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A Look Back: A History of The Devils’ Top 10 Draft Picks

Photo Credit: Wild.NHL.com

The New Jersey Devils enter this year’s draft with a top 10 pick, an unusual spot for the franchise. They haven’t had a top-10 pick since 1996. The last top-10 pick to make a significant contribution was Scott Niedermayer, who came to the Devils third overall in the 1991 draft.

To kick off our draft coverage, The Devils’ Den will run down every top-10 pick the organization made. Some were wildly successful, others were pretty big busts. That’s the nature of the draft.

And here we go:

1982 Draft: Rocky Trottier – 1st round, 8th overall

The name Trottier should sound familiar – his brother, Bryan, won six Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. Rocky wouldn’t emulate his brother’s success. Trottier spent most of the 1983-84 season with Medicine Hat in the WHL, recording 84 points (30 goals, 54 assists). He appeared in five with the Devils that season, recording just two points.

The Devils gave Trottier his shot during the 1984-85 season. He played in 33 games, but couldn’t find that scoring touch. He recorded just six points (four goals, two assists) and a minus-3 rating. He did attempt the first penalty shot in history on December 17, 1984, scoring against Edmonton Oilers’ goalie Andy Moog.

That season would be his last in the NHL. Trottier bounced around the AHL and played internationally before retiring after the 1989-90 season.

Other notables from the 1982 draft: Ken Daneyko (1st round, 18th overall), Pat Verbeek (3rd round, 43rd overall)

1983 Draft: John MacLean – 1st round, 6th overall

The organization made up for the bust of Trottier with the success of MacLean. He recorded 98 points with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL during the 1982-83 campaign, showing his offensive potential. He lasted just 30 games with the Generals during the 1983-84 season before earning a call-up. His debut didn’t wow people – in 23 games, he scored one goal – but he would ultimately find success.

MacLean became one of the most accomplished scorers in team history. He recorded three-straight 40 goal seasons (1988-1991) and finished the franchise leader in goals (347). On April 3, 1988, MacLean scored an overtime goal against the Chicago Blackhawks, clinching the first postseason berth in franchise history. While he didn’t work out as the team’s coach, MacLean was one of the team’s best picks.

Other notables from the 1983 draft: Chris Terreri (5th round, 85th overall), Viacheslav Fetisov (8th round, 145th overall)

1984 Draft: Kirk Muller – 1st round, 2nd overall

The Devils drafted another great forward in 1984. Muller, drafted behind Mario Lemieux, became one of the best to wear the Devils’ sweater. “Captain Kirk” debuted during the 1984-85 season after recording 94 points in just 49 games for the Guelph Platers of the OHL in 1983-84. Muller made an immediate impact, leading the team with 80 games played. He also recorded 54 points, a solid number for a rookie.

He continued to improve year after year. He set a record for points by a center with 94 during the 1987-88 season, a mark that still stands today. He finished below 70 points twice in his Devils’ career. Unfortunately, the team never seriously contended for the Stanley Cup. They traded Captain Kirk to the Montreal Canadiens, where he won a Stanley Cup in 1993.

Other notables from the 1984 draft: Craig Billington (2nd round, 23rd overall), Kirk McLean (6th round, 107th overall), Mike Peluso (10th round, 190th overall)

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Guerin Hangs Up His Skates

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Former Devil Bill Guerin officially announced his retirement yesterday, bringing to an end a great career for the former Cup winner.

Bill Guerin celebrates his second Stanley Cup championship, with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. The right-winger won his first championship with the Devils in 1995. Photo Credit: Mark Humphrey/AP Photo

While he may be remembered for his more recent achievements, including winning a Stanley Cup championship with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Guerin was once an integral part of the New Jersey Devils. He recorded 11 points during the Devils run to their first championship in 1995, and helped spark the team to the trophy.

Guerin thanked the Devils and Lou Lamoriello for launching his career.

“The Devils gave me my start,” Guerin said to the media yesterday. “Lou Lamoriello had a lot of faith in me. He picked me in the draft and gave me my start in this league. To him, I’m forever grateful for that.”

