The New Jersey Devils were faced with a decision following their very successful, very surprising, and in the end, disappointing playoff run. For the first time since 2007, the Devils advanced to the second round of the NHL playoffs by defeating the Florida Panthers in stunning fashion. From there, New Jersey knocked off the favored division rivals Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, en route to their first Stanley Cup appearance since 2003. Their season ended in heartbreak as the 8 seed Los Angeles Kings captured their first championship in franchise history in 6 games, but there was much to be proud of this season in New Jersey. Following their deep playoff run and coming just two wins shy of a fourth championship, the Devils were given the 29th pick in the 2012 NHL draft held in Pittsburgh. Due to the long-term contract given to superstar Ilya Kovalchuk in 2010, a contact that circumvented the cap, New Jersey must give up a first round draft pick in one of the next three drafts. They chose to hang on to this year’s pick, which came as a surprise to many. Who they chose with that pick was an even bigger surprise.
Following the New York Rangers, who picked at 28, the Devils drafted the son of former Rangers playoff hero Stephane Matteau, who scored the game winning overtime goal in game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals against the same New Jersey Devils. Watching the Rangers pass up the newest version of a Matteau, Stefan, and then see the Devils draft him couldn’t have been more unexpected. Ever since 1994, the Devils and Lou Lamoriello have been haunted by the chants of “Matteau! Matteau!” by the Rangers faithful. With the selection of Matteau, who himself thought it was a bit weird putting on a Devils uniform after everything his father went through, the Devils put a little more salt into the wound that was the unsatisfying end to the Rangers season. Stefan Matteau, at 6’2”/210 pounds, is a bruiser with a powerful shot, while also possessing a knack for taking penalties. Like his father, there is nothing dazzling about his play, and to me, seems like a similar player to David Clarkson in that he gets in the dirty areas and doesn’t shy away from physical play, while also being able to produce points here and there. Clarkson broke out this year with his first 30-goal season, but nothing like that is expected of Matteau for quite some time.
After the peculiar pick of Matteau, the Devils drafted defenseman Damon Severson of the Kelowna Rockets (WHL) at pick number 60, center Ben Johnson of the Windsor Spitfires (OHL) at 90, forward Ben Thomson of the Kitchener Rangers (OHL) at 96, center Graham Black of the Swift Current Broncos (WHL) at 135, forward Alex Kerfoot of the Coquitlam Express (BCHL) at 150, and finally, forward Artur Gavrus of the Owen Sound Attack (OHL) at 180.
New Jersey went into this draft looking for forwards, and that’s what they came out with, aside from Severson, who was seen as a can’t-pass-up defensive player. Of all these players drafted, the one player who stands out to me (no, not Matteau) is their last pick in Artur Gavrus. Gavrus, who is from Belarus, wasn’t expected to fall this far in the draft, but due to some serious injuries last season in the OHL, it may not come as too much of a surprise. When he did play however, he impressed. Gavrus racked up 37 points in 45 games and was an offensive force for his team during the regular season. He is a dynamic player with fast hands and great skill, but the downside with him is his recent health status and lack of defensive composure. With time to develop in the OHL and playing for his country in Belarus, Gavrus has time to prepare himself before he jumps into the NHL.
Taking a complete look at the draft constructed by the Devils, there is much to look forward to through the variety of different players picked. With the skill players in Gavrus, Kerfoot, and Johnson, the power forwards in Matteau and Thomson, and the lone defenseman in Severson, many areas of need for the Devils future have been filled. Many will also continue to question the keeping of their first round pick, understandably. Much will be determined on whether this pick pans out down the line, but for now, all New Jersey fans can hope for is that one day, they too can chant “Matteau! Matteau!”
About the Author
Written by Mike Mastrandrea
Mike Mastrandrea is currently a Junior at Indiana University studying Sports Communication and Marketing. He was raised in New Jersey and is a dedicated New Jersey Devils, New York Jets, New York Mets, and Indiana Hoosiers fan. Mike's other interests include movies, hanging out with friends, and Chel.