Throughout their time in New Jersey, the Devils have won three Stanley Cup championships. Five men were on the roster for all three, and four of them have their numbers hanging in the rafters of Prudential Center. The fifth man, Sergei Brylin, has spent almost his entire pro hockey career with the organization. On Aug. 18, the Devils announced that the Russian would return to the team in a different role.
They named the franchise legend an assistant coach for the 2022-23 season. Last season, Brylin was an assistant for the Utica Comets, who are coming off one of their strongest seasons in franchise history.
A Lifelong Devil
Brylin was a second-round pick (42nd overall) of the Devils in the 1992 NHL Draft. At the time, Russians were not as common in the NHL as they are today. It was not until Alexander Mogilny in 1989 in which North American hockey fans got their taste of what the Soviets could bring to the table. Although drafted in 1992, Brylin did not get his first chance at NHL action until Feb. 17, 1995, in a 2-2 tie against the New York Islanders. Ten days later, he scored his first NHL goal in a 6-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. (Fun fact: this was the same game that also saw Brian Rolston score his first NHL goal.)
Although 1995 saw Brylin’s first action in the NHL, it could be argued that it was not the highlight of his season. That June, the Devils won their first Stanley Cup championship with a sweep over the Detroit Red Wings. While it was special for everyone on the Devils, there was a possibility that it meant more for Brylin. The Red Wings were led by the Russian Five, the first group of Russians to see major success in the NHL.
The next few years saw Brylin jump between the Devils and their farm club, the Albany River Rats. In 87 games with the team after his Stanley Cup in 1995, he would put up 83 points. While Brylin became more of a consistent presence on the Devils, the team would falter early on in the playoffs in 1997, 1998, and 1999. 2000, however, was different.
Even though the Russian only put up 20 points in 64 games, the Devils went on to win their second Stanley Cup Championship. In the playoffs, Brylin was a huge factor. He put up eight points in 20 games en route to his second time lifting Lord Stanley.
Related: Former Devil Sergei Brylin: Where Is He Now?
The following season saw great success for Brylin and the Devils. Both parties saw their highest point totals. New Jersey finished with 111 points, still a franchise record, while Brylin totaled 52 points. Unfortunately, the Devils would fall in seven games to the Colorado Avalanche. He would play six more seasons with the Devils, winning his third Stanley Cup Championship in 2003. Five years later, Brylin would play his last game with the team. In 765 games with the Black and Red, he had 308 points, as well as 34 points in 109 playoff games.
Helping the Next Group of Devils
After spending four years in the KHL, primarily with Avangard Omsk, Brylin returned to the organization that drafted him twenty years prior. He was named an assistant coach for the Albany Devils, the same team he scored almost a point-per-game with during the 1990s. For the next nine seasons, Brylin would coach in various roles for the farm system in Albany, Binghamton, and Utica, with his teams going to the playoffs in four seasons. Last season, the Comets had the best record in the Eastern Conference, in part thanks to Brylin’s coaching.
With the NHL club, Brylin is expected to work on the team’s penalty kill unit while also being their eye in the sky in the press box during games. Last season, under Alain Nasreddine, the Devils’ PK had a success rate of 80.2 percent, good enough for 14th in the NHL. In Utica, the penalty kill was strong, as the North Division champions had an impressive 81.9 percent success rate. Special teams were seen as a weakness for the team last season, and many believe that an improved unit could result in more wins for the Devils.
Brylin returns to a franchise that has given him so much throughout the years. The 2022-23 Devils have a revitalized coaching staff under Lindy Ruff. With the prior additions of Andrew Brunette and Ryan McGill, the team added some fresh faces to an organization that needed a new voice. Adding Brylin not only adds familiarity but a Devils hero who knows the team inside and out.
On and off the ice, Brylin has exemplified what it means to be a New Jersey Devil. He has overcome great odds in the past, and he was a warrior in his playing days, as evidenced by his 328-game iron man streak. As an assistant coach, he can now teach that mentality to today’s Devils and show them the path to the Stanley Cup, something that Brylin himself has mastered.