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Devils were confident Brodeur would be impact player

by Dan Rosen / New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils will honor Martin Brodeur by unveiling a statue in his honor outside Prudential Center on Feb. 8 and retiring his No. 30 prior to a game against the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 9. NHL.com is honoring Brodeur by taking a look back at his record-breaking and likely Hall of Fame career in a series of stories counting down to his jersey retirement ceremony.

Here is the story of how Brodeur wound up in New Jersey:

The irony of the 1990 NHL Draft is the New Jersey Devils didn't go into it looking for a goalie in the first round. They already had Sean Burke, Chris Terreri and Craig Billington, three goalies in their prime. They felt they were set at the position.

But the Devils also felt Martin Brodeur was one of the top impactful prospects in the draft. Former Devils chief scout David Conte said the team had Brodeur rated with Owen Nolan, Keith Primeau, Jaromir Jagr, Mike Ricci and Petr Nedved at the top of the draft.

"I have the draft page and I can show Marty that he was at the top of the special group," Conte said.

He was far ahead of Trevor Kidd, who was the hot goalie that year, the consensus No. 1 at the position.

"The way we do it is we tier the list by impact, not by numbers," Conte said. "Who has a chance to be an impact player? Who has a chance to be a core player? Who has a chance to be a solid player? That type of denomination. Marty was at the top in a special category with the other guys. Kidd was the guy for so many, but we didn't think that way. We thought it was Marty. But we didn't really need a goalie."

Once they realized they could get one of the top prospects on their board, and pick up an extra second-round pick in the process, the focus turned to doing that.

The five forwards New Jersey had tied in with Brodeur went in the top five, with Nolan going first to the Quebec Nordiques followed by Nedved (Vancouver Canucks), Primeau (Detroit Red Wings), Ricci (Philadelphia Flyers) and Jagr (Pittsburgh Penguins).

The Devils had the No. 11 pick, but they had an idea that nobody was going to grab Brodeur in the first round, especially with Kidd still available.

"We moved down because at 11 Kidd was there and I don't think that was expected," Conte said. "So the opportunity to profit from it was there. And if you look through the rest of the draft, it's not that awe-inspiring."

The Devils made a trade with the Calgary Flames and dropped nine spots to No. 20, picking up an extra second-round pick in the deal, which gave them three of the top 42 picks in the draft. There were 21 teams at the time.

The Flames picked Kidd.

Meanwhile, Brodeur was sitting there at the draft in Vancouver minding his own business, not really thinking anything of the first round because he didn't think he was going to be picked in the first round.

"I was ranked in the middle of the second round, probably 30th overall at the time," Brodeur said. "I was the second goalie on the list so for me I kind of found it weird that Calgary moved up a lot of spots to go pick up Trevor Kidd from New Jersey's pick. I found that intriguing, but because I didn't expect to get drafted in the first round, I didn't read too much into it."

He thought for a moment that the Montreal Canadiens might take him at No. 12 considering he was a hometown guy, but they had Patrick Roy. Montreal took Turner Stevenson.

The picks kept coming and Brodeur kept sitting there minding his business. Meanwhile, Conte and former Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello calmly sat at New Jersey's draft table waiting to pick, knowing they were going to get Brodeur.

They finally did with the 20th pick.

"It's not like I lived the experience of being anxious or nervous because I didn't think I'd go in the first round," Brodeur said. "It came as a huge surprise that my name was mentioned."

His shock wore off when he started to put the puzzle together for how the Devils came to select him. There were obvious signs that Brodeur either ignored or was ignorant to at the time.

"They were the only team that came to see me during the season and they had their goalie coach, who at the time was Warren Strelow, sit behind my net for a whole week of practice and games, and talk to me after practice," Brodeur said. "They were the only team that made that big effort to really dig in on me and try to know what kind of person I was."

The Devils also brought Brodeur to Toronto for testing, something they rarely did with goaltenders. They interviewed him numerous times. Their feeling on him never wavered.

"His demeanor, his personality, his comfortability in his own skin, it was all consistent," Lamoriello said. "He was unflappable."

Conte said Strelow scouted Kidd for a full week too. He had 140 victories and played in 387 games spread across five teams over parts of 12 NHL seasons. Brodeur holds 25 NHL records, including most wins (691) and shutouts (125). He won the Stanley Cup three times with New Jersey and appeared in the Cup Final five times in total.

"I think we'd be less than genuine to say that we knew this was going to happen," Conte said. "When you draft a guy, rarely do they fulfill your expectations and few players ever do it better than you could have scripted it. Marty is one of them."

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