This article was originally published in October, 2014.
His name is Damon Severson. He may not be Tom Seaver’s son but the New Jersey Devils’ rookie blue liner has been nothing short of terrific thus far. Wearing number 28, Severson is evoking memories of another defenceman to don those digits. With apologies to Kevin Dean, I’m of course referring to Brian Rafalski.
Through just eight games in the early going of the 2014-15 season, Severson has posted seven points, including four goals. That’s only one less than the aforementioned Rafalski had in his rookie campaign of 1999-00. This is already conjuring up talk of Severson’s candidacy for a Calder Memorial Trophy. It also got me to thinking, what are the best rookie seasons in Devils history?
Best Devils Rookie Seasons: Martin Brodeur, 1993-94
The most obvious choice for an impressive rookie season. Martin Brodeur became the first Devils rookie to capture the Calder Trophy, besting future teammate Jason Arnott in the process. Across 47 contests, Brodeur recorded a ledger of 27-11-8, a goals against average of 2.40 and a save percentage of .915. Brodeur also registered three shutouts. His legend would only grow in the Stanley Cup playoffs, posting a goals against average of 1.95, while backstopping the Devils to within five wins of their first title.
Best Devils Rookie Season: Scott Gomez, 1999-00
I do own an old Albany River Rats program which features Scott Gomez. However, he would never spend a day in “the A.” Gomez became the first Devils forward to earn the Calder Trophy and helped New Jersey win its second Stanley Cup. Suiting up for all 82 regular season contests, Gomez beat out Brad Stuart for the honor. That season, Gomez was quite the play-maker, collecting 19 goals and 70 points in all, a franchise best for most points by a rookie. Teaming with Alexander Mogilny in the playoffs, Gomez recorded another ten points and netted a pair of game winners against the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs for New Jersey.
Best Devils Rookie Season: Adam Henrique, 2011-12
It was a special year filled with clutch heroics for the rookie Henrique. Playing 74 games, Henrique potted 16 goals and 51 points in all. Finishing third, behind Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, in Calder Trophy voting, Henrique led the NHL with four shorthanded goals and added three game-winning tallies. The game winners would keep coming in the playoffs, as Henrique would net three in the NHL second season as well. Along with five goals and 13 points in the postseason, Henrique also netted a series-capping goal in overtime of Game 7 against the Panthers in the opening round and an overtime goal in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers, sending the Devils to the Stanley Cup Final.
Best Devils Rookie Season: Brian Rafalski, 1999-00
A bit of a late bloomer and a non-drafted free agent, Rafalski was quite the find for Lou Lamoriello and New Jersey. Perhaps discounted because of his size, Rafalski came up big time for the Devils blue line. Across 75 games, Rafalski netted five markers and 32 points, including seven on the power play. The puck rushing defenceman finished eleventh in Calder voting. Helping the Devils to their second Stanley Cup, Rafalski recorded eight points, two goals, including one game-winner against the Panthers.
Best Devils Rookie Season: John Madden, 1999-00
Like Rafalski, another non-drafted gem out of a Big Ten school. A year after notching an Albany AHL franchise record 98 points, Mad Dog showcased his two-way play for New Jersey. Finishing 17th for the Calder and 13th for the Selke Trophy, Madden paced the NHL with a franchise-record six shorthanded tallies. In 74 games, Madden netted 16 goals, along with three game winners. Assisting the Devils in the run to their second Stanley Cup, Madden registered three goals, seven points and was a shutdown forward. During those playoffs, Madden also scored a pair of game-winners, one against the Maple Leafs and the other in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Dallas Stars.
Best Devils Rookie Season: Patrik Elias, 1997-98
Having gotten a few cups of coffee with the Devils, Elias emerged as a fixture in the lineup for good. Finishing third for the Calder Trophy, behind Sergei Samsonov and Mattias Ohlund, Elias was a boon to the Devils offense. In 74 contests, Elias scored 18 goals, six of which were game-winners.
Best Devils Rookie Season: Kirk Muller, 1984-85
No, he wasn’t Mario Lemieux but Muller did have a very representative rookie season. Finishing sixth in Calder Trophy voting, Muller played in all 80 regular season games, netting 17 goals and 54 points and notched nine goals on the power play.
Best Devils Rookie Season: Petr Sykora (1995-96)
Sykora was a big bright spot for the Devils that season. In Calder Trophy voting, Sykora was seventh, behind eventual winner Daniel Alfredsson. Across 63 games, Sykora netted 18 markers, including eight on the power play and totaled 42 points.
Best Devils Rookie Season: Colin White, 2000-01
While White was a member of the 1999-00 Stanley Cup title team, he was officially a rookie the following season. In his first full season, White played all 82 games on the blue line for the Devils, posting a career-best +/- rating of +32. White logged 20 points and his one goal was a game winner. He also racked up a career-high 155 penalty minutes. In Calder Trophy voting, White finished sixth, behind Evgeni Nabokov. That season, White and the Devils finished one win shy of a Stanley Cup title.
Best Devils Rookie Season: Scott Niedermayer, 1992-93
I could’ve taken Pat Verbeek and his 20 goal rookie campaign but I’ll go with Niedermayer here. As a 19-year-0ld rookie blue liner, Niedermayer was a plus eight and registered 40 points in 80 games, including eleven goals. Niedermayer also helped out immensely on the power play, with five goals and 14 helpers with the extra attacker.