Welcome to Last Word’s Draft Boom and Bust series. As the 2020 NHL Entry Draft approaches, we decided to examine each team’s best and worst pick since the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. The biggest boom is a player that had the best value relative to where they were selected. Meaning, no one in the first round will be considered a team’s best value pick. However, the biggest bust picks will almost always be in the first round. We will examine each player, why they were picked where they were, and what their NHL career was like. Today, we look at the New Jersey Devils draft, and their biggest boom and bust.
New Jersey Devils Draft Boom and Bust
The New Jersey Devils drafting since the turn of the century has not been good to put it nicely. In fact, since 2000, if you look at the scorecard the New Jersey Devils draft has more misses than successes. That is how poorly former general manager Lou Lamoriello and his staff drafted. However, the successes they did have turned into solid NHL players. Outside of Zach Parise (17th overall in 2003), Travis Zajac (20th overall in 2004) and the two most recent picks Nico Hischier (1st overall in 2017) and Jack Hughes (1st overall in 2019), the Devils first-round picks have been misses. In fact, the best draft class for Devils was in 2000.
Let’s begin with the famed Devils draft class of 2000. With 62nd pick, the Devils selected Paul Martin out of Minnesota in the second round of the 2000 NHL Draft. Entering the draft, Martin was listed as having sound offensive instincts and a good size frame to cut in the NHL. He was also that classic stay at home defensive similar to what the Devils had on their team already. Martin went on to have a very successful career not only for the Devils but the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks.
After playing high school hockey at Elk River High School and winning the Mr. Hockey award, Martin took his talents to the University of Minnesota. The Golden Gophers have one of the best college programs in the nation. Even though Martin was drafted right out of high school, he knew he needed time to develop. Martin spent three years helping the school win the National Championships in 2003. During his three seasons with the Golden Gophers Martin racked up 97 points (20 goals and 77 assists).
Martin joined the Devils during the 2003-04 season, a year after the Devils won their third Stanley Cup Championships. In his first season with the club, Martin played in 70 games, recording 24 points. Learning from players like Scott Stevens, Brian Rafalski, and Scott Niedermayer helped Martin turn into a solid NHL defenceman. Who knew that season was going to be an end of an era and the changing of the guard for the Devils defence corps. As players like Stevens and Niedermayer left and meaning Martin had to take on more minutes.
With no season in 2004-05 because of the lockout, Martin played for Fribourg-Gotteron in Switzerland. With the NHL returning for the 2005-06 season, Martin had his best season as a Devil. Martin appeared in 80 games with the club recording career-high points and assists with 37 points (five goals and 32 assists). The following seasons saw his point production decrease. However, recording points was not Martin’s job. He was more of a stay at home defenceman. His last season with the Devils came in 2010-11, where Martin’s injury history started. Martin suffered a non-displaced fracture in his left forearm, only playing in 22 games recording a career-low 11 points. There is some speculation his injury was handled poorly by the Devils medical staff.
From there Martin went to the Penguins signing a five-year, $25 million contract. His first two seasons went well for the Penguins. He found regular minutes playing a top-four defensive role. He averaged about 75 games per season and 25 points. However, the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons saw Martin plagued by injuries again. Though he did have a career-high six goals during the 2012-13 season. He had a bounce-back season with the Penguins in 2014-15 before signing a four-year contract with the Sharks.
Things got off to a good start for Martin in San Jose. He made his one and only trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. However, he lost to his former team the Penguins in six games. Martin was more a role player and bottom pairing defenceman at this stage of his career. In 2018, Martin was assigned to the AHL before being placed on unconditional waivers in 2018 before retiring in November of 2018. He had a good 14-year career playing in 870 games racking up 320 points (50 goals and 270 assists). Not bad for a guy selected in the second round.
Other Notable Booms
Another player selected as part of the 2000 Devils draft class was Mike Rupp. The Devils selected Rupp in the third round at pick number 76. During the 2003 season, Rupp made his debut for the Devils. His biggest moment came in the 2003 Stanley Cup Final. In game seven of the Stanley Cup Final, Rupp helped the Devils win the Stanley Cup after scoring the Cup-clinching goal. He is the only player in Stanley Cup history to have the first playoff goal be a Stanley Cup winning goal.
