The New Jersey Devils have been fortunate to land the first overall pick in each of the last two NHL Entry Drafts. They used their first one on Nico Hischier in 2017, then followed it up by selecting Jack Hughes in 2019. They’re both the current cornerstones of the franchise and could join this list further down the road. But the Devils have had plenty of great draft picks over the years that made them an Eastern Conference powerhouse from the mid-1990s to the early-2000s. Let’s look back on some of those picks who’ve earned their place in Devils’ history.
10. Petr Sykora (Right-Wing)
Sykora’s NHL career spanned over 15 seasons, with eight of them coming with the Devils. He accomplished quite a bit, as he appeared in the Stanley Cup six times, three of which were with the Devils. He hoisted the Cup twice in his career and was a part of the “A-Line” with Patrik Elias and Jason Arnott that led the Devils to their 2000 Stanley Cup.
Sykora’s production slipped in 2001-02, which led to a trade to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim before the start of the 2002-03 season. But it wouldn’t be the last time he put on a Devils’ uniform, as they offered him a professional tryout (PTO) in 2011 after he spent a year playing in Europe. He’d end up signing a one-year deal worth the league minimum of $650,000. And it proved to be a valuable signing, as he finished the season with 21 goals and 44 points on a team that made a run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. It’d also be Sykora’s last season in the NHL, capping his career totals at 721 points in 1017 games played.
9. Bill Guerin (Right-Wing)
Guerin was the fifth overall selection in 1989 and would make his NHL debut during the 1991-92 season. He would go on to play six full seasons with the club and was part of their 1995 Stanley Cup team. Halfway through the 1997-98 season, Guerin was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for Arnott and Bryan Muir (from ‘Edmonton Oilers history: Team acquires Bill Guerin, Valeri Zelepukin in trade with New Jersey Devils for Jason Arnott and Bryan Muir, Jan. 6, 1998,’ The Edmonton Journal – 1/4/2017). That trade would pay off in 2000 when Arnott scored the Cup-clinching goal against the Dallas Stars in double overtime.
Guerin’s greatest accomplishments would come in his post-Devils career. He was named an NHL All-Star four times (2001, 2003, 2004, 2007), and won the Stanley Cup a second time with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. He has the 15th-most points all-time by an American-born player and became a U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductee in 2013. Guerin now holds a front-office role with the Minnesota Wild, as he’s their current general manager.
8. Kirk Muller (Left-Wing)
Muller may not have the championship rings that other Devils greats possess, but he’s still one of the franchise’s all-time great players. He was the second overall pick in 1984 and would go on to play seven seasons with the club. In those seven seasons, he finished with less than 70 points just twice and eventually earned the nickname “Captain Kirk.”
GM Lou Lamoriello would end up trading Muller and goalie Roland Melanson to the Montreal Canadiens for Stéphane Richer and Tom Chorske in 1991. That trade paid dividends for both clubs, as Muller won the Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1993, while Richer was a part of the Devils’ 1995 Stanley Cup team. Muller wouldn’t play for the Devils again and retired in 2003 with 959 career points. He’s the franchise’s fourth all-time leading scorer, just behind Travis Zajac.
7. Scott Gomez (Center)
Devils fans may still hold a grudge with Gomez for signing with the New York Rangers, but his greatest accomplishments came with the Devils. He was the 27th overall selection in the 1998 Entry Draft, and it didn’t take long for him to make an impact. He made his NHL debut in 1999, making him the first Alaskan-born player in league history.
Gomez had one of the best rookie seasons in franchise history, finishing with 70 points in 82 games. That was good enough to earn him the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie, becoming only the second Devil to do so to some guy named Martin Brodeur. And if that wasn’t enough, he also became a Stanley Cup champion as a rookie. By 2002-03, Gomez had appeared in three Stanley Cups in four seasons, winning it twice. He’d sign with the Rangers in 2007 but wouldn’t appear in the Stanley Cup Final again. He’s still the organization’s fifth all-time leading scorer and was the last Devil to win the Calder Trophy.
6. Ken Daneyko (Defenseman)
“Mr. Devil,” as they call Daneyko in New Jersey. He was the 18th overall pick in the 1982 Entry Draft, and the Devils’ second draft pick after they relocated from Colorado. He would play his entire 20-year career with the Devils, amassing 178 points in 1,283 games played. Unlike Scott Stevens or Scott Niedermayer, Daneyko made his mark as a stay-at-home defenseman, and it quickly turned him into a fan favorite.
Daneyko was on all three of the Devils’ Stanley Cup championship teams. He retired after their third victory in 2003 and would have his number retired by the organization in 2006. At the time, he was only the second Devil to have his number hung from the rafters after Stevens. Since then, Daneyko has maintained an active role with the team, as he’s provided color commentary for Devils’ broadcasts on MSG Networks since 2014. Before then, he was an analyst during intermissions and post-game coverage, so he’s stayed true to the nickname “Mr. Devil.”
5. John Maclean (Right-Wing)
Maclean’s NHL career spanned 19 seasons, with 15 of them coming with the Devils. He was the sixth overall selection in 1983 and made his Devils’ debut that following October. In 1988, he scored the game-winning goal against the Chicago Blackhawks that gave the Devils their first postseason berth since relocating from Colorado. He followed up that historic moment with the three best seasons of his career, finishing with 40-plus goals in each. He was a part of their ’95 Stanley Cup team and served as one of their alternate captains.
