An opportunity has arisen for New Jersey Devils prospect Nick Lappin, and so far he has taken full advantage of it without showing signs of slowing down. Over the past 14 months, there has been tremendous turnover within the organization — from the front office all the way down to the team’s minor-league affiliate, the Albany Devils. Lappin finished a four-year career at Brown University and joined Albany in March for the duration of their season, as well as the playoffs.
After signing a two-year deal (starting in 2016-17) and joining Albany on an amateur tryout, he pumped in five goals (seven points) in 11 playoff games for the A-Devils and as he tells us below it has given him some confidence heading into the NHL club’s training camp in September. “He took the opportunity and made the best of it,” New Jersey assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald said of the 23-year-old Lappin. “If he wasn’t our best forward in the playoffs, he was one of our best forwards.” That’s high praise for a player that began the season at a university and just got his feet wet in terms of being a pro.
Following day two of New Jersey Devils development camp, The Hockey Writers spoke with Nick Lappin about his whirlwind few months between Brown and Albany as well as leaning on his father Peter Lappin, a former NHL player, for advice and insight as he begins his professional career.
The Hockey Writers: You signed with the Devils organization after completing your college career, is this the first NHL development camp you’ve been to?
Nick Lappin: This is my first time at a Devils’ camp, but I was at Washington’s and Pittsburgh’s the last two years.
THW: You’ve only been here a few days, but can you point put any differences?
NL: They’re all pretty similar, they’re all trying to accomplish the same goal. To get you familiar with the pro game, and the commitment; this one is by far the best camp that I’ve been to, though. They really focus on you, get familiar with the New Jersey Devils lifestyle and most importantly to compete and battle every day; no matter what you do. There’s a big emphasis on competing and no matter whatever it is, you want to make sure you’re going to win. The competition here. The battling.
Nick Lappin, John Quenneville and Chris Shero, son of Ray. pic.twitter.com/woiLyXbodC
— Leo Scaglione Jr. (@LeoScaglioneJr) July 12, 2016
THW: You played some with the Albany Devils at the end of last season; so you know a few of the guys that are here. Does that help to ease the transition with a few familiar faces around the locker room?
NL: Yeah definitely it helps when you’re going into places where you don’t really know anyone. Coming here you see a few familiar faces and it definitely makes you feel a lot more comfortable. Being able to have conversations with people who you’ve already known and you get to meet new people from all over the place.
THW: You played four years in college at Brown University, what were your takeaways from that – both on and off the ice?
— Brown Athletics (@BrownAthletics) March 9, 2016
NL: It was awesome; I loved it and wouldn’t do it any other way. I got to graduate from an Ivy League school and that (was something that) was very important to my family and me – to get a degree. It allows me to have something to fall back on. Hopefully, hockey works out for me, but you can’t play forever and that’s kind of what my family told me ever since I was little and wanted to play hockey. That – you can have a great career, but still it’s going to come to an end and being able to have that college education to fall back on is really important for me.
THW: Was playing Junior Hockey ever an option for you or were you set on going the college route?
NL: I was pretty set on going to college. My whole family played college hockey; I did play Juniors in the USHL. But the major Junior route was never really an option.
— USHL (@USHL) March 9, 2016
THW: You played in Albany last season, the last 12 games (3g-4a) and then in the playoffs; what were some of your takeaways from that experience?
NL: It was a great experience. I came into a team that was really good, and I got an opportunity to play with some really great players up there. I think that helped (ease) my transition a lot being able to play alongside those guys. I think most importantly it gave me some confidence coming into this camp here and training camp in September. I’d say that was the biggest takeaway for me.
THW: Game 3, round two, against the Toronto Marlies…can you tell us about that night?
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) May 8, 2016
NL: It was a pretty surreal moment (smiles). Looking back on it…that’s never happened to me in my life when I’ve been playing hockey. To score a goal to tie the game with (under) 30 seconds left and then to score the overtime winner…I have to give credit to a couple of my linemates out there. Especially the overtime goal, Brian O’Neill, he gave me a great pass on the power play which helped me score, but that was definitely a surreal moment. I don’t really know how else to put it, it’s one of the better hockey moments I’ve had in my life.
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) May 9, 2016
THW: Your dad was an NHL player, what kind of advice does he give you and what things do you lean on him for?
NL: He’s the one that introduced me to the game and the one who’s pretty much taught me everything. Now he watches most of my games and I’d like to think he has a pretty good idea of what the game of hockey is about. He’s one person that can be brutally honest with me, especially after games. If he thinks I played bad, he’ll tell me I played bad and he’ll give me things that I need to work on to get better. When I play good, he’ll tell me ‘good game’. That’s something that I am fortunate to have; I trust his opinion on the way I play so it’s nice to be able to call him after games and get his opinion of how he thinks I played.
THW: Did you ever get to see him play in person?
NL: No. I don’t think I was born yet. My mom just got pregnant with me during his last season I think.
THW: So have you watched the video of any of his career?
NL: They had a VHS tape that I remember watching when I was really little. I just hear stories when we go out with his college buddies, they’ll tell me stories about him. I would love to see some video of him playing, that’d be really cool.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.