The New Jersey Devils have had some pretty historical players play for them since they entered the league in 1982. Despite taking a handful of years to get to playoff standards, it was the hiring of former president and general manager Lou Lamoriello in 1987 that turned the franchise into playoff contenders year after year. The Devils had only missed the playoffs three times between 1988 and 2012. While they may not have the flashiest players right now, and haven’t made the playoffs since losing in the Stanley Cup finals in 2012, the Devils were a tough team to beat during the mid-90s and early 2000s. A lot of that was thanks to their defensive system and Lamoriello’s incredible management of the team.
Many of their top players in franchise history were part of at least one of the three Stanley Cup winning teams they had between 1995 and 2003. Along with their playoff success, the Devils were also a successful regular season team, winning their division nine times. The Devils, like any other team, have had their fair share of bad players as well and we can see that especially with today’s team. The Devils are currently in a “rebuilding” phase and are hoping to return to the success the organization once had in the near future. Guys like Ken Daneyko, Travis Zajac, and Brian Gionta are honourable mentions for the best on this list, along with Damien Brunner and David Clarkson as honourable mentions for the worst.
15. Best: Zach Parise
Drafted 17th overall in 2003 by the Devils, it didn’t take long for Zach Parise to turn into a prolific scorer in the NHL. After scoring 31 goals in his second season, he quickly developed into one of the top forwards on New Jersey for a handful of seasons. The Minnesota native hit a career-high in goals with 45 and points with 94 in the 2008-09 season, where he finished with the 5th most points in the league.
Parise eventually left the Devils after they went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012 by signing with the Minnesota Wild as a free agent on July 4th. He earned himself a massive paycheck worth $98 million over 13 years with his hometown team. Despite walking away from the Devils while still entering the prime of his career, Parise’s best days were when he played in New Jersey and his 410 points in 502 games prove that.
14. Worst: Stephen Gionta
Undrafted forward Stephen Gionta got a chance to play for the Devils after signing a tryout with their AHL affiliate Albany back in 2005. However, he only made an appearance on the Devils’ NHL team during the 2010-11 season after being called up. Gionta only played in 12 games during that season, and for most of his career in New Jersey, he struggled to keep a spot in the lineup. Stephen failed to be anywhere near as good a player as his brother Brian Gionta, who was a stud for the Devils during his career. The undrafted New Yorker saw very little ice-time when he played, mainly for the reason of not being a very skilled player. He appeared in 270 career games for the Devils, but only put up 50 points.
13. Best: Bobby Holik
Bobby Holik was originally a 10th overall pick of the Hartford Whalers in 1989 and was traded to New Jersey in August of 1992. He played in ten seasons for the Devils, including winning two Stanley Cups in 1995 and 2000. The big power forward was known for throwing big hits but could still put the puck in the net, he scored 202 goals during his 786 games with the Devils.
Holik’s career wasn’t anything spectacular, but his best days were when he played with the Devils. He is sixth in scoring in their franchise’s history, which is impressive considering he was also in the penalty box for a total of 863 minutes. Surprisingly enough, Holik often came up pretty clutch during his career with the Devils. The Czech forward has the third most game winning goals in Devils history with 43.
12. Worst: Krzysztof Oliwa
Just one of six Polish players to ever play in the NHL, Krzysztof Oliwa was a big, intimidating player. Drafted 65th overall in 1993, Oliwa began his career in New Jersey, and appeared in 210 games as an enforcer for the Devils. He was also a member of the 2000 cup winning Devils team, but wasn’t able to play due to injury. The Polish defender didn’t do much besides being a tough guy and spending time in the penalty box. He racked up 724 penalty minutes during his time in New Jersey, and only had 33 points to show for. The Devils probably could have easily found someone to take his spot on the team’s roster at the time, and they eventually decided to do that by trading him to Columbus in June of 2000.
