Providence Friars head coach Nate Leaman laughed at the characterization: you don't need to look to see a connection between his hockey team and the Devils.
"You're right," said Leaman when asked about the link between Prudential Center and Schneider Arena, the Friars home arena, "…I probably run into Tom Fitzgerald once a month at a rink somewhere."
Devils Executive VP/Asst GM Fitzgerald played at Providence before his 17 years in the NHL. He is just one example of the pipeline between Providence and New Jersey. It goes all the way back to former GM/President Lou Lamoriello, includes Devils scouting director Gates Orlando, Fitzgerald and more recently a handful of players with the big club and in Binghamton, highlighted by current Devil Kevin Rooney.
To name just a few.
After last June's NHL Draft there are two more Providence branches. Sophomore Tyce Thompson (fourth round, 96th overall) and freshman Patrick Moynihan (sixth round, 158th overall) were both selected by the Devils at the Draft in Vancouver.
Both players offer compelling stories.
First Thompson's. Before Vancouver, he had twice gone through the process without his name being called. During that time, he sprouted up about four inches and much higher in the eyes of scouts. Now 20 and 6'2", after playing much of his draft at 5'10", Thompson has been one of Hockey East's best players in the early season.
He has 19 points (9G, 10A) through 12 games after picking up 25 points (8G, 17A) as a freshman.
Beyond the gaudy numbers, Thompson has impressed Leaman since he turned up on campus two years ago.
"We never have to ask Tyce to get on the ice early to work on something," said Leaman. "We had him at center the first few games but then moved him to the wing and he's really (taken off)."
Thompson is the son of Brent Thompson, the former NHL defenseman who is now the head coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the American Hockey League affiliate of the New York Islanders. Both his hockey playing sons developed their taste for the game when Brent Thompson was playing in the AHL.
Tage Thompson, two years older, is a forward with the Buffalo Sabres. Tage Thompson is 6'6" and had a late growth spurt in his late teens as well. The brothers are both considered late bloomers. Both grew up around the game but not playing defense like their father. Interestingly, both boys shoot right. Their father, left.
"Not really sure," said Thompson, on why he doesn't patrol the blueline. "I don't really have a lot of (vivid) memories of my Dad playing, I was too young but I do remember always being around the rink and in the locker room.
"Hockey was always something I wanted, and to do it for a living some day."
Moynihan offers his own story. A forward on the star-studded U.S. National Development Team last year, the 18-year-old from Millis, Mass., had to fight for every minute of ice time playing with so many talented teammates. Starting with Jack Hughes, the USNTD squad had seven players picked in the top 15 in Vancouver, five of them forwards.
"It's not hard to see how he could get pigeon-holed," said a scout at the time.
Many draft observers were stunned that Moynihan slipped so far in the process in June - he was picked as much as 50 selections after some observers had him pegged. Though smallish - 5'11", 185 pounds - Moynihan has a collection of skills and a dogged determination that could translate well to the pro game down the road.
Leaman made specific reference to his quick release and intensity.
"He's learning the structure and details of college hockey right now," said Leaman, "and I think we offer him the opportunity to play a top-six role and on the powerplay as well."
The Friars made their second Frozen Four appearance in the past five years last year. The other was the NCAA Championship in 2015. That run also includes six consecutive years playing in the NCAA post-season tournament.
Like any good collegiate program, Leaman and his staff have relied upon new blood to supplement and ultimately replace players crucial to the Friars' recent success. It's clear that Leaman sees Thompson and Moynihan playing a key role in that regeneration.
"Really, they are both just a pleasure to coach," he said.
If history is any indication, it's a feeling Devils fans could share down the road.