Devils players are meeting with the media one final time before the off-season gets underway. Full coverage of the Devils locker room clean out day is below!

The Devils reflect on a tough year but bright future

Hamilton on His Injury and the Season

Defenseman Dougie Hamilton talked to media for the first time since a torn pectoral muscle sidelined him from late November through the remainder of the regular season.

"Kind of just fell awkwardly on my arm, just felt something and knew something was wrong," Hamilton shared. "Unfortunately it was as bad as it was. Definitely tough thing to happen … I think very tough, physically, mentally, everything. It’s hard not being out there with the guys, win and lose, and going through it with them. Definitely makes you realize you can’t take things for granted and makes you appreciate stuff, learn from it, and have more of a realization and appreciation of everything that we have. For me, just now trying to get healthy and be the best player I can be come September.”

Dougie Hamilton speaks after the 23-24 season

The Quick Hits:

Nico Hischier on the season ending and how they can use this year: “Definitely sucks obviously packing up already here. It’s been a rough year but I think it’s a year that we can still take good things out of it and learn from it. It’s important to evaluate a year like that and try to make the best out of it so that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Ondrej Palat on how the Devils can use this loss to be successful and how this happened with the Tampa Bay Lightning: “Sometimes you need to lose to learn, and be better. That’s exactly what we did in Tampa. We had a terrible playoffs, we got swept, we looked ourselves in the mirror, we made some changes, coaches made some changes in the structure. And we took the defensive part of the game as a number one to help us to success in this league and that’s what happened the last couple of years.”

Jesper Bratt on what the Devils need to do this off-season: “It wasn’t a step in the direction that we wanted to go. We have to see this as a big motivation and use it as fuel for the summer … We really have to dial it in as individuals to come back as a better player, more mature and ready to do the right things to get this team back in the playoffs where we should be.”

Timo Meier on his plans for the off-season: “Just get healthy and then spend the time in the gym, put the work in. I know how big the off-seasons are for me personally. Playing my best I have to be in the best shape, if I want to play consistent and style of game that brings me success, I got to put a lot of work in the gym and make sure when I get here after the off-season I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been. That’s the goal for me.”

Curtis Lazar on his season and how it started with training camp: “You go back to training camp, playing in every preseason game that’s a lot of hockey too. They said they wanted to give me extra reps to get my body right, I kind of looked at it that they’re trying to evaluate something here.That kind of gave me that fire and that burn, they want to see something. I thought I had a very strong camp and that allowed me to start the season off right and carry that momentum all the way through.”

Alexander Holtz on his season and what he's working on: “I feel like it’s been a lot of up and downs. I think I started off pretty hot and then kind of slowed down. The most thing I want to be better at next year is be a more consistent player throughout the year and play a better overall game.”

Dawson Mercer on playing all 82 games for his third consecutive season: “I think it’s something I’ve focused on my full career since I’ve been here. I want to be a guy that can be put in the lineup every game and be relied on and be ready to go. It’s important. I try to play the game smart, don’t put myself in those situations where things can happen, prepare, make sure you’re ready for the game and when you have things going on, take care of it.”

Kurtis MacDermid discussed the Devils and his experience with New Jersey: “Great team here, great young core. Obviously there’s some good pieces and just got to put it together. There’s a bright future for this organization for sure.”

Kevin Bahl talked about what he learned this season and the challenges he faced: “The experience for me personally against top guys, just trying to learn as quickly as possible right away. It’s a different game when you’re playing against with that kind of skill, or that caliber of player. Just learning, little details in your game, stick positioning, body positioning. Everything becomes that much more important especially on defense, you make one little tiny mistake, your stick wasn’t in the right spot or your body should have been this way, it could be a scoring chance (against).”

Kaapo Kahkonen talked about his time with the Devils and commented on if he would like to return as he's a unrestricted free agent: “I felt good from the start. A bunch of good guys in the room, easy room to come into. I felt good with my time here as of now ... I would be open to negotiating, everything was great here but you never know, I’m not saying yes, I’m not saying no. It’s just the way this business works, everyone has to evaluate and see where they’re at as an organization and then where’s the best opportunity for myself.”

