The NHL has announced that the New Jersey Devils will host the 2013 NHL Draft.
What does this mean? It means that Devils fans will be able to attend the draft if they so wish, at their home base, no matter how mind-numbingly lengthy the first round may be. It also holds the implication that the league has faith in the Devils as a stable franchise, notwithstanding their current financial issues. (Hosting the Draft should also bring some cash in for Prudential Center, Newark, and the Devils.)
The Devils, under condition of punishment for the Ilya Kovalchuk signing (wild rule breakers!), have to give up their first round draft pick in either of the next two years. Hosting the Draft next year would make it rather awkward on the host city to give up the first pick, wouldn’t it?
Next year’s draft, along with the following year which will be hosted by Philadelphia, has been said to be deeper in terms of attainable prospects. Did Lamoriello make a mistake by not giving up their No. 29 pick this year? I don’t believe so. The Devils scouting staff allegedly had their eye on Stefan Matteau — yes, that Matteau — and have doubtlessly planned ahead. I don’t see them shedding their first round pick next year as a host city, but I’m not worried about the team drafting necessary pieces in either of the next two drafts.
Inside: Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!; a whole lotta baby forwards and one defenseman too; Elias wins an award; I meet a Devil in enemy territory.
The Devils chose F Stefan Matteau with their first round pick at No. 29.
This means that Devils fans will suffer from a crippling bout of identity crisis. When Matteau makes the active roster in the future (and there is indication he is on a good development path), will cheering ‘Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!’ feel like cheering for a productive rookie or instead rehashing the taunts of the Rangers fanbase since 1994?
Hopefully the former. While Matteau is the son of former Ranger Stephane Matteau — yes, the killer of small children’s dreams in 1994 as the Rangers went on to win the Stanley Cup — he is the gritty power forward the Devils need, and last names don’t matter if a player can contribute to the team.
Matteau (LW, 6’2″, 209lb) was the highest rated forward out of the US National Development Program and 21G-21A-42P in 64 games with 259 PIM. He plays into the style that DeBoer wants to cultivate going forwards: consistent scorers and powerful forecheckers bolstered by a steady blue line.
Lou Lamoriello commented, “The name could not get in the way. He was the best player at that time (29th pick).” When asked in an earlier meeting if the name was a concern, Lamoriello emphasized, “Absolutely, unequivocally no. A player is a player.”
“But,” he joked, “we might not let his father come to watch him play.”
Matteau, well aware of his father’s legacy, said the plan was to make the Devils think of good things upon hearing his name. “I’m not my dad. They drafted me for the player I am, for the player I’m going to be, not what happened in the past.”
Stefan Matteau speaks to the media.
Alongside his father Stephane who is, incidentally, wearing a Devils hat.
Here are the remaining Devils picks for 2012:
Director of Scouting David Conte stated that jerseys had been prepared for all seven names drafted, meaning that none of the picks were accidental.
This is a good crop of young forwards to add to the D prospects already in the system. DeBoer’s system has so far indicated success for the club, and now the Devils have the tools to maintain it into the future.
The 44th Golden Stick annual award, awarded to the best Czech hockey player by poll, was won by Patrik Elias for the second time in his professional career.
Elias beat second place Philadelphia Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr by 185 points and received 594 points overall. Awesome.
A Sudden Encounter
What do you do when you see Dainius Zubrus at the Flyers practice arena? Do you wonder why he’s there or do you think to yourself, unapologetically, Zuuuuuuuubrus?
In my case, the latter. And okay, a bit of the former.
I was at the Flyers practice arena in Voorhees, NJ to watch my younger brother play in a youth hockey tournament. Of course, I was never expecting to meet a Devil there, but there Zubrus was! In the lobby! (I later learned that he had come to watch a cousin play in the same tournament.) He was soon beset by a rampaging crowd of young kids. Fortunately, Zubie came prepared for this possibility and had a pack of photos from the Finals that he was kindly autographing and handing out.
Overall, a super nice guy.