A while back, the New Jersey Devils traded away longtime veterans Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to the New York Islanders. In return, they received two American Hockey League (AHL) players, AJ Greer and Mason Jobst, and a 2021 first-round pick. Obviously, the centerpiece of that deal was the first-round pick. Since the Islanders were able to muster together a deep playoff run, the draft selection fell late in the first round for the Devils.
A couple of months ago, on draft night, the Devils were able to get their preferred prospect, Luke Hughes, with their first selection. However, there was some curiosity as to which player the Devils would select with their second first-round pick at 29th overall. They ended up selecting Chase Stillman, so the Devils essentially traded away Zajac and Palmieri for Stillman’s future. I personally believe that Stillman was a steal in the draft for the Devils, and they should be excited about his future.
Stillman is a native of St. Louis, Missouri, though he and his family are originally from Canada. He comes from a family of hockey players: For starters, his grandfather, Bud Stefanski, played in the NHL for 12 year, whereas his father, Cory, won two Stanley Cups during his 18 years in the NHL. His older brother, Riley, was drafted back in 2016 in the fourth round by the Florida Panthers. Presently, he plays in the Chicago Blackhawks organization. So, similar to the Hughes brothers, Stillman certainly has a lot of hockey knowledge to learn from since the sport basically runs in his family.
He and his brother are the third generation of their respective family to be playing at the NHL level. Family relations aside, Stillman has achieved a great amount from an individual standpoint.
In a recent feature, Stillman stated that he doesn’t like to play the sport of hockey “safe” or “careful,” meaning he is willing to go the extra mile in order to succeed. Obviously that can be viewed as a cliché, but he tries to stay true to his work ethic. For example, before getting drafted into the NHL, he first played in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). He ended up playing for the Sudbury Wolves, even though he was a second-round pick.
Stillman wasn’t satisfied with his draft placement, so he decided to make a statement, and during the 2019-20 OHL season, he appeared in 58 games and totaled 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists). His intensity also landed him 63 minutes in the penalty box, so the effort and determination have certainly been present. Nonetheless, he was able to earn OHL First All-Rookie team come the end of the season.
Expectations With the Devils
Since the OHL halted its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stillman wasn’t able to complete his already successful season. What made matters worse, the OHL didn’t resume play for the 2020-21 season either, so he elected to play overseas this past season. He played in Denmark, and appeared in eight games, in which he racked up an impressive 16 points (nine goals, seven assists). However, he once again spent a lot of time in the penalty box.
Stillman served a whopping 43 minutes in the penalty box in a span of fewer than 10 games, so he might need to tone down his intensity in order to be a successful NHL player. In terms of this draft selection, I believe the Devils may have found another gem. Because he possesses the necessary skills and determination in order to be a great NHL player. He shares similar comparisons to current Devil, Miles Wood, due to his scoring ability and intensity on the ice.
In addition to that, Stillman has had scouts raving about his motor, as well as his ability to play whatever role is presented to him. He recently signed his three-year entry-level deal with the Devils, so it won’t be too long before he possibly plays at the Prudential Center. Since he shares a lot of Miles Woods’ traits, he would be a great fit on a checking line, or maybe even on a second one.
Stillman has a decent two-way playing ability, yet he still seems to score at a pretty decent rate, as proven by his playing tenure in Denmark. Even though he was projected to be drafted a little lower, the Devils organization should still be satisfied with this pick. Since they were willing to take a chance on him, it could be yet another motivational story for Stillman — one that ultimately makes him want to succeed even more.
Trey Matthews is currently the play-by-play announcer for the hockey programs at Adrian College. Interestingly, he is also one of the only full-time black hockey play-by-play announcers in the entire country. He has been featured in USA Today, USCHO, & others for his line of work. In addition to that, he’s also the host of a podcast show called Locked On Devils. He first began writing for his high school’s paper at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School & Academy. Aside from hockey, he also covers the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) for Belly Up Sports.