Devils' 2022/2023 Defensemen Pairing Projections

With training camp coming up very quickly, I felt that it was timely to take a look at what the lines could potentially be for the New Jersey Devils for the 2022/2023 season. There will be a good amount of new players on this team, from free agents as well as trades to bring someone in, to rookies looking to get their first cracks in the NHL. The Devils have a good problem, in a sense, due to the depth the organization has throughout (nod to Tom Fitzgerald). Below, I will give you my line combination predictions for this team as well as my rationale.

This is the second of three projections for the roster I will do. Here we look at the strongest group of this team, the defense:

Pairing #1: Jonas Siegenthaler (LHD) - Dougie Hamilton (RHD)

Perhaps the best move that GM Tom Fitzgerald has made since he took over this team more than two years ago was trading the conditional 2021 third-round pick they got in the Taylor Hall trade to the Washington Capitals for Jonas Siegenthaler. Since the trade, Siegenthaler has become the best defenseman on the Devils and one of the better ones in the NHL. The Devils rewarded him with a very deserving contract extension this past offseason. He is steady, reliable and durable. He doesn't make many mistakes and always manufactures the right play. Because of those traits, he's the perfect guy to be the Devils #1 left-shooting defenseman.

With regards to Dougie Hamilton, it was obvious from Day One, when he signed the big money contract in free agency, that he would be our top defenseman, especially on the right side. He brings everything you need in a top d-man. He is strong, nimble and has great puck-moving ability to do damage on even-strength, powerplay and penalty-kill situations. He has the talent and capability to become a Norris Trophy winner here in New Jersey. While last year was a tough year for him due to injury and struggling to get back to full form after he returned, he still was one of our best players. Pairing him with a very reliable, calm partner allows Dougie to focus a bit more on his strong offensive game.

The balance of great defense from Siegenthaler and the consistent offense from Dougie makes this an excellent top defensive pairing for this Devils team.

Pairing #2: Ryan Graves (LHD) - Damon Severson (RHD)

I really like this second pairing just as much as the top pairing. Like the first one, you have a balance of defense and offense from these two when playing together. For Ryan Graves, it was a pretty good year for him in the red and black. For sure, he must have been a bit disappointed that the team that traded him went on to win the cup without him. However, Graves now plays more minutes then he did before and at times really came into his own in Year One in New Jersey. Because of that, Graves finished with more assists (22) and points (28) then he's ever had in his career. He also scored his second most goals in a season (6) in his career as well.

He is a big, physical defenseman at 6'5'", 220 lbs, who also brings some speed on the back end. He especially excelled on the penalty kill and helped it improve as the season progressed.

Damon Severson has been such a curious case the past few years. Devils fans have been 50/50 on him. One minute he makes a great play that leads to a big play or goal. The next minute, he shoots the puck into his own goal or leaves someone wide open on a 2-on-2. He does have good offensive skills and can put up some points. However, his defensive game is not fully there and he will make aggravating miscues like I just pointed out, above. Severson is also going into the final year of his contract and has been the subject of trade rumors for over a year now.

With young guys like Šimon Nemec and Reilly Walsh coming up soon for the right side, Damon Severson's time in New Jersey could be coming to an end soon. Severson did however express his desire to stay in the Garden State long term. That is a nod to Tom Fitzgerald for creating a culture and team that makes guys want to be here and be part of something special.

Severson can still play top 4 minutes and produce points on the back end on the second pairing and second powerplay unit. He is coming off a career year in 21/22 in which he tied for the most goals (11), had more assists (35) and by far the most points (46) he has registered in one season. If he can put up similar or better numbers, the Devils will be in great shape in their pursuit of making it back to the playoffs. This is something that Severson has said when it comes to his feelings on when the rebuild will finally end. Being with Graves will allow Severson to not have to carry the load defensively and continue to showcase his offensive abilities.

Pairing #3: Brendan Smith (LHD) - John Marino (RHD)

I know that a lot of Devils fans want to have at least one of these spots for someone like Kevin Bahl, Luke Hughes or even Shakir Mukhamadullin. I still think Kevin Bahl will make the team out of training camp as the 7th defenseman and will be in a battle with Brendan Smith for that 6th defenseman spot. However, Smith was signed for two years and brings some veteran experience and leadership to this Devils team on and off the ice. He will be starting his 13th year in the NHL and we all hope it's a lucky season for him. While he's not a great defenseman, he is a solid one that will block shots and deliver hits. Plus, he is not at all afraid to get into scraps, especially against our, "Hudson River Rivals", the Rangers.

When the Devils made the one-for-one trade sending previously heralded, young defenseman Ty Smith to the Pittsburgh Penguins for John Marino, it was done with mixed feelings. On one hand, it hurt to give up on a guy like Smith after just two seasons in the league with good upside. On the other, it's a solid addition to bring in a guy like John Marino who is just entering his prime and, in some people's minds, will be able to be a good top-4 defenseman long-term. While he's not a big fan of putting the puck on net, Marino is a sturdy, dependable defenseman that can, "skate well, moves the puck, and takes very few penalties."

This is definitely going to be the defensive, physical pairing that will be used in situations where you need to get some blocked shots as well as create momentum by big hits and slowing offenses down. It will be a very reliable pairing that won't take many penalties and that gives the Devils even more defensive depth then they had the year before.

Next week, we will wrap up our Devils' roster predictions with arguably the most important position on this team.. One that has presented more questions than answers for years now...

The Goaltending.

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