11. Best: Scott Gomez
Drafted 27th overall in 1998, Scott Gomez had a memorable career with the Devils. He remains as one of their top playmakers in team history with 361 assists in his 606 game career with the franchise. His 484 points is fourth-most in Devils history which shows how much of an impact his game had on the success of this team.
Gomez is also the fifth Alaskan to play in the NHL, and it’s even more impressive that he turned out to be a two-time All Star and a Calder trophy winner. He also led the league in assists in the 2003-04 season with 56, which was a career-high.
Although his career slowly began to spiral downwards after leaving New Jersey, with two cups to his name and a top three scorer in franchise history, Gomez remains undoubtedly as one of the best players to ever play for the Devils.
10. Worst: Bryce Salvador
Defense-man Bryce Salvador finished his career with the Devils, which began after signing a four year, $11.8 million deal with the team prior to the 2007-08 season. Despite being a good leader, Salvador could hardly manage a full season without injury and was out of the lineup more often than usual. Salvador was named the 10th captain in Devils history in January of 2013. It may have been too little too late to name the veteran defender as team captain, as he only ended up playing 94 games from the 2012-13 season until his retirement in 2015 due to lower back injuries. This never really allowed the Manitoba native to have any leadership impact as captain of the team. With age and injuries catching up to him, Salvador ended his career with the Devils with a total of 47 points in 339 games
9. Best: Kirk Muller
Kirk Muller still remains as one of the top players to play for the Devils ’til this day. The Devils’ second round pick from 1984 is currently third in all-time scoring for the franchise. Muller was a strong two-way player, and was named captain of the Devils in 1987-88 as a 21 year-old. That same year, he set the franchise record for most points by a center with 94. He also holds the Devils record for most assists in a game with five, and most points in a game with six.
Muller’s exceptional career was seemingly going to waste with the Devils, as they weren’t playoff comptetitors when he was with them. In September of 1991, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens and won the Stanley Cup with the Habs in 1993. In seven seasons with the Devils, “Captain Kirk” put up 520 points in 556 games.
8. Worst: Erik Rasmussen
A former seventh overall pick of the Buffalo Sabres, Erik Rasmussen failed to get his career to the level that was expected of him. He signed with the Devils prior to the 2003-04 season but was never an impactful player offensively. Rasmussen struggled to even surpass 10 points in a season with New Jersey, and his poor contribution eventually led to getting demoted to the Devils’ AHL affiliate team Lowell.
When signing the American forward, the Devils were hoping that he could get back to scoring like he would in his college days, but it never worked out for Rasmussen. His disappointing career ended shortly after playing for the Lowell Devils in 2007-08 with a total of 33 points in 207 games with New Jersey.
7. Best: Patrik Elias
The only guy on this list to play for the Devils from the beginning of his career to the end is the very loyal Patrik Elias. Elias was drafted in the second round, 51st overall by the Devils in 1994. He played in 1240 games which is more than any other forward in franchise history, and is the franchise’s all-time leader in goals, assists and points for both regular season and playoffs. The Czech forward also holds franchise records for most points in a season by a Devil with 96, most career game winning goals with 80, and most career hat tricks with 8. He’s also helped lead the Devils to two Stanley Cups in 2000 and 2003. Elias’ loyalty has led to him to being the top forward in Devils history statistically, so there is no need to question why he deserves to be near the top of this list.
6. Worst: Ryane Clowe
If you look at Ryane Clowe’s overall career stats, you wouldn’t think that he had such a bad career, but it was a contract that he signed with the New Jersey Devils during the 2013 offseason that put a bad spotlight on the St. John’s native. He signed a five-year, $24.25 million deal with the Devils as a free agent, but only appeared in 56 games over two seasons.
The former San Jose Sharks 6th round pick was plagued with injuries and quickly made the Devils regret signing him to such a lucrative contract. Clowe was forced to retire after doctors refused to clear him to play again after suffering a concussion in November of 2014. He officially retired on September 12, 2015 with 30 points in his short-lived tenure with the Devils.