Guerin’s former teammates remembered him as a positive influence in the locker room.

“He was a great character player,” said Devils coach John MacLean, who was teammates with Guerin on the Devils for five and a half seasons. “I enjoyed playing with him. He was a (teammate) when we won in 1995. He had a tremendous career. My hat is off to him. I know he’s a good family man, too. Hopefully, he enjoys the second part of whatever career he chooses.”

Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur told a story detailing Guerin’s leadership and ability to stick up for teammates.

“Valeri Zelepukin had a bad eye. He got (hit with) a puck in practice and was just coming back,” Brodeur recalled to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “I think it was my second year in the league. We were taking shots and (Zelepukin’s) first shot, he hits me in the shoulder. The second shot hits me in the head. The third shot goes over my head. So, I got mad and I grab the puck and I shoot it at him. Billy just took so much offense. He came in and slashed me and the whole thing. (laughing). That’s the type of guy he was. I didn’t realize that Zele couldn’t really see when he was shooting, so Billy went to his defense right away.”

Guerin retired seventh all-time among American-born hockey players with 429 goals. In his 300 games as a Devil, Guerin recorded 108 goals and 106 assists. In 54 playoff games with New Jersey, the right-winger recorded 11 goals and 11 assists.

I personally don’t remember watching much of Bill Guerin as a younger fan. I was just starting to pay attention to hockey, and while Guerin was great, he didn’t spend much time in New Jersey. Being traded in 1997-98, I never saw him much in a Devils uniform. But I saw the skill he brought to other teams, and he was an awesome competitor. He truly revolutionized the “power forward” position in hockey.

Game 26 Recap: Crosby, Pens Continue Devils Road Woes

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

The Devils entered tonight’s game desperate for a consistent effort and two points. The team went up against their division rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who hadn’t lost a regulation game in their past ten contests. While the Devils put forth a consistent effort, it was the same losing effort. The Penguins defeated the Devils, 2-1, sending New Jersey to their sixth straight road loss.

Sidney Crosby celebrates his game-winning goal with teammates during the second period of tonight's game. Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Sidney Crosby Sinks The Devils

There’s one name that makes Devils fans instantly feel nervous and angry at once – Sidney Crosby. Coming into tonight’s contest, the Penguins captain recorded 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) in 33 career games against the Devils. Crosby carried a 15-game point streak into the matchup as well. And in only two periods, Crosby collected two points – including the game-winning goal – to sink the Devils.

Crosby’s first point of the night – an assist – helped even the game, 1-1. The Penguins moved through the neutral zone, and didn’t look to have anything developing. A cross-ice pass was tipped by Adam Mair, but Crosby used his back skate to kick the puck to his stick blade. The Penguins’ captain then moved down into the Devils’ zone along the side boards. He passed across the ice to Pascal Dupuis, who fired a one-timer past Johan Hedberg for his eighth goal of the year.

Crosby’s second point of the night proved to be the game-winning goal. With the puck in the Devils’ zone, Alex Goligoski drove to the faceoff circle and shot the puck. Hedberg made the initial save, but the puck caromed off his pads and to the side of the net. Crosby, all alone, dropped to one knee and fired the puck into the open net for his 24th goal of the season.

Crosby was the reason the Devils lost tonight. As much as fans despise him, he’s virtually unstoppable right now.

Brian Rolston scored the Devils lone goal tonight on the powerplay. It was the team's third in their last eight opportunities on the road. Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Devils’ Powerplay Shows Life

One of the Devils’ major problems during the season has been the powerplay. It’s been especially dreadful on the road, where the team had one powerplay tally prior to Saturday’s game against Philadelphia. But New Jersey went 2-for-3 against the Flyers, and that solid play continued against the Penguins, accounting for their only goal of the night.

With Dupuis in the box for hooking during the first period, Mattias Tedenby controlled the puck and brought it around the net. The rookie right-winger moved from behind the net and found a streaking Jason Arnott entering the Penguins zone. Arnott one-timed the pass, but the shot went wide right. The puck hit Brian Rolston, but the left-winger stayed with the puck and fired home the shot for his second goal of the season.

