NEWARK, N.J. -- Pete DeBoer has coached many great players in his career, including several during his junior hockey days.
The list includes forwards Mike Richards and Derek Roy, and goalie Steve Mason when he was with the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers. He also mentored forwards Stephen Weiss, David Booth and Gregory Campbell and defenseman Dennis Seidenberg during his stint with the Florida Panthers.
Few, however, work as hard as New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise.
"There aren't many," DeBoer said. "He's right at the top of the list. What makes him special is, you've got guys like that that play on your fourth line on every team. They're there because of their relentless work ethic, but what separates [Parise] is he's got world-class skill and world-class hockey sense on top of that. That's the special combination Zach has."
Parise has certainly been front and center during the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring for the Devils. He has four goals, nine points, 36 hits and a team-leading 12 takeaways in 14 postseason games. He ranks second on the team among forwards in ice time (21:16) and ranks first with 57 shots on goal.
The experience of playing in his first Eastern Conference Finals series has been exciting. He's hoping the Devils can continue in Game 3 on Saturday at Prudential Center where they left off at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday in locking down a 3-2 victory.
"This series has been everything that we were anticipating really from the hockey standpoint," Parise said. "We expected tight games. We expected not a lot of room out there from either team and games down to the wire. I guess from everything else surrounding it, it's definitely more media coverage than we've ever seen, so that part is a little different than the attention that it's getting.
"But I think that's what you kind of have to expect when you're still playing at this time of the year."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale