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A Draft Puck-Pourri I STAN SPECIAL

Stan Fischler shares tales from Devils' drafts past and present

by Stan Fischler NJDevils / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com

No question that the upcoming NHL Draft will be filled with stories that will be told for decades.

With that in mind, here are some Draft tales from decades past, not to mention the not-so-long-ago, as well as the latest issue of The Hockey News.

THE HOCKEY NEWS SAYS: "Since its inception 75 years ago, The Hockey News has been regarded as 'the bible of our sport.'"

Its most recent issue - A Draft Preview - THN offers a special Devils segment. Here are some highlights:

1. "The Devils need experience more than anything. New Jersey will need to bring in veterans over the summer to help shepherd the young kids along. If those vets can score goals, it would be doubly welcome." 

2. "Long-term needs include getting more defensemen. The team needs more options on the back end."

3. "When it comes to cap space, GM Tom Fitzgerld has a staggering amount to play with this summer with the Devils nearly $40 million below the limit. Tom can afford to pursue whomever he wants."

4. "Among those in the system for 2021-22, there'll be jockeying for jobs among the younger players. Sniper Alexander Holtz, a first-rounder, is an obvious option, and hard-shooting Nolan Foote is one to watch as well." 
 
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A BRANDT CLARKE RECIPE STORY: Several insiders believe that the Devils will choose - as their first-overall draft choice - defenseman Brandt Clarke. His brother, Graeme, played alongside Brandt earlier this past season in Slovakia. As it happened, Graeme also was their chef. 

According to THN, when Graeme left early to go play in the American Hockey League, he wrote out two pages of recipes for his hungry bro!
 
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A LOOKING BACKWARD TALE: When Max McNab and Marshall Johnston formed the Devils general staff in 1983, they vowed not to trade any more draft picks.

They learned their lessons from the franchise's predecessor, the Colorado Rockies. Management in Denver had made a tragic habit of trading choice picks almost every year. 

A year before the Rockies - soon to be Devils - settled in East Rutherford, the club decided in October 1981 that defensemen Bob Lorimer and center Dave Cameron (who would both eventually become original Devils) were worth something big. So the Rockies sent their top pick in the 1981 draft to the NY Islanders.

Huge mistake.

The Devils wound up finishing with 17 wins after their first season in The Garden State. That meant that they normally would have had the No. 3 draft pick. Instead, the Islanders used it. Their reward was future Hall of Fame center Pat LaFontaine.

Fortunately, the Devils also had the sixth pick and obtained John MacLean, the first of many heroic New Jersey stickhandlers and now the team's second-leading scorer, all-time.

(My thanks to Devils fan, buddy, George Falkowski, whose postscript goes as follows: "Can you imagine how much faster the Devils would have improved with Johnny Mac and LaFontaine coming out of the same draft? Sheeesh!")
 
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THE FABULOUS FORGETTABLES: Since every draft is what the late, great Max McNab called "a crapshoot," it's inevitable that in every dice game, "Snake Eyes" inevitably will come up to a loser.

Likewise, every draft has a player who's tabbed "fabulous" but turns out significantly less than that. The following are a few "memorables" worth forgetting - The Sour Sixteen:

1. Rocky Trottier

2. Neil Brady

3. Corey Foster

4. Vadim Sharifianov

5. Denis Pederson

6. Lance Ward 

7. Josh DeWolf

8. Jean-Francois Damphousse

9. Ari Ahonen

10. David Hale

11. Adrian Foster 

12. Jeff Frazee 

13. Mattias Tedenby

14. Stefan Matteau

15. Eric Gelinas

16. Alexander Urbom

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EXPERTS ' REACTIONS: From a purely personal viewpoint, I regarded Neil Brady as the pick who most disappointed me. He was third overall in 1986, one ahead of defenseman Zarley Zalapski, who enjoyed a long, successful career. Several attempts to turn him into a winner for New Jersey were agonizingly - not to mention frustratingly - unsuccessful.

In another personal issue, my buddy, George Falkowski, offers a "defense" of Rocky Trottier. "He scored a penalty shot goal against Edmonton that finally avenged the 'Mickey Mouse Game.' The beauty part was that it was Wayne Gretzky who threw his stick to break up a Devils 2-on-1 resulting in the penalty shot.

"Rocky's memory is a blessing because of that goal, if nothing else."

Noam Kogen, who contributed to this piece, agreed with me on a pair of sorrowful selections; the drafting of defenseman Corey Foster - 12th overall in 1988 - and forward Mattias Tedenby - 24th in 2008.

The Maven seconds both motions. Case closed!

On with the Draft.

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