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2009 Draft Watch: Before they were Devils

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

Wilf Paiement (2nd overall to K.C. in 1974) was the first amateur pick in franchise history.

email – You probably already know the Devils franchise got its start as the Kansas City Scouts in 1974 before moving to Colorado in 1976 to become the Rockies.

By now, you probably also know that Rocky Trottier was the first amateur player selected by the Devils after their relocation to New Jersey in 1982. But just how well do you know the franchise's first-rounders before its colors changed from blue, red and gold to red and green 27 years ago?
Paiement notched 41 goals with the Rockies in 1976-77.

The Scouts entered the NHL with Washington as part of the League's 1974 expansion from 16 to 18 teams. The Capitals were victimized for an 8-67-5 record in their first season, still the League's all-time mark for futility.

The new Kansas City organization performed marginally better, winning 15 and 12 games, respectively, in their only two seasons. But after 27 wins, 110 losses and 23 ties at Kemper Arena, the Scouts were Colorado-bound.

The Rockies won 20 games in their inaugural season of 1976-77 (only Detroit's 16 wins were worse), and cracked the 20-win mark only one other time (22, 1980-81) during six inauspicious seasons at Denver's McNichols Arena.

Poor finishes ensured high draft picks. The KC/Colorado franchise owned the first- or second-overall pick in four of its first six seasons, and never selected lower than 11th overall with its first choice over that span.

In 1974, after Washington had taken Greg Joly first overall, the Scouts made Wilf Paiement the first amateur pick in the franchise's history.

Paiement represented a solid start for the young squad. His 14-year career included a 41-goal campaign in 1976-77 and three straight All-Star Game appearances from 1976-78.

Paiement relocated with the team to Colorado and went on to stops with Toronto, Quebec, the New York Rangers, Buffalo and Pittsburgh. He finished with 356 goals and 458 assists in 946 career games, including 11 straight seasons with at least 20 goals.

Later in the 1974 Amateur Draft, the Scouts added Bob Bourne at No. 38. Bourne was dealt to the New York Islanders that July for Bart Crashley and never played a game in a Kansas City uniform. He went on to win four straight Stanley Cups as a member of the Islanders' dynasty.

1974 Expansion Draft
Kansas City and Washington took part in an expansion draft to fill out their rosters before the 1974 offseason. The Scouts drafted first and selected goaltender Michel Plasse from Montreal.

Other notable Scouts' pick-ups included Butch Deadmarsh (7th), cousin of former Avalanche forward Adam Deadmarsh, and Tom Peluso (31st), cousin of former Devil Mike Peluso, who was a member of the "Crash Line" for New Jersey's march to the 1995 title.
Kansas City drafted Barry Dean second overall the next year, but Dean's career lasted just three seasons. He played 79 games with Colorado in 1976-77, notching 14 goals and 25 assists, and closed out his playing days with two seasons in Philadelphia.

The 1976 Amateur Draft was the last in Scouts history, and the club took Paul Gardner 11th overall. Gardner recorded 30 goals as a rookie in 1976-77, then repeated the feat the following season despite being limited to only 46 appearances. His 0.65 goals per game in 1977-78 remains a franchise best.

Gardner notched 23 goals with the Rockies in 1978-79 before being dealt to Toronto, where he closed out a third straight 30-goal campaign. His 14 power play goals in 1978-79 is still tied for sixth in club history (Zach Parise, 2008-09; John MacLean 1988-89), while the 13 he registered in 1977-78 is tied for ninth (Claude Lemieux, 1991-92, 1992-93; Pat Verbeek, 1987-88).  

By 1977, the Scouts were no more, and the Colorado Rockies entered their first Amateur Draft.

Barry Beck, the first amateur pick in Rockies' history might be known more for his seven seasons with the Rangers. Beck (2nd overall, 1977) had one of his best campaigns in 1977-78, when he collected 60 points (22g-38a) as a rookie on the Rockies blueline. He was shipped to Broadway in 1979, and finished his career with Los Angeles in 1989-90.

The Rockies had the fifth overall pick in 1978 and grabbed Mike Gillis. Currently the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, Gillis lasted six seasons in the NHL. He amassed 33 goals and 43 assists in 246 games split between Colorado and Boston.

Colorado managed just 15 wins in 1978-79 and finished six points behind St. Louis for last place. That landed the Rockies the lone first-overall pick in franchise history: Rob Ramage in 1979.

Ramage played in 1,044 NHL games, including three seasons with the Rockies, and was a part of two major trades. He was dealt by New Jersey to St. Louis in 1982 for the Blues' next two first-round picks. The Devils selected Trottier eighth overall in 1982, then used the sixth overall selection the following year to bring MacLean to New Jersey.

Six years later, Ramage was shipped to Calgary as part of the trade that sent Brett Hull to St. Louis. Ramage's 15-year career included a Stanley Cup championship with Calgary in 1989.

The last-place Rockies selected Paul Gagne 19th overall at the 1980 Entry Draft, and added Aaron Broten with the 106th pick. Both players wore the Rockies sweater for two seasons before relocating with the team to New Jersey.

Gagne spent six of his eight seasons with Colorado/New Jersey, but was sidelined for two years with a back injury. He returned to action in 1988, closing out his NHL career with Toronto and the Islanders.

Gagne's career continued in Europe, where he retired after 1998-99, following seven seasons in Switzerland.

Broten collected 16 goals and 39 assists to lead the Devils in scoring during their first season in the Garden State. His 57 assists in 1987-88 remains the franchise record for a left wing. Aaron's brother, Neal, was a member of the Devils' first Stanley Cup title in 1995.

The 1981 Entry Draft was the Rockies' last. Joe Cirella went fifth overall, while future Devils' mainstay Bruce Driver went 108th.

Cirella skated with the Devils during their inaugural campaign and remained in New Jersey until 1988-89. He was an original member of the Florida Panthers in 1993-94, and finished his 15-year career with Ottawa.

Driver debuted in 1983-84 with the Devils, and spent 12 of his 15 NHL seasons in New Jersey. A member of the 1995 Cup squad, Driver is third all-time in scoring among Devils defensemen with 399 points. He served as the team's captain in 1991-92, and is currently Director of the Devils' Alumni Association.

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