The Devils’ summer is in full swing as the team parted ways earlier this month. Some have reunited in Finland while others will look to prioritize their health and prepare for the upcoming season. During the team’s exit interviews, players shared some of their summer plans, including a cross-country road trip and a wedding. Let’s check in and see what your favorite players will be up to over the next few months.
Eight Devils Players Will Compete at the World Championship
Yesterday, Team Canada announced their captains and Devils defenseman Damon Severson was selected to wear the “A” on his sweater during the tournament. During exit interviews, he expressed excitement about playing for Team Canada with some of his New Jersey teammates. This marks his second appearance at the IIHF World Championship. On April 29, 2019, he was selected to Canada’s roster and finished the tournament with six points (one goal, five assists) in 10 games. The Manitoba-native reached a career-high 46 points this past season, finishing with the fifth-most points on the Devils.
Unlike his defensive partner, Ryan Graves is making his first appearance representing Canada at the World Championship. At 26 years old, he is coming off of the best offensive season of his young career with 28 points in 75 games. New Jersey traded for the 6-foot-5 defenseman on July 15, 2021, in exchange for Mikhail Maltsev and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. It is worth noting that Maltsev only appeared in 18 games for the Colorado Avalanche and was unable to register a point.
It has been quite the season for rookie Dawson Mercer. He surprised everyone, including Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald who did not expect the youngster to make the opening night roster. He was the lone Devils player to appear in all 82 games and finished his first season with 46 points, which was seventh among all rookies in the league. During his end-of-the-season media availability, he proudly talked about what it means for him to represent his home country in Finland.
“It’s a great opportunity. I love all the Hockey Canada events I have been part of in the past, and now this is another one to add to the list,” said Mercer. “It’s a great experience for me [to get in] more games and it will prepare me for the future of my career and it’s a great opportunity. To play in the World Championship is a great honor and to represent my country again, so when they called I didn’t hesitate, I wanted to say yes and go over there and it’ll be pretty important to me to put that sweater on again.”
One of the more unexpected names announced for the tournament was goaltender, Jon Gillies. He came to New Jersey via trade on Jan. 15. The 6-foot-6 goaltender started 15 games for the Devils and finished the season with a record of 3-10-2. The New Hampshire-native was thrown into a tough situation as he only played 13 NHL games prior to joining Lindy Ruff’s team. This will be his first time representing Team USA at the Men’s World Championship, although he played in two World Junior Championships back in 2013 and 2014.
Luke Hughes was also named to Team USA. At 18 years old, he just wrapped up an impressive freshman year at the University of Michigan. His impressive numbers included 17 goals and 22 assists in 41 games. The Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Year was a plus-25 as he led all rookies in scoring.
Tomas Tatar is no stranger to playing at Worlds as this is his seventh appearance. In 2012, he was the youngest player on Slovakia’s roster appearing in all 10 games for his team as they won the silver medal. The Devils forward finished with two goals and three assists. He explained that he is always excited to play for his country, and having so many of his New Jersey teammates in the tournament adds to the excitement.
“I personally enjoy it, I want to beat them, have an upper hand on them… It’s always exciting to battle and compete against your friends. It comes with a lot of trash talk but I think we all enjoy it, I wish everyone to have good luck at the tournament and hopefully the better team wins.”
Nico Hischier and Jonas Siegenthaler are both representing Switzerland along with a handful of other NHL players. Both will be appearing in their third World Championship tournament. The Devils’ captain had a phenomenal season with 21 goals, and 60 points in 70 games played. New Jersey’s blueliner evolved into a high-end, shutdown player and one of the team’s most reliable defensemen until his injury on April 7. Like his teammates, Hischier talked about the excitement surrounding the event.
“Should be a fun tournament. Excited to see my Swiss teammates, lots of friends on that team as well. I just want to go there have fun, play hard, and hopefully get a medal for team Switzerland,” Hischier said. “Usually with all the European fans, different fans from different countries coming together… it’s a fun good experience.”
Severson’s Big Summer
In addition to representing his county in Finland this offseason, the Devils’ most tenured defenseman is also getting married at the end of June. He has been with his fiancée, Drey, since 2012 and after 8 and 1/2 years together he popped the question in Kelowna, British Columbia, with a beautiful lake view as the backdrop. Severson has previously mentioned that they are a private couple but did share that his soon-to-be wife used to play hockey growing up and will always remind him to stick to his goals during the season. Congrats to the happy couple!
Additional Offseason Plans
- Mackenzie Blackwood will be heading home to see family and friends but is not expecting to take a ton of time off. He is entering the offseason feeling refreshed and is excited to train for the upcoming season instead of rehabbing a nagging injury.
- When Graves returns from Finland he will be heading home to Prince Edward Island. Like most New Jerseyans, he enjoys his summer by the water and spends a lot of time at the beach and on the golf course with friends and family.
- Due to his injury, Jack Hughes did not anticipate going to the World Championship to play alongside his younger brother Luke. The former first-overall pick will focus on his health this summer so that he is ready to go when training camp opens up.
- Ty Smith will be hitting the open road with his dad who will meet him in New Jersey. He will be travelling 31 hours to Saskatoon before continuing his journey to Kelowna and eventually reaching his destination of Vancouver.
Thanks to social media Devils fans will be able to check in with some of their favorite players throughout the offseason as most have public Instagram and Twitter accounts. Like previous summers, it will be over in the blink of an eye and before fans know it, the boys will be back at Prudential Center preparing for the 2022-23 season.
Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and is a credentialed correspondent covering the New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.