5. Best: Scott Niedermayer
Hall of Fame defense-man Scott Niedermayer is known as one of the best defenders to ever play in the NHL. His career with the Devils is one that no other defender has ever experienced in the team’s history. He leads all defenders in Devils history with 476 points in 892 games. After being drafted third overall in the 1991 draft, he made the Devils roster a year later and put up 40 points in his rookie season. You just knew this guy was going to be something special.
Niedermayer had a very decorated career, in both the NHL and internationally. With the Devils, he won three Stanley Cups, a Norris Trophy in 2003-04 and was of course named to the All Star Team on several occasions. The Alberta native is also one of four players in Devils history to have their number retired. With all that he’s achieved in his career, it’s no surprise that he is considered as one of the best d-men to ever play the game.
4.Worst: Mark Fraser
The Devils probably regret taking defense-man Mark Fraser in the third round of the 2005 draft. Fraser only played in 132 games for the Devils, and was more of a tough guy, so he only had 12 points. He spent the majority of his playing time in the AHL, and was eventually traded to the Anaheim Ducks in December of 2011, followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs just a couple months later.
Fraser ended up returning to New Jersey for the 2014-15 as he signed with AHL affiliate Albany, but was called up and ended up playing in 34 games in the NHL that season. The Devils most certainly wish they drafted someone like Keith Yandle or Anton Stralman over Fraser instead, as they were later picks in the same draft year and have turned out to be top defense-men today.
3. Best: Scott Stevens
Scott Stevens was the most intimidating player to play against while he was on the Devils. Physicality was his strength, and as a top defender for the Devils, he would use that to his advantage to knock players off the puck. Stevens joined the Devils from the Blues in the 1991-92 season, and is the longest serving captain in Devils history after being given the title in 1992 and holding it until his retirement in 2004. His veteran presence and leadership played a huge part in leading the Devils to three Stanley Cups in 1995, 2000 and 2003, including winning himself the Conn Smythe trophy in 2000. Stevens is second in points among defense-men in Devils history with 430 in 956 games, sitting right behind his partner for many years, Scott Niedermayer. He had his jersey retired by the Devils in February of 2006 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Hame in 2007.
2. Worst: Mattias Tedenby
The Devils had high hopes for Mattias Tedenby after drafting him in the first round, 24th overall in 2008. The Swedish forward, however, never established himself as a decent NHL forward and struggled to even stay in the NHL. He could hardly put in 10 goals in a season, and his career-high in points was 22 which came during his rookie campaign. His subpar play put his NHL career to a quick end as he left to play in the Swedish Hockey League in 2014. In 120 games played for the Devils, Tedenby only put up 30 points and was a clear failure of a first round pick during a time where the Devils desperately needed some offence.
1. Best: Martin Brodeur
You guessed it. Martin Brodeur is definitely the best player to ever play for the Devils, and he will hold that title for a very, very, long time. The goaltender out of Montreal, Quebec had a 21-year career with New Jersey, and is considered to be one of the greatest goalies in NHL history. He was a Calder trophy winner in his rookie season, and has also won four Vezina trophies, five Jennings trophies, and three Stanley Cups. His records and achievements are far too many to list, but Brodeur most notably holds the franchise and NHL record for most career wins by a goaltender with a total of 691 which many feel may never be surpassed. He is also the only goaltender to have eight 40-win seasons, including twelve straight 30-win seasons between 1995-96 to 2007-08.
Brodeur’s career ended with a little bit of controversy as he signed a one-year deal with the St. Louis Blues in December, during the 2014-15 season. Many people were in disagreement, and felt that the 42 year-old should have just retired as a Devil. After all, he only appeared in seven games for the Blues before retiring shortly after in January, so signing for another team was kind of pointless. Despite all that, Brodeur had his number retired in February of 2016, and will definitely be a part of the Hall of Fame in the future.
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