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2012 first-rounder Matteau trying to 'wow' Devils

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- Center Stefan Matteau, the New Jersey Devils' first-round pick last month, was doing everything he could to make an impression during his first professional development camp last week at AmeriHealth Pavilion.

"I want to wow the staff," Matteau told a group of reporters following a recent scrimmage.

"But it's my first pro camp, wearing the [Devils] jersey, so it's obviously intimidating and nerve-racking but I felt better as things moved along," he continued. "I just have to keep playing my game."

When the Chicago-born Matteau was drafted with the 29th pick, it marked the first time since 2003 that the organization selected an American-born player in the opening round. Minneapolis native Zach Parise, who signed a 13-year deal with the Minnesota Wild earlier this month after spending seven seasons with New Jersey, was the 17th pick in 2003.

Despite that fact, don't think for a second Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello considers Matteau a future replacement for the departed Parise.

"You're always hoping to see a diamond in the rough, and these are players that we know quite a bit about [at development camp]," Lamoriello said. "As I've said, you're not going to fill Zach Parise's spot as far as what he brought. So you put that aside."

Matteau, the sixth American-born player drafted in the opening round of the 2012 NHL Draft, most likely will play for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2012-13. Originally committed to the University of North Dakota, Matteau instead decided to play for the Armada where his father, Stephane, is an assistant coach.

"It's a good league and I think I can be an impact player," Matteau said of the QMJHL. "It's more of a pro style and I'm trying to get ready for the pros. I'm definitely looking forward to it."

And what happens if he "wows" the coaching staff enough during training camp to remain with the big club for an extended stay?

"I'll be happy to do that," Matteau said. "It's already a dream to be at summer camp. If they take me, it's because they want me, so it's definitely something I'm working for this summer. I want to make the team next year, but if not, I'll develop more in the [QMJHL] and come back next year. I feel I could be a dominant player here, but I just have to keep working hard."

The 6-foot-1 1/2, 210-pound Matteau had 15 goals, including four power-play goals, and 32 points in 46 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program in 2011-12. He also accumulated 166 penalty minutes.

"He's a physical player, solid, and he's an 'A' prospect," Lamoriello said.

The GM said the experience Matteau gained at development camp is crucial.

"You can't script a value on the experience with just getting acclimated to everything," Lamoriello said. "He's getting a chance to grow slowly without any pressure. The pressure is what he puts on himself, but he also knows there's training camp coming up and we're not here to hurt anyone. There's no skating after the scrimmages … it's a chance for us to see what the prospects can do in different areas, with different skills."

Matteau doesn't believe he plays the game as his father once did. Stephane Matteau played 13 seasons with six NHL teams. He's best remembered for scoring a wraparound goal in the second overtime in Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals as a member of the New York Rangers against New Jersey. Stefan was just three months old at the time.

"Growing up, I did get to watch him … he was a hard-working, physical guy who played with an edge," Stefan told "It's weird to say this because he played 15 years, but I think I'm more offensive than he was. Dad told me I'm bigger and more skilled … that's what he said."

Matteau believes he's a perfect fit with the Devils, a team he considered to be one of the hardest-working in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Just their physicality and the way they never stopped," Matteau said. "The [Stanley Cup] Final was a tough go, but they still didn't back down and that's how I play. I go hard to the end and it's a good fit for me.

"I have a heavy shot and good hockey sense, am a good passer and I use my body to protect the puck down low."

USNTDP coach Danton Cole envisions Matteau as a prototypical power forward in the NHL. Some believe he could be the next Jordan Staal. Matteau sees himself as a future James van Riemsdyk, Scott Hartnell or Vincent Lecavalier.

"He's a powerful man, big and strong," Cole told "He plays a physical game and he's going to be good. I would think he's a little (more physical than his father). He also probably has a little more high-end offensive ability -- Stef's going to put the puck in the net."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale

Matteau has a Devils mentor

NEWARK, N.J. -- In addition to the countless text messages from family members after being selected by the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft, center Stefan Matteau also received a congratulatory phone call from Devils forward Dainius Zubrus.

Really, though, it wasn't too surprising, as Matteau works out with Zubrus in the offseason.

"We have the same trainer," Matteau said. "We work out at the same gym. He just started a few weeks ago because they made a pretty long run, so he took a rest.

"He's pushing me. He just got back one week, but he's still pushing me. He was pushing me when I was younger and this year even more because he wants me to play with him one day. He's a good role model. He's always in the top five in the best shape on the team, so I'm definitely trying to follow him. He's got me under his wing, so it's good for me."

Matteau said Zubrus offered some constructive advice that he'll certainly take to heart.

"What the boss says goes," Matteau said. "Just make sure everything is neat and tidy. Don't be rude. Just be yourself. And they like honest people, so just work hard and things should go well."

-- Mike G. Morreale

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