The injury news regarding Devils defenseman Dougie Hamilton is worse than initially feared. The team announced Friday that they’ve placed their star defender on injured reserve after a successful surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle, retroactive to November 28, and there is no timetable for his return. Additionally, center Tomáš Nosek has re-aggravated a right foot injury that’s sidelined him for all but six games this season and has undergone successful surgery to repair the issue. He, too, is out indefinitely.
New Jersey also confirmed the call-up of top defense prospect Šimon Nemec from AHL Utica, as reported earlier today. He will make his NHL debut tonight against the Sharks, playing a third-pairing role alongside veteran Colin Miller.
This is a tough blow for the Devils and Hamilton, who played all 82 games last season and finished sixth in Norris Trophy voting after recording 74 points and a +23 rating. This is his first stint on IR since a broken jaw kept him out for 17 games in the middle of the 2021-22 season.
The 30-year-old right-shot defender was off to a strong start, leading Devils defensemen with five goals and 16 points in 20 contests. He missed Thursday’s contest against the Flyers after sustaining the pectoral tear in Tuesday’s game against the Islanders. Hamilton, who was also boasting a career-high Corsi share of 58.3% at even strength, is in the third season of a seven-year, $63MM deal carrying a $9MM cap hit and, for now, a full no-movement clause.
No team is well-positioned to lose their number-one defenseman, and it makes for tough waters to navigate as the Devils look to rebound from a sluggish start to the campaign. Hamilton’s absence does, however, provide increased opportunities for rookie Luke Hughes. The 20-year-old is now tasked with top pairing duties alongside Jonas Siegenthaler, which will certainly help his case for being a Calder Trophy nominee at season’s end. He’s already off to an impressive start offensively, notching three goals and 14 points through 21 games – not very far behind Hamilton’s production.
Hughes’ possession numbers are similarly strong, albeit in slightly easier minutes. He’ll now be given a prime chance to flash what his ceiling can be – first-pair duties and, expectedly, first power-play unit duties will be quite the test for the youngster, whom the Devils selected fourth overall in the 2021 draft.
Meanwhile, Nosek exited the Devils’ lineup earlier in the month and had already been placed on IR. He last played November 18 against the Rangers and skated just 2:55 in that game, his fourth since returning from the initial injury sustained in mid-October. He, like Hamilton, will presumably be out long-term, although it doesn’t change the picture much for the Devils, given how little he’s played.