5 Devils the NHL Should Consider for Its Upcoming Amazon Series

While much of the drama at the NHL general manager meetings this week centered on potential rule changes and other tweaks to improve competitive balance, one of the more interesting reports is that the league has signed off on a documentary series to be produced and aired on Amazon next fall. The series is tentatively titled Fire on Ice and will be produced by the same company that made Full Swing and Drive to Survive. The NHL hopes that showcasing its young superstars will resonate with a younger fan base, like Formula 1 did after Drive to Survive, extending its popularity to North America to the point it now regularly holds races on the continent.

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The NHL plans to use the series to follow 10-12 superstars. The New Jersey Devils’ Jack Hughes has been mentioned prominently as one of the leading candidates for the show. Making a show only about the superstars would be a mistake. Sports is so often at its best when it tells us stories about the underdogs. Indeed, the Hughes brothers and players like them have compelling stories. Still, when shows like HBO’s Hard Knocks are successful, it is because of the story of the undrafted rookie battling to make the final roster spot or the grizzled veteran seeking to hang on for one more season and a shot at a ring. It would be foolish for the NHL to overlook these and some more colorful players. With that in mind, here is a look at five Devils players, not named Hughes, who would be good subjects for Fire on Ice.

Timo Meier

While Hughes may be the Devils’ most popular player, the team’s highest-paid forward is the cosmopolitan Timo Meier. Acquired at last season’s trade deadline from the San Jose Sharks, Meier has taken almost a full season to acclimate to New Jersey fully. He played through injuries for his first season with the Devils yet still has led the team in goals since his acquisition with 32 over his first 80 games. He is poised for a breakout season in 2024-25 and could battle with Hughes to be the first Devils player to score 50 goals.

Always affable and charismatic, Meier does not shy away from the camera. One needs look no further than how he handled the Stadium Series game and its press conference, where he detailed his affection for espresso. His Swiss charm mixed with proto-typical power-forward snarl makes for a unique character who would shine on the documentary stage.

Curtis Lazar

The Devils have featured Curtis Lazar twice this season on off-ice mic’d-up productions. The first was at their yearly Sweep the Deck charity event; the second occurred last week when he was wired for sound during the team’s group photo gathering. During the latter session, Lazar threw his hat in the ring for the documentary, joking that it was his audition for the show. Were it indeed an audition, he would have easily booked the show.

Beyond his wit and easy charm, Lazar presents a strong case for inclusion in a documentary. His most famous on-ice moment was with the Ottawa Senators in 2015, when he picked up and ate a hamburger tossed on the ice by a fan celebrating his teammate Andrew “the Hamburglar” Hammond’s success in goal. That viral moment became a meme and is a GIF that will endure long past his time in the NHL. He is always happy to speak with the media, and he shows the same personality in front of the camera he does after the recorder is switched off. He is also the recipient of maybe the best compliment any Devils player could receive, as he was the player identified by assistant coach Sergei Brylin whose play most resembled him.

Curtis Lazar New Jersey Devils
Curtis Lazar, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

A ten-year NHL veteran who was an acclaimed player in juniors, leading him to be drafted 16th overall by the Senators. He has had to transform his game from a high-scoring player in juniors into an indispensable bottom-six player. At 29, Lazar has two young children and two French bulldogs, which all make for great content on his Instagram feed and better content for the show. He will also be entering a year where he is set to become an unrestricted free agent. He has been candid about how difficult trade deadlines are for a player like him, especially when his contract expires. While some of the superstars may change teams during the season, it is more likely a player like Lazar would give a better window into players’ experience at the deadline.

Dougie Hamilton

In many ways, the sales job general manager Tom Fitzgerald did on Dougie Hamilton to get him to sign with the Devils in the summer of 2021 was the signal to the rest of the NHL that the Devils were accelerating their rebuild and moving toward contention. Hamilton, the team’s highest player, has spent two of his first three years out of commission with major injuries, including a broken jaw with nerve damage and a torn pectoral muscle. In the season between those woes, he had one of the best offensive campaigns for a defenseman in Devils history.

When healthy, Hamilton is ever-present on the Devil’s social media and is a fan favorite. His contact with the print media is limited but seems inapposite to how he interacts behind the scenes. Several Devils players have mentioned how important Hamilton was to their adjustment to the NHL. Hamilton was known for usually being one of the last Devils players out of the facility, yet still would regularly stop to greet and sign autographs for all the fans waiting outside. He has also led the Devils’ community initiatives, creating a partnership with local hospitals and other charitable endeavors. He is also known for having eclectic tastes, visiting museums and other cultural sighgs while traveling, and not fitting all of the usual hockey player stereotypes, which would be an interesting contrast for the show.

Nico Hischier

Anyone who follows the Devils knows Nico Hischier is a superstar. One of the premier two-way centers in hockey, he is the heir-apparent to the now-retired Patrice Bergeron in several ways. A former first-overall draft pick in 2017, Hischier’s evolution as captain and his journey leading a young team through the ups and downs it has experienced is compelling. He also never shies from accountability and classically leads by example.

Hischier’s teammates gush over him and all he does behind the scenes to make new players feel welcome and to work on the team’s chemistry. When asked how the team chose their outfits for the Stadium Series game, forward Nathan Bastian was effusive in his credit to Hischier, “Nico took care of us. We wanted something Jersey-themed. We showed up, and he had it in our stall.” What is a better storyline than a young captain blazing a trail for the future of Swiss hockey and finding his way to unite a room of players in pursuit of the ultimate prize? Hischier is fluent in multiple languages and has a gravitas beyond his years. He is the Devils player who would likely most benefit from the opportunity to get a national platform introducing him to fans worldwide.

Brendan Smith

The oldest skater on the Devils’ roster, Brendan Smith, is one of the most thoughtful and candid players in the locker room. When asked a question, Smith often pauses to consider his answer and then delivers a dissertation on the topic at hand. A first-round pick in 2007 by the Detroit Red Wings, Smith has played 13 seasons in the NHL with four different franchises. He seems destined for a career in coaching or broadcasting upon his retirement and would be a great subject for the documentary for a few reasons.

Brendan Smith New Jersey Devils
Brendan Smith, New Jersey Devils (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Smith is nearing the end of his career and still chasing the elusive Stanley Cup. Last season, his brother Reilly Smith became the first brother in the family to hoist the Cup, and while Brendan was happy for his brother, he wanted to even the score. Following a player who has played for some of the marquee franchises in the league and been through many playoff wars trying to finish off a career on top is a compelling narrative. Add in Smith’s keen self-awareness, sense of humor, and storytelling ability, and he would make for someone who viewers would tune in, see, and root for on what could be his final lap.

The league’s decision to coordinate with Box to Box Films and produce an NHL docuseries is a major step forward. While the natural impulse would be to select as many superstars as possible within the time constraints, that would be a mistake. The producers and the NHL should seek to tell compelling stories of players at all stages of their careers and different roles within their teams, lean into the human element of trying to make it to the NHL, find a niche, and then try to hold on to your spot. Should they heed that advice, the Devils are a veritable gold mine of exciting stories and players whose personalities would shine on a national stage.