Perhaps the most coveted player in hockey is a right-handed shooting defenseman that can run a power play.
The New Jersey Devils found their man in Slovakia’s Simon Nemec with the second-overall pick at the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal.
“It says a lot that not only did he play in the World Championship, but he was on the PP and 6-on-5 when they needed a goal,” said Devils Chief Scout Mark Dennehy. “Right shot D are difficult to get. We got a good one.”
Video: Simon Nemec Media Availability | DRAFT
Nemec, 6-foot, 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 was still a bit surprising he admitted upon hearing his name.
“I was a little bit nervous because New Jersey has more centers and they need a defenseman,” Nemec said with a smile. “It’s a big surprise because everybody said I’d be four, five, or six (picked). But second-overall is amazing.
“I’m really, really excited. I still can’t believe it. Amazing.”
Nemec, 18, is an offensively gifted blueliner. His hockey IQ, skating, vision and passing make him an Offensive threat, and a natural power-play quarterback.
“Simon is the modern-day puck moving defenseman,” Dennehy said. “His vision in all three zones, plus the ability to pass off either forehand or backhand, allows his team to transition from defense to offense.”
Nemec had quite an eventful past year. They played all season with Nitra’s pro team of the Slovakian league. He also helped Slovakia win Bronze at the Winter Olympic Games, claimed silver in the annual Hlinka Tournament and represented his country in the World Championship.
“He has a boatload of experience playing against men,” said Sportsnet’s draft expert Sam Cosentino, “going back to when he was 15 years old getting into games in the men’s league in Slovakia, playing in two Worlds, playing in the Olympics. That’s not a lot of experience you get to see from a player in his draft year come to the table with.”
Video: Devils 2nd overall pick Simon Nemec 1-on-1 | DRAFT
Adding to the night’s Accolades was the fact that Nemec’s Slovakian teammate Juraj Slafkovsky went No. 1 overall to Montreal, meaning his Homeland produced the top picked Picks in the NHL Draft – a historic first for the country.
“Last year was really good for Slovakia,” Nemec said. “We won a Bronze medal, we were second in the Hlinka and now first-overall and second-overall. Amazing year.
“It was an amazing moment for my family, for me, for everybody in Slovakia. It’s an amazing night because we had the first-overall and second-overall.”
Nemec wants to come to North America next season. While his destination would likely be Utica of the American Hockey League, his real goal is to be playing in the National Hockey League.
“I want to go to North America,” he said of his plans next year. “Maybe the American Hockey League. If there’s an option for me, I want to play a couple games in the NHL.”
Video: 2nd overall pick talks about being drafted by Devils