After helping the Devils win, Rupp remained with the team until March of 2004. He was traded to the then Phoenix Coyotes. After being traded by the Coyotes to the Columbus Blue Jackets after the 04-05 lockout, and not getting a qualifying offer, Rupp returned to New Jersey. After establishing himself as a hard-working player the Devils rewarded him with a new two-year contract. During his 12-year career in the NHL, Rupp also played for the Penguins, New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild. In 610 career games, Rupp recorded 99 points (54 goals and 45 assists). Since retiring from the NHL, Rupp has gone onto a career in broadcasting with the NHL.
Another hit for the Devils was Adam Henrique. Henrique was drafted 82nd overall by the Devils in the 2008 NHL Draft. He scored two of the biggest goals in Devils history during his rookie season along with tallying 50 points. He eliminated the Florida Panthers in Game 7 of the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs scoring in double overtime. Then he sent the Devils to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final scoring the overtime goal against the Rangers. Even though he was finding success early, he is an average player at best. The Devils traded Henrique to the Anaheim Ducks. In 665 career games, he has 378 points (186 goals and 192 assists).
In addition to these boom players, the Devils also selected Deryk Engelland (6th round in 2000), Cam Janssen (4th round in 2002), Blake Coleman (3rd round in 2011), and Damon Severson (2nd round in 2012).
As previously mentioned the New Jersey Devils draft has had more busts than booms this century. And the poor draft decisions by Lamoriello and former director of amateur scouting David Conte have ultimately haunted the Devils. The team is finally getting back to drafting and developing players under new management.
Let’s begin this list with Barry Tallackson. If you go back to the 2002 NHL Draft, the Devils picked ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks that year in the second round. Though the Devils still boasted one of the best defences in the league, you always have to plan for your future. Still on the board was Duncan Keith, who was a cornerstone for the Chicago Blackhawks three Stanley Cups in the 2010s. Instead, the Devils chose Barry Tallackson.
Tallackson was a career minor leaguer and never made a significant impact in the NHL. The most games he played in the NHL in one season was 10 in 2005-06. For his career, he played in 20 games in the NHL. His best season in the minors came in 2007-08 in Lowell recording 45 points (22 goals and 23 assists) in 63 games. After the Devils waived his rights, the St. Louis Blues signed him, but he was soon released and signed to play with Augsburger Panthers in Germany. From there he played with Eisbären Berlin winning the DEL championship. Just think the Devils had a chance to keep their defence going strong with one pick.
Other Notable Busts
An honourable mention has to go to Mattias Tedenby. Entering the 2008 NHL Draft, Tedenby was ranked third amongst European skaters. He was a small but speedy Swedish winger that the Devils selected 24th overall that year. While he did show signs of some offensive flair his game never rounded into form in 120 NHL games. Not to mention his defensive game was very poor and the Devils did not want to wait for that part of his game to come around. He did not play for the Devils for long. After his rookie contract expired, Tedenby ended up making the move back to Sweden.
When the Devils signed Ilya Kovalchuk to that mega-contract in the summer of 2010, the NHL handed out a stiff penalty to the Devils in which the Devils had to forfeit one of their first-round draft picks in 2012, 2013, or 2014. Many people thought Lamoriello would opt to forfeit his pick in 2012, considering it was one of the weaker draft classes in recent memory.
In a bold move, the Devils selected Stefan Matteau with the 29th overall pick. Entering the draft, Matteau was nothing more than a bottom-six forward. However, Conte believed Matteau could be a legitimate power forward in the NHL. He was wrong. Matteau went on to be a career minor league only playing in 64 games in the NHL recording seven points (three goals and four assists).
Since The Devils were going ahead with using their draft pick, they had the opportunity to draft Tanner Pearson (30th overall Los Angeles Kings), Shayne Gostisbehere (78th overall Philadelphia Flyers), and Colton Parayko (86th overall Blues). Matteau is the definition of a bust.
The lists of notable busts from the New Jersey Devils draft since 2000 is a long list. While there is not much expected from those taken in the later rounds, the Devils missed on a lot of the first round and second-round talent at the end of the Lamoriello-Conte years. This has set this franchise back years. Only now do the Devils have a decent prospect pool. But it took years for them to escape the mistakes Lamoriello made.
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