After forwards Frank Nazar III and Rutger McGroarty were selected earlier in Thursday’s first round of the NHL Draft, the Michigan hockey team saw a third incoming freshman go in the NHL Draft’s later rounds.
Seamus Casey, a 5-foot-10 defenseman who will play with the Wolverines this fall, was selected 46th overall by the New Jersey Devils.
“I have a ton of family in New Jersey, so I know they’re all pumped up there,” Casey said after the selection. “They’re huge Devils fans and so am I, so this is the best day of my life.”
Casey’s offensive game and puck handling earned the praise of many NHL scouts. While some analysts questioned the extent of his skills in his own end and his shorter height in comparison to most NHL-level defenseman, Casey’s selection shows that the Devils believe he can be a piece of their team in the future.
With Michigan rising sophomore defensemen Luke Hughes and Ethan Edwards already in its defense pipeline, New Jersey chose Casey based on his potential. While he is still a few years away from viability at the pro level, Casey’s puck handling and offensive vision seemed to sway the Devils to pick him as a long-term project prospect.
While playing for the US National Team Development Program last season, Casey scored 33 points in 48 games for the Americans. He was also a whopping plus-32 on the season, most of which he played alongside Ohio State commit Tyler Duke.
Casey’s role with the Wolverines will likely utilize the same offensive skills that factored into his second-round selection in the draft. While he struggled to create offense in an exhibition game against Michigan back in February, he consistently quarterbacked offensive chances for the NTDP the rest of the season.
In that matchup against the Wolverines, he also showed his tenacity on defense, skating hard into the corners shift after shift and winning battles for the puck. While woes about the defensive side of his game exist, he showed few reasons for concern in that exhibition.
All of those skills will play an important role for Michigan next season as it looks to replace Owen Power and Nick Blankenburg, who combined for 17 goals and 61 points, on its back end. Finding that offensive spark from other contributors will be key if the Wolverines want to defend their Big Ten Championship, and Casey can play a major role in doing that.
And as he makes that contribution, the Devils will be watching to see what their second round pick could bring to them down the line.