For all of the man-advantage struggles, the Devils have shown improvement the past two games. Their 3-for-7, good for about 43 percent. Combine that with better numbers at home, and the Devils powerplay is showing improvement.

John MacLean’s Swan Song?

The Devils needed a win tonight, plain and simple. Another loss meant yet another losing streak and another loss against a quality opponent. As its been all year, the Devils failed to capitalize on opportunities and allowed other teams to dominate games. Instead of stretching leads, the Devils watched them slip away. They couldn’t get anything going, and it might have cost their coach his job.

As I posted here, I don’t believe MacLean should get the axe. Two weeks ago, this team looked like it was turning a corner. But since winning three of four two weeks ago, the Devils dropped three straight. They haven’t shown any signs of a turnaround under MacLean. The team has three days off before they face Ottawa. General manager Lou Lamoriello may feel this is the best time to change coaches.

For the rest of the recap, follow after the jump.

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A Look Back: The 1995 Eastern Conference Finals

April 12, 2010 1 comment

As the countdown to the 2010 playoff opener between the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils, I’ll take a look back at the past postseason meetings between the two teams. Today, I look back at the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals.

The Devils, fresh off their surprising defeat of the Pittsburgh Penguins, faced off against the Flyers. The Flyers were looking to get back to the Cup finals for the first time since 1987, and the Devils were searching for their first ever Stanley Cup berth. The Flyers held home-ice advantage throughout the series, setting the tone between these rivals.

In the first game of the series, the Devils jumped all over the Flyers, taking a 3-0 lead after the first two periods. Bill Guerin added his second goal of the game to stretch the lead to four. Craig McTavish broke Martin Brodeur’s shutout with 1:54 remaining in regulation, but that was all the noise the Flyers would make. New Jersey defeated Philadelphia, 4-1, to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

The team’s traded goals in game two, with Mikael Renberg putting the Flyers ahead, 2-1, at the 13:54 mark of the first period. It gave the Flyers their first lead of the series. Devils’ forward John MacLean scored with 12 seconds left in the first, tying the game at two. New Jersey scored three straight goals in the second period, and went on to defeat the Flyers, 5-2. The Devils eliminated the home-ice advantage, dominating the Flyers and heading back to the Meadowlands with a 2-0 series lead.

The Flyers came into game three a desperate team. The Devils jumped out to a 2-1 lead, but Rod Brind’Amour tied the game with 6:03 left in regulation. Flyers captain Eric Lindros played the role of hero, scoring at 4:19 of the extra session to win the game. It gave Philadelphia life, and the cut the Devils’ lead in half, 2-1.

Game three helped the Flyers confidence, as Ron Hextall turned in a terrific performance. The Flyers goalie stopped 32 shots, vastly outplayed Brodeur, who finished with 15 saves. The Flyers won the game, 4-2, to head back home tied in the series, 2-2. Heading back on the road, the Devils needed a strong performance to get themselves back into the series.

Game five began well for the Devils, with the team taking a lead, 2-1, after the first period. After a scoreless middle period, the Flyers’ Kevin Dineen’s second goal of the game tied the game 3:13 into the final period. Stephane Richer almost gave the Devils’ a lead, breaking in alone on Hextall with under four minutes to play. The Devils’ forward rang a shot off the crossbar, ending the threat. But the Devils weren’t done, and Claude Lemieux scored one of the memorable goals in Devils postseason history. With less than a minute remaining, Lemieux picked up the puck in his own zone, and carried it into the Flyers zone. After crossing the blue line, Lemieux fired a shot that beat Hextall glove side, silencing the Spectrum crowd and giving the Devils a lead, 3-2. The Devils would hang on and head home with a chance to clinch the series on home ice.

