A 20 year old defensemen out of Mahopac, New York, Steve Santini looks to be a large part of the future of the Devils blue line. Before being drafted by the Devils, Santini was skating with the United States National Development Team. He was one of the team’s top defenseman and he was chosen to go to the U-18 Underage World Championships in Russia. Santini came out of the tournament as the top defenseman. That would be amazing praise on its own, but he won this award while not scoring a single point. That speaks volumes of the type of player Santini is. Before being drafted the most common word used to describe Santini was “competitor”. His compete factor was unmatched and it really showed whenever he took the ice. When Santini was available in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft the Devils quickly picked on of the best defensive defensemen in the draft.
Chestnut Hill would be where Santini headed next to play on the NCAA powerhouse Boston College Eagles. Santini made an immediate impact as a freshman, starting 35 games and being +26. BC would go to the National Championship and fall to the Union Dutchmen. This year would also be Santini’s only year of competition at the World Junior Championships. USA would finish 6th and Santini would finish the tournament with 1 goal and 4 penalty minutes.
Santini’s next year would end up being a wash out. In an early season game against UMASS Amherst, Santini would injure his wrist and miss more than half the season for BC. He would try to come back early and play in the World Junior Championships but he could not make the cut and would miss his last chance to compete in that tournament. This season would also have NHL implications as Santini would end up choosing to go back to BC rather than switch to pro hockey in order to make up for his lost season.
Presently, Santini is one of BC’s top blue liners. Promoted to assistant captain, Santini is a veteran and a leader on the Eagles. Having one of his best statistical seasons, Santini has played 30 games and has 15 points. He is also a +20 and is helping Boston College continue a great season where they have been consistently in the top-5 rankings. Hopefully Santini can lead his Eagles to a National Championship this year and bring some winning experience to New Jersey.
Santini is very close to being NHL ready. If he had not gotten injured, this year could have been his rookie season. Santini is an amazing defender. He closes the gap at an elite level, running rushing forwards off into the boards with ease. He skates at a high level and rarely gets beaten by the opposition. He is fairly fast and smooth on the ice. His is 6’2″, 207 lbs, and is able to use his body and strength to knock players off the puck. His hitting ability separates him from other defenders. A fundamentally sound and devastating hitter, Santini shows shades of Scott Stevens from time to time.
One overlooked piece of his game is his puck handling ability. Santini won’t dangle and go end-to-end and score. He is extremely smart with the puck. Not creative but always looking to make the simple yet effective play. He also knows when to take the puck back to his own end and settle the play down. That is one of his better offensive attributes. His ability to remain calm with the puck. Santini is comparable to Niklas Kronwall. Neither are going to win the Norris by leading the league in points. Yet both are elite defenders who use their size and devastating hitting ability to get the puck from the opposition.
Santini will be pro ready by next season. He should be given a shot on New Jersey as he can compete at an elite level. Devils fans should be ready to watch the future best hitter in the NHL take the ice at the Rock.