The New Jersey Devils are less than one month removed from knocking off the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals. The six-game victory over their bitter rival helped eliminate some of the hard feelings that may have still been lingering from the heartbreaking game 7 double-overtime conference final loss in the 1994. Besides winning the Stanley Cup, how else could the Devils top that?
How about drafting the son of the man that tossed the final shovelful of dirt on New Jersey’s playoff coffin some 19 years ago?
For almost two decades, the mention of Stephane Matteau brought Devils’ fans back to that moment and each and every time it still felt like a punch in the gut.
Yet, in a funny and twisted bit of irony, New Jersey used the 29th pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft to select Stefan Matteau – yes, the son of the infamous Matteau.
When the elder Matteau ended one of the greatest 7-games series in league history with a wraparound in double overtime, broadcaster Howie Rose twisted the knife a little deeper with his now famous ”Matteau, Matteau, Matteau,” call. Up until recently hearing that name made Devils fans cringe. Now, not so much.
Matteau, a 6-foot-2 center, had 15 goals and 17 assists in 46 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program. At 6′ 2″ 210 lbs., the 18-year-0ld already has good size and is believed to be a power forward with top-six potential.
”He (has) size and strength,” Lamoriello said of the younger Matteau. ”He is big and physical. He works out with (Dainius) Zubrus, so we know a lot about him from a different direction. He is a size and strength power forward.”
Matteau still has some maturing to do though. He amassed 166 penalty minutes in just 46 games in 2011-12 and was suspended several times by the USHL. But, despite being a bit of a hot head, the Devils believe they got the best player available that late in the first round.
”All I can tell you is he was the best player available, and nothing was going to get in the way of making the right decision for us,” said a confident Lamoriello.
I didn’t know much about Matteau before the draft, other than the pedigree he hailed from, and after reading up on him I like the pick. It actually makes a bit of sense. In previous drafts, New Jersey has gone small. Never shying away from a diminutive player if they believed he had NHL level skills.
But, Matteau is big and plays a physical game with an edge, something that could fit in well with the clubs new aggressive forechecking philosophy.
The Devils made additional headlines prior to the start of the draft being held at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. (No they didn’t trade Zach Parise’s rights.) But, the NHL did announce the Devils and Philadelphia Flyers would host the 2013 and 2014 drafts, respectively.
The 2013 festivities will take place on June 28-29 at the Prudential Center in Newark.
“I think it’s great for the franchise and great for the city,” Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said.
Does anybody else see the irony in this? I know I do.
It was only a few days ago the league was rumored to be ready to assume control of the financially struggling franchise. Now the Devils will be hosting the draft in their building.
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