Jake Allen shared how the Devils should remain optimistic after this season with what the future could hold: “I think there’s a lot of optimism here, there should be. We know what type of team we can be. We’ve seen it through the small stretch that I was here, and from afar with my perspective from Montreal the last couple of years. That’s the way we should approach it, a lot of optimism. We all want to put our work boots on and make sure to find a way to get a little bit better this summer and come in prepared in training camp, healthy, excited, ready to play the right way.”

Marino discussed the defensive core battling through adversity this season: “It was tough. Hamilton going down, some young guys in the lineup. Obviously didn’t go the way we wanted but we battled until the end, did what we could, and we’ll go from there.”

Brendan Smith on his impacts with this group: “I thought I had a good year and helped out in multiple ways. I know my voice is almost as impactful, or more than it is on the ice. I’m still very pleased with where I am as a hockey player in this league. We’ll see how it unfolds. If I’m back I will be quite happy.

Erik Haula on the season and not quitting during the final stretch: “The way we fought until the last game, even though we didn’t get as many wins at the end, I still think that we can keep our heads high on how we finished the season. We didn’t quit at any point. I think we have a very good group.”

Injury Updates:

The following players shared injury updates during their media availability:

  • Meier shared he hurt both of his MCLs and an oblique during the season
  • Foote revealed he had a lower back injury with “disc issues” that he’s dealt with for four years, but he "feels good now." Foote discussed the four games he did play and how he felt through it: “(It) got better as I went, I was just excited to be back. It was a long year, long process, and it was great to be in a couple games.”
  • Hamilton shared he was skating and close to returning with a goal of rejoining the Devils for the playoffs if they had made it.
  • Bastian discussed his lower-body injury that sidelined him the final eight weeks of the season: “I honestly don’t think the timing of the injury could have been any worse. I think if we (were) in the middle of the season, I would been joining the group today maybe. Obviously I’m happy that I’m healthy, but missing 25 games when the season picks up and a lot of those games are important games and not being a part of that sucked.”
  • Lazar discussed his upper-body injury that ended his season on Apr. 6: “Shoulder injury nothing too major. I’d be cleared probably this week, ran out of runway. Body is feeling good, but unfortunately have too much time here to rest up.”

Captain Nico Hischier discussed the impact of injuries this season in his end of year media availability:

“Obviously we had some guys in and out and injuries were a little bit part of our group the whole year. It’s definitely a fact but it shouldn’t change anything at the end of the day. As an organization you have good players and it’s always whoever’s in the lineup needs to do his best, guys stepping up for each other. It’s not really an excuse but it’s definitely a fact that we’re missing a few guys from the lineup this year.”

Nico Hischier speaks at the end of the 23-24 season

The Rookies

This season was an opportunity for several rookies to get some substantial playing time in the NHL. Defenseman Simon Nemec played 60 games with the Devils after being recalled on Dec. 1 due to Dougie Hamilton’s injury (torn pectoral muscle). Nemec stayed with New Jersey the remainder of the year. He finished his time in New Jersey with three goals and 16 assists for 19 total points.

“My goal for the season was to spend half a season (in Utica) and half a season here,” Nemec shared Wednesday. “I spent more season here and it’s good for me and I’m really happy I could be here. Now I know what I need to improve for next season and I will be better.”

Nemec shared he will work on his skating, gaining muscle, getting stronger, and being more consistent game to game. Defensively he wants to be better with gaps while on offense, Nemec wants to work on his shot as well.

Defenseman Luke Hughes played all 82 games for the Devils in his rookie season. He finished the year with nine goals and 38 assists for 47 total points.

“I think I grew more and more every game,” Hughes reflected. “I think I got more comfortable and the game slowed down in my head throughout the year. That comes with more confidence and being more comfortable out there. I think I did a really good job of adapting my game from college to the NHL.”

Fellow blueliner Jonas Siegenthaler discussed Hughes and Nemec and the significant roles they had this season.

