When the New Jersey Devils began their rise to prominence, their first round draft choices were mostly can’t-miss. General manager Lou Lamoriello selected the likes of Bill Guerin, Martin Brodeur, Scott Niedermayer, Brian Rolston, Jason Smith, Denis Pederson, Petr Sykora and Scott Gomez.
Yet, not all of their picks were beauties. Until recent vintage, their AHL farm clubs were a prime example of poor drafting, which eventually came to roost at the NHL level. With John Quenneville, Pavel Zacha, Michael McLeod and the No 1. overall selection in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, general manager Ray Shero hopes to alter the Devils’ drafting habits.
Below, we take a look at some decisions the Devils will not want to repeat.
Draft Pick Forfeit Debacle
After the 2010 Ilya Kovalchuk mega-contract, the NHL slapped the organization on the wrist with fines and losses of draft picks. The Devils could have chosen to yield their 2012 first rounder at No. 29, seeing as how they wouldn’t have a worse pick unless they won the Stanley Cup. Instead, they chose to select Stefan Matteau, who scored three goals before being jettisoned to the Montreal Canadiens.
Though the league would return the pick after Kovalchuk “retired” to the KHL, the team was forced to pick at No. 30. The Devils took John Quenneville with the pick and while he looks like a solid prospect, New Jersey finished with the 10th-fewest points in 2013-14 and may have even moved up in the lottery. Players such as Dylan Larkin and Robby Fabbri were still on the board at No. 10.
Drafting the Same Player
I don’t know who was conducting the Devils’ scouting in Sweden, but in 2005, 2008 and 2009, they selected Nicklas Bergfors, Mattias Tedenby, and Jacob Josefson respectively. In fairness, Bergfors was part of the package which helped obtain Kovalchuk from the Atlanta Thrashers. Yet, T.J. Oshie and Andrew Cogliano were selected with the next two picks after Bergfors.
The team drafted Tedenby ahead of Tyler Ennis and John Carlson. Plus, they took Josefson six slots ahead of a guy Devils fans may be familiar with: Kyle Palmieri.
With Brodeur firmly entrenched as the No. 1 franchise goaltender, the organization used first-round picks on goalies Jean-Francois Damphousse and Ari Ahonen in 1997 and 1999 respectively. Ahonen never played a game in the NHL. Damphousse appeared in only six games. Conversely, Scott Clemmensen was drafted in the eighth round and played 191 games. The Dallas Stars selected Brenden Morrow one pick after Damphousse.
During the 1980s the Devils had their fair share of slip-ups and bad luck. They missed out on Mario Lemieux in 1984 and selections such as Rocky Trottier, Corey Foster, and Jason Miller didn’t quite pan out. Yet taking Neil Brady at No. 3 overall in 1986 was probably the most egregious.
The Medicine Hat Tigers center totaled nine goals in 89 career NHL contests. Vincent Damphousse was selected at No. 6 by the Toronto Maple Leafs and notched 432 career goals. Brian Leetch was taken at No. 9 by the New York Rangers and tallied 1,028 career points.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.