NEWARK, NJ - When all was said and done, after the final selection in the 2019 NHL Draft, one team - one single team - had 17 of their 24 roster players put on NHL jerseys - eight in the first round alone.
It's a remarkable number. But then again, the USA National Team Development Program (USNTDP) was a remarkable team.
"It's an exceptional year for the program and these kids have worked hard to gain the recognition that they're getting," said Dan Marr, Central Scouting director, at the Scouting Combine in May.
That recognition ended up being 70 percent of their 2018-19 roster selected in the draft. The USNTDP also made NHL history with their 17 selected players, the most drafted into the NHL from a single team in one single draft.
New Jersey Devils Jack Hughes headlined the class as the number one overall selection in 2019, followed by 16 other teammates. Two others were also selected by New Jersey: forward Patrick Moynihan and defenseman Case McCarthy both heard their names called by the Devils brass.
"Definitely, we were a special team," Moynihan said. "But I think the biggest thing was how close we were. I definitely can say those guys are my brothers and the time we spent together, those are going to be lasting memories that I'll have. It was a great experience for me and to be able to do it with those guys and how well we did, it was awesome. I'm never going to forget it. "
Another experience they'll never forget is going through their first professional development camp together.
"It's super cool," McCarthy said. "There are four of us here. It's such a cool experience, even though none of us will be on the same team [next year]."
'Cool' is a word you'll hear often from these 18-year-olds. All four used the word when asked to reflect on being with their teammates.
"It's nice obviously," Hughes said. "It's pretty cool to look around the room and see guys you've grown up playing with and played with over the last couple of years. It's pretty cool to see that and all be in the same [NHL] organization."
Fellow USA Hockey teammate Danny Weight went undrafted in 2019 but he did earn a call from New Jersey to attend the team's development camp to bring the total to four players from the USNTDP at camp.
For Weight, being the sole undrafted of the four has only just pushed him more to prove his worth.
"Just proving myself," he said at Development camp. "Proving that I'm a good player, and that I'm a good enough player to get drafted and show the Devils that I'm the type of player they want, so hopefully they get a lot of interest in me and I can end up here."
Being together, for the first experience at development camp level, certainly made all four players feel a little more at ease.
"It's nice to have familiar faces around for sure," Weight said. "At the end of the day everyone is such good guys here, they picked a lot of good guys, so it was really easy coming in and meeting all the guys and getting along with them, so we have a good group here," Weight said.
Confidence oozes from all four players, no matter where they were or weren't picked in the NHL Draft with credit going to their time with the USNTDP and coach John Wroblewski.
"Every day we were playing with the best players in America in your age group," Moynihan said. "So, it teaches you to get better and it teaches you those habits to take [your game] to the next level."
"We've battled together for the past two years and we have all been working for this, for this moment for these past two years," McCarthy added. "So, to go through it with them and see how all our hard work has paid off to this point is very special."
And what is also clear is that they are all pulling for each other, embodying the 'brotherhood' spirit the Devils preach to their players. And it's also clear, that spirit developed well before attending the Devils Development Camp together, quick to complement one another's games before their own.
"He's an amazing person, first and foremost," Moynihan said of Hughes. "He's just a great player and with his ability to see the ice and the way he skates, I think he can do anything in this game."
"Obviously, [they are] great later round picks," Hughes said of his national team teammates. "With Moynihan, that's a guy that's going to be a third, fourth-year captain at Providence. He can play up and down the lineup, really skilled and can pay a checking role, PK, PP. And with McCarthy, he's just a heavy, heavy [defenseman]. Really physical, can move the puck, has a good first pass. He's a PK guy who can really defend well."
After two years together with the USNTDP and a Devils development camp in the books, the four players will go their separate ways to play for their respective new teams. Moynihan has committed to Providence College, McCarthy will play for Boston University, Weight with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL and finally, Hughes, expected to end up on the Devils NHL opening night roster. None of them taking for granted the week they've spent in New Jersey.
"They're just some of my best friends," Moynihan said. "And to be able to play hockey with them for another time, it's just been awesome."