The Devils would trade Maclean to the San Jose Sharks in Dec. 1997. He’d sign with the Rangers the following summer and had two productive seasons with them before hanging up the skates in 2002. He finished his career with 842 points in 1,194 games, with 701 of those points coming with the Devils. Maclean is still the franchise’s second all-time leading scorer behind Elias.
4. Brendan Shanahan (Left-Wing)
Shanahan’s time with the Devils was short, but he was part of a transaction that altered the look of the franchise. Lamoriello made Shanahan the second overall pick in 1987, and he’d go on to play four seasons with the Devils. In the summer of 1991, he became a restricted free agent and signed with the St. Louis Blues. Since he was an RFA, that meant the Devils were due compensation, and that came in the form of Scott Stevens after an arbitrator ruled he must be awarded to the Devils.
Shanahan would go on to have a Hall of Fame career after leaving the Devils. He was an eight-time NHL All-Star and won three Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings. After sitting out the first half of 2008-09, he came to terms with the Devils on a one-year deal in what would be his final NHL season. He finished his career with 656 goals and 1,354 points in 1,524 games played and became a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee in 2013. He now has a front-office role as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ president, a position he’s been in since 2014.
3. Patrik Elias (Forward)
When you think of the Devils’ Stanley Cup teams, the first names that probably come to mind are Stevens, Niedermayer, and Brodeur. But don’t forget about Elias, who’s the Devils’ all-time leading scorer. He was a second-round draft choice (51st overall) in 1994, and played his entire 20-year career with the club.
Elias became a mainstay in the Devils’ lineup in 1997. He had a breakout season in 1999-00, with 72 points in 72 games played, and was a pivotal part of their run to the Stanley Cup that season. The following campaign was the best of his career, as he totaled 96 points in 82 games played, which is still the single-season record by a Devils’ player. He’d add another Stanley Cup to his name in ’03, the last time he’d hoist the trophy.
Even though Elias never earned another ring, he’d continue to carve his name among Devils’ greats. He became their all-time leading scorer in 2009 on the same night Brodeur broke Patrick Roy’s all-time wins record. He’d appear in one more Stanley Cup Final in 2012 and was one of the Devils’ leading scorers that season, with 78 points in 81 games played. He retired in 2016 with 1,025 points in 1,240 games played, the second-most points by a Czech-born player after Jaromir Jagr. The Devils retired his number on Feb. 24, 2018, making him the first forward to have his number retired by the Devils.
2. Scott Niedermayer (Defenseman)
Niedermayer, along with Stevens and Daneyko, was a part of a Devils’ core of defensemen that anchored their three Stanley Cup championships. He was the team’s third overall selection in 1991 and became a full-time Devil in 1992-93. He played a significant role in the Devils’ first Stanley Cup, scoring a vital goal against the Red Wings in Game 2 of the final (from ‘1995 STANLEY CUP FINALS; Dowd’s Winner Makes Lemaire Look Psychic,’ The New York Times – 6/21/1995).
His first Stanley Cup was just the beginning of what would become a Hall of Fame career. He’d appear in three more Cups with the Devils, winning two of those. After the 2003-04 season, one where he won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman, Niedermayer would sign with the Mighty Ducks as an unrestricted free agent. He was a part of their Stanley Cup victory in 2007 and was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the best player during the postseason.
Niedermayer would play three more seasons before retiring after the 2009-10 season when he was still at the height of his game. He had 48 points in 80 games played during his final season and was coming off a gold medal with Team Canada at the Winter Olympics. He finished his career with 740 points in 1,263 games played and became a Hockey Hall of Famer in 2013. He was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 2012, and his number has been retired by both the Devils and the Ducks.
1. Martin Brodeur (Goalie)
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to see Brodeur first in this ranking. The Devils made him the 20th overall selection in 1990 after trading down with the Calgary Flames, who selected goalie Trevor Kidd 11th overall. Of all the Devils’ greats during their dynasty, Brodeur may have the most accolades. He has three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada, a Calder Trophy, four Vezina Trophies as the NHL’s top goalie, and was a 10-time NHL All-Star.
Brodeur became known as one of best the puck-handling goalies in the league, even forcing the NHL to change its rules. Before the 2005-06 season, the NHL instituted the trapezoid, which became the only area a goalie could play the puck behind the goal line. This would be known as “The Brodeur Rule” because it seemed he was being singled out for his elite puck-playing abilities (from ‘Brodeur Feels Defanged by N.H.L.’s New Rule,‘ The New York Times – 9/16/2005).
But the Brodeur Rule didn’t affect his game much, as he had three straight 40-win seasons following its implementation, and two more Vezina Trophies in 2007 and 2008. Brodeur’s play began to decline in 2010-11, but he had one last gasp left with a run to the Stanley Cup in 2012. Even though the Devils would lose to the Los Angeles Kings, Brodeur finished that postseason with a .917 save percentage. He’d have a brief stint with the Blues in 2014-15, but it didn’t last long, as he retired on Jan. 27, 2015. He left the NHL as its all-time wins leader, all-time shutout leader, and is the only goalie to win 40 games in eight different seasons. He became a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee in Nov. 2018.