Brian Rolston's NHL career began as the 11th overall selection in the 1991 NHL Draft. (Photo: Getty Images)
Next month, the Devils head to Buffalo holding the No. 11 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. The Devils have selected 11th-overall twice before. Here’s a look back at the pick's impact on franchise history:
Forty years ago in 1976, the Devils’ original incarnation, the Kansas City Scouts, drafted Paul Gardner 11th overall. At the time, it was the latest the Scouts had ever drafted in the first round, having had the No. 2 pick in the previous two drafts.
Gardner spent two-plus seasons with the Colorado Rockies after the franchise moved west in 1976. He posted 30 goals and topped the 50-point plateau twice with the Rockies. He was dealt to Toronto during the 1978-79 season and completed a third straight 30-goal, 50-point campaign.
It would be another 15 years before the franchise – by then the Devils – held the 11th pick again. After selecting Scott Niedermayer third-overall in 1991, the team took Brian Rolston eight spots later. In his rookie season of 1994-95, Rolston contributed to the Devils’ first Stanley Cup Championship and helped Team USA capture the 1996 World Cup of Hockey the following year.
Rolston was traded twice in 1999-00 – first to Colorado, then Boston. As a free agent in 2004, Rolston signed with the Minnesota Wild, reuniting with his first NHL coach, Jacques Lemaire. Rolston rejoined the Devils as a free agent in 2008.
Jeff Friesen, a member of the team’s 2002-03 Stanley Cup Championship, was an 11th-overall selection by San Jose in 1994. Friesen registered 23 goals that regular season before chipping in another 10 in the 2003 playoffs. On the international stage, Friesen was a two-time gold medalist with Canada’s World Junior Team, and won gold with Team Canada at the 1997 and 2004 world championships.
A number of stars have emerged from the 11th-overall pick. Jarome Iginla (1995, Dallas) has played in 1,474 games and counting, while Jeff Carter (2003, Philadelphia) and Anze Kopitar (2005, LA) have also carved out outstanding NHL careers.
Last year, Florida drafted Lawson Crouse, and this year, the Devils will write the next chapter for No. 11.