Here’s the goal that broke Philadelphia fans hearts:

The Devils returned home in the same situation as the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals – up in the series, 3-2, with a chance to clinch on home ice. While the Rangers went on to defeat the Devils in seven games, this series would end on a better note. Jim Montgomery scored 4:05 into the opening period to give the Flyers an early 1-0 lead. But the Devils, in large part to their trapping defense, would take control of the game. Richer tied the game with a powerplay goal at 10:25, and Brian Rolston scored with 1:45 left in the first period to give the Devils a 2-1 advantage. The second period would prove pivotal, as the Devils shut down the Flyers attack.

With the team holding on to a 2-1 lead, Bobby Holik would provide a big insurance goal. McTavish came into the Devils zone, putting a shot on net from the blue line. Shawn Chambers blocked the shot, and forwarded the puck to Holik. With four Flyers caught in the defensive zone, the Devils broke in with a 3-on-1. Holik held the puck, and Flyers’ defenseman Kevin Haller went to the ice to block the pass. Holik threaded a pass past the diving defenseman to Randy McKay, who deflected the puck past Hextall for the goal. The Devils extended the lead to 4-1 at 10:11 of the period. It was Lemieux once again, breaking in on Hextall all alone. He beat the Flyers goalie for his 11th goal of the postseason.

Renberg scored to cut the Devils lead, 4-2, but it wouldn’t be enough. The Devils defeated the Flyers, 4-2, to win the game and the series. Here was the Devils’ celebration:

They would move on to their first Stanley Cup and defeat the Detroit Red Wings, sweeping the series for their first ever Stanley Cup championship. Lemieux, who set career highs in playoff goals scored, won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins

March 29, 2010 1 comment

In the continuing “Eastern Conference Playoff Preview” series, I’ll take a look at the Pittsburgh Penguins, who lead the Atlantic Division with 95 points. The defending champions have had an up and downseason, including dropping all six games to the Devils. Can the defending champions repeat their performance and hoist Lord Stanley again?

Forwards:

When healthy, the Penguins have arguably the best two lines in the N.H.L. The top two centers, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, consistently rank near the top of the league in scoring. As of today, Sidney Crosby leads the scoring race, tallying 47 goals. But it’s not only the top two lines who can score. Jordan Staal continues to improve year in and year out, and has 21 goals on the season. Deadline day acquisition Alex Ponikarovsky can move the puck and set up teammates, leading to his 29 assists. And he plays on the fourth line. This depth is one of the strengths of the Penguins. Good scorers, like Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin, fly under the radar because of their depth. I believe that, without a doubt, the Penguins arguably the best depth among their forwards, ranking with Washington atop the conference.

Sidney Crosby leads the Penguins with 47 goals for the season. Pittsburgh, who ranks second, will look to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Photo credit: Keith Srakocic/AP Photo

Defense:

The blueline is where things get interesting. Sergei Gonchar, one of the Pittsburgh’s best defenseman, has only played in 57 games this season. Gonchar, who’s one of the leaders on the powerplay, has far underperformed the team’s expectations. After finishing sixth in goals against last season, they’re currently ranked in the 20th. Kris Letang has taken a backseat this year, and the rest of the defense is underwhelming. They also don’t have a big, physical presence on the blueline. The Penguins lack of depth could hurt them in the playoffs. They’re going to lean on their forwards to succeed, and this strategy isn’t the best.

Goalie:

Marc-Andre Fleury is one of the solid goaltenders in the N.H.L. In 62 games, Fleury is 35-19-6, with a 2.65 goals against average and a .906 save percentage. Fleury can always make the great save, and his presence in net brings a calming influence to the defensive zone. In the past few years, he’s began to deal with injuries. It seems that Fleury is good for at least one injury per season, which is an added worry in the playoffs. When healthy, Fleury can steal the Penguins a few games. But he needs to remain healthy to give the Penguins an added edge.

So, what can we expect from the Penguins come playoff time? The team is going to play hard, gritty hockey. They’re forwards are clearly the strength, but they do have questions along the blueline. They’ve also struggled against the top teams, losing all six games to the Devils and struggling against the Capitals. Not only that, but significant players have missed time with injury. But they are the defending champions, and the will still be champs until someone knocks them out of the playoffs. Even with their problems, Pittsburgh will be a tough opponent in any playoff series.

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