Devils choose Simon Nemec 2nd overall
The New Jersey Devils selected Simon Nemec with the second overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.
Weight: 199 lbs
Club: HK Nitra (Slovakia)
(Stats source: EliteProspects.com)
No matter where Nemec goes, he never looks out of place. Widely considered the top defenseman in the 2022 NHL Draft, the youngster has more than held his own while spending the last two seasons in the top men's league in Slovakia, and he's consistently shown an uncanny ability to thrive against professionals far older than his 18 years.
It's this maturity that helped Nemec become the first Slovak defenseman to be taken in the first round of the NHL draft since Vladimir Mihalik in 2005. Nemec was one of three teenagers selected to the Slovakian team at the 2022 Olympics and he logged one assist in seven games while helping his country capture bronze to claim its first-ever medal at the tournament. Nemec went on to impress at the 2022 IIHF World Championship, where he led all Slovakian rearguards with six points in eight games.
The right-sided blue-liner increased his production this season with HK Nitra, too, going from a 0.51 point-per-game clip in 2020-21 to a 0.67 rate in 2021-22. Nemec continued to see success in the playoffs, where he dominated with five goals and 12 assists in 19 games to help Nitra reach the finals.
NHL Central Scouting slotted him third among European skaters in its final rankings, while The Athletic's Corey Pronman ranked Nemec's hockey sense fourth in the draft class.
Fellow Slovakian prospect Juraj Slafkovsky was selected first overall by the Montreal Canadiens.
What they're saying
"Nemec is a very well-rounded defenseman. His puck game is great. He has the high-end brain to make a lot of tough plays often," Pronman wrote in late May. "Nemec can hit seams, make plays under pressure, and makes a great outlet pass. ... Defensively he's solid due to his skating, compete and brain, even though he's not imposing physically and can be trusted with tough responsibilities."
The Athletic's Scott Wheeler called Nemec "a calculated and poised three-zone defender" who "regularly flashes sneaky deception, which blends beautifully with his rare maturity for his age." Wheeler added that Nemec has the potential to become the best defenseman out of Slovakia since Zdeno Chara.
"(Nemec's) most attractive element is his vision and playmaking," Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino said in his final draft rankings. "More of a distributor than a shooter. Elite playmaker who slides into the rush as an extra layer."
Tap here to watch some of Nemec's highlights.