, as well as the ability to play either forehand or backhand, allows his team to move from defense to offense.”
Nemec has had quite an eventful past year. He played all season with the Nitra professional team in the Slovak league. He also helped Slovakia to bronze at the Winter Olympics, won silver at the annual Hlinka tournament and represented his country at the World Cup.
“He’s had a lot of experience playing against men,” said Sportsnet’s draft expert Sam Cosentino, “since he was 15 when he played in men’s league games in Slovakia, played in two World Cups and the participated in the Olympic Games. That’s not a lot of experience to see from a draft-year player who comes to the table.”
Video: Devils 2nd overall winner Simon Nemec 1-on-1 | DESIGN
Adding to the evening’s accolades was the fact that Nemec’s Slovakian teammate Juraj Slafkovsky went to Montreal top pick overall, meaning his home country produced the top take picks in the NHL draft – a historic first for the country .
“Last year was really good for Slovakia,” said Nemec. “We won a bronze medal, we were second in the Hlinka and now first and second in the general classification. A great year.
“It was an amazing moment for my family, for me, for everyone in Slovakia. It’s an amazing night because we had first and second place overall.”
Nemec wants to come to North America next season. While his goal would likely be Utica from the American Hockey League, his true goal is to play in the National Hockey League.
“I want to go to North America,” he said of his plans for the next year. “Maybe the American Hockey League. If there’s an option for me, I want to play a few games in the NHL.”
Video: Runner-up overall talks about being drafted by Devils