By Jason Shaya

November 10, 2022

The maturity of a player is measured abstractly. There is no empirical scale to determine the progress of a player in his development. It’s something you know by watching and seeing how someone handles the pressure of playing in one of the best leagues in the world. In the case of Simon Nemec, it was immediately apparent that the second pick in last summer’s NHL Draft had the quality of poise and maturity that usually comes with age and experience.

The pressure of being selected as the second pick in the NHL Draft can be overwhelming. Suddenly, expectations are placed on a player. Not only will you be playing games against older, stronger men, but you have to fight a cloud of expectations above your head. Not all players handle this kind of pressure the same way. You can browse the list of previous draft picks and find players who never reached the level the NHL team was hoping for when they were picked.

As Nemec took to the ice in his first AHL game on October 15e at Hershey, one thing was clear, he was poised, calm and letting the game come to him. He wasn’t chasing him. He was playing like someone who had been there a long time. This is a difficult quality to instill. But it is a necessary element for players who hope to build a long and stable career. For Nemec, the foundations of its development are already being built on solid ground.

His defensive partner this season is last year’s Canadian Olympian, Tyler Wotherspoon. With the more offensive-minded Nemec, paired with a veteran like Wotherspoon who stays at home auspiciously in combination with Nemec who likes to join in the rush, the two are a stable and exciting combination. For Wotherspoon, partnership is fun.

Utica Comets head coach Kevin Dineen likes what he saw early on for Nemec and he knows the road ahead will be an exciting one for the New Jersey Devils draft pick.

“Game after game, you assess where he is and he is very comfortable there. Especially in stressful situations. I think one of his strengths is taking the pressure and getting the assist,” said head coach Kevin Dineen. “I think he has a maturity beyond his years for a young child. He has done a good job of not only enrolling in the professional game, but also settling in North America. He did a good job.

Nemec continues to play and have fun while learning to live in another country away from his friends and family. But he is guided by a deep calm and poise that helps him push forward into uncharted territory. The path ahead is uncertain for any player. No one knows what tomorrow will bring. For Nemec, the path is a little more obvious; and it leads to Newark, New Jersey.

Sherry J. Basler