“It’s not easy but I think they managed it very well. They’re both still very young and I think you can see that their game is growing game over games. I think at the end of the day they did a pretty good job.”

Luke Hughes speaks at the end of the 2023-23 season

Men's Worlds

The IIHF Men’s World Championship will take place in Prague and Ostrava with the first games of the group stage starting on May 10. The tournament will wrap up with the medal round on May 26 in Prague. The following players have confirmed they’re playing in the tournament:

Simon Nemec (Slovakia)
Luke Hughes (U.S.A)
Tomas Nosek (Czechia) is attending National Team Selection Camp
Ondrej Palat (Czechia) is attending National Team Selection Camp
Nico Hischier (Switzerland) is in discussion with his National Team at this time, but not confirmed yet.
Jonas Siegenthaler (Switzerland) is in discussion with his National Team

Luke Hughes shared about the opportunity to play for Team USA at Men's Worlds: “Really excited. Anytime you can represent your country is an honor. I think that’s really exciting to go and try to win.”

Tomas Nosek shared about potentially playing in Men's Worlds and the significance of the tournament happening in his home country: "I’ve never been to Worlds, I’ve always made the playoffs in my pro career even if it’s in Czechia or the U.S. So this is kind of a new thing for me and I never really had the chance to go. And it’s in Prague so for us it’s a big deal back home. I’m looking forward to it. It would mean a lot to be honest … my friends and family can see me playing after almost 10 years so it’s nice.”

Ondrej Palat on his plans for Worlds and the off-season: “I will go to Worlds if I make the Czech team, I will meet them at the end of the month. I’ll take a couple weeks off (after) and then get back to training.”

Free Agents This Off-Season

The following players are unrestricted free agents heading into next season: Tomas Nosek, Chris Tierney, Brendan Smith, Kurtis MacDermid, Nick DeSimone and Kaapo Kahkonen. Dawson Mercer, Nolan Foote are the two restricted free agents for New Jersey.

Nosek shared that he hopes to re-sign with the Devils during his media availability: “I haven’t (talked with the Devils) yet but we will have that talk for sure. I hope we can find some way (for me to re-sign). My family loves it here and we will have that talk for sure and I’m looking forward to it and I’m hoping we can work things out.”

Smith also would like to come back to the Devils next season: “I have not talked to management here … Hopefully there will be some talk and see where I stand. I love it here, I do want to be back. And more than that I want to be back in the NHL so we’ll see how that goes.”

-Catherine Bogart, NewJerseyDevils.com

Hughes Named King Clancy Memorial Trophy Representative

Devils center Jack Hughes has been nominated as the team’s representative for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, which is given annually to “the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community.”

Hughes has been an active member of the community since being selected by the Devils No. 1 overall in 2019. Among his many causes are contributions to youth hockey, access to hockey, hospital visits, growing the game and building the community.

Jack, along with his younger brother Luke, was named the first official ambassadors for Hockey in New Jersey (HNJ). At a gala event for the announcement, Hughes helped raise money that will go directly to the HNJ program and help grow the sport in Newark and the surrounding areas. With Hughes’ support, the event sold out with over 300 people in attendance.

“This is such a great thing, where it’s my love for the game, and kids in Newark, and our community,” Jack said two weeks ago on being named co-ambassador for the next five years, “where it gives me a chance, and Luke a chance, to grow the game a little bit and show these kids that we’re around, that they’re out there working on their game and enjoying the game. It’s a common passion between all of us, no matter what your background is, and just a really special thing.”

“With his five-year commitment, Jack will play a pivotal role in expanding the reach of HNJ’s programs to support and inspire socioeconomically disadvantaged youth,” said Keith Veltre, CEO of Hockey in New Jersey.

Read more here.

-Sam Kasan, NewJerseyDevils.com

Jack Hughes is the Devils' King Clancy Nominee

What's Next

Devils President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Tom Fitzgerald and interim head coach Travis Green will address the media on Thursday. Green is expected to speak at 11:00 a.m. while Fitzgerald is slated for 11:30 a.m.

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KING CLANCY: Jack Hughes