Nick Seeler has been a very intriguing player since the Chicago Blackhawks claimed him off of waivers from the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 3. He seemingly piques your interest because of what he can bring to the table. However, in the same take, he raises some questions as well; especially as it pertains to his future with the Blackhawks.
Seeler is a 26-year-old, left-shot defenseman who was selected by his hometown team, the Wild, in the fifth round of the 2011 Draft. He made his pro debut in Feb. 2018 after being recalled from the Wild’s affiliate team, the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League (AHL). In his first 22 NHL games, he had four goals, four assists, and was a plus-10. During the Wild/Winnipeg Jets playoff matchup in that same year, which the Wild ultimately lost in the first round, he played in all five games.
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He had two assists and was a plus-one. However, he endured a bit of a slip during the following season in which he was a minus-four in 71 games. In 2019, he was a minus-six in six games. He was then sent down to the AHL on Jan. 16 as part of a conditioning stint. (from ‘Wild defenseman Nick Seeler returns from conditioning stint,’ Twin Cities Pioneer Press, 01/16/2020) In that time span, he had two points and was a plus-nine in six appearances.
The Wild placed Seeler on waivers on Feb. 2 because he found himself on the outside looking in as the Wild’s defensive group was going through a transition. His playing time became close to none and he didn’t see NHL ice for almost two months. He needed a change of scenery and that is where the Blackhawks came in.
At first glance, it was easy to question “Why did the Hawks claim him?” considering the traffic jam at the defense position in the organization. It seemed like they would be the one team that wouldn’t make the best fit for him as someone looking for more opportunities to play. Moreover, in that circumstance, you look for the player to make as much of an impact as possible when they do get that chance.
Seeler has only played in six games out of 18 total games since he arrived. Even with limited ice time, I believe he has been very noticeable. He is a defensive defenseman, first and foremost, which is something that the team has been missing. They know that they have defensemen in the fold that are touted for their offensive skills, such as Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin. It makes sense to claim a player of Seeler’s caliber that can complement that strictly by basic defensive attributes.
Seeler is a very “rough and tough” type of player, which is very Chicago-esque. You can see clearly that he likes to be a presence that irks opponents and that is a quality you love to see in an NHL player, especially on defense. Look no further than during his Hawks debut against the Winnipeg Jets in which he got into a fight with defenseman Nathan Beaulieu. With that, he made his style of play apparent right off the bat. He is also a notable shot blocker with 116 last season. As a whole, the Blackhawks’ defensive group isn’t well known for their physicality, especially with Brent Seabrook out of the lineup. That is where Seeler can be a great asset.
Being more of a tough player doesn’t need to be solely associated with being a fighter. Being able to move guys off the puck or clear the front of the net is significant. Seeler is a solid-bodied player at 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds, able to use his bigger frame to his strength. Those little plays make huge impacts during games. Above is an example of Seeler’s physical play when he was with the Wild.
I may be in the minority with this opinion, but I like what I have seen out of Seeler’s game. He is not a top-pairing defenseman, but I think if you put him in the right role, he can be very effective. Where Seeler goes from here remains to be seen. The current defensive group before the season was put on hold was Boqvist, Beaudin, Connor Murphy, Olli Maatta, Slater Koekkoek, Duncan Keith, and Lucas Carlsson. It’s also important to note that when Seabrook and Calvin de Haan come back from their injuries next season, they will need to slot back in, making spots that much more competitive. With that crowd, general manager Stan Bowman has some big decisions to make.
Seeler is on a very team-friendly contract: $725,000 average annual value through the 2020-21 season, which is the least of the team’s worries with their tight salary cap situation. I don’t know if Bowman is planning on using him as part of a trade package in the offseason or if he is planning on keeping him as a depth piece. Whatever the case may be, in a time where the Blackhawks defense looks as if they’re hanging by a thread most of the time, I think he is worth taking a closer look at to see the aforementioned traits because it can’t get worse.
He was acquired for a reason, but the problem is, he can’t show much without substantial playing time. If the season is to resume, I hope that head coach Jeremy Colliton will make more use of the tools that he has, and give Seeler more elbow room to show his “reason” because the capability is there.