‘Devils in the Details’
By Sean Hartnett
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It was only fitting that the New Jersey Devils stole the show from start to finish at the 2013 NHL Draft held inside their home at the Prudential Center.
General manager Lou Lamoriello pulled off a deal that will be remembered as one of the biggest steals in recent NHL history by robbing the Vancouver Canucks of elite goaltender Cory Schneider in the first round.
When commissioner Gary Bettman arrived at the podium while the Devils were on the clock with the No. 9 overall pick, something was up. In typical fashion, Bettman was greeted with loud jeers. “I think you want to hear this,” Bettman said as the crowd went silent. The announcement would soon send shock waves through the hockey world.
Much to the surprise of the Devils fans gathered inside, Lamoriello completed a masterstroke trade by sending the team’s top pick to Vancouver and got in return a 27-year-old goaltending phenom in Schneider. Immediately, a huge roar went up around the arena as Devils fans were overcome with a mix of pure shock and joyous disbelief.
Once considered untouchable, the Canucks floated Schneider’s name on the trade block in the days leading up to the draft as moving Roberto Luongo’s long-term contract proved impossible. Lamoriello was able to take advantage of Vancouver’s desperation to shed salary and its preference to keep Schneider away from division-rival Edmonton.
The question of how the Devils would eventually replace iconic netminder Martin Brodeur has finally been solved.
“I think for the future of the organization, it’s the best move,” Brodeur said. “Cory is one of the top five goalies in my mind in the NHL. I’m not going to play forever, I know that.”
Instead of having to suffer through the headaches and growing pains of developing an in-house solution, Lamoriello acquired a top-level goalie who is capable of pushing the 41-year-old Brodeur for the remainder of his career. And he won’t be overwhelmed by the task of filling the skates of a legend.
SCHNEIDER READY TO COMPETE
Schneider is looking at his new opportunity with an open mind and understands the benefit of soaking in Brodeur’s example.
“I don’t think you replace Marty Brodeur,” Schneider said in a conference call. “I don’t think anyone is gonna replace what he does for that franchise and has done for a long, long time. My hope is that I come in and learn from him, and take away things that make him so successful. Hopefully, I can continue the work he’s done in New Jersey. I accept that challenge and I’m ready for it.”
Lamoriello feels it’s important to ease Brodeur’s workload during the 2013-14 season, which is packed with back-to-back games due to the Sochi Olympic break. Having Schneider around will keep Brodeur fresh.
“Marty is still a No. 1 goaltender. There’s no question there. It’s just a question of how much he can play to keep him at the top of his game,” Lamoreillo said. “The back-to-back games, and certainly with the Olympic year, where there’s going to be a condensed schedule — this gives us that transition we feel we would have loved to have gotten maybe a year ago, if it was possible.”
Lamoriello believes Brodeur will do everything possible to mentor Schneider.
“He’ll help Cory as much as anybody,” Lamoriello stated.
That being said, Brodeur isn’t ready to give up the bulk of the Devils’ goaltending duties. This kind of competition can only be healthy for New Jersey.
“I’m definitely going to try to push and get my ice time as much as I can while I’m still able to play,” Brodeur said. “He’s definitely the future of the organization.”
SPECIAL DAY FOR THE BRODEUR FAMILY
The Devils bookended an emotional draft day by tugging at the heartstrings of their fans when franchise legend Martin Brodeur stepped to the podium in the seventh round to welcome his son, Anthony, to the organization.
“It was a great moment,” Martin Brodeur said. “Anthony’s worked so hard in the last four years away at school. To be able to get drafted, drafted in New Jersey, for New Jersey, you couldn’t ask for a better time.”
Marty had no idea the Devils were planning to draft his goaltending son when I spoke with him earlier in the afternoon.
Some scouts consider Anthony Brodeur a longshot to make the NHL. It’s hard to make that kind of proclamation at this point in his development. Anthony will continue gaining experience in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as a member of the Gatineau Olympiques.
All in all, this will be remembered as a special day in Devils history.
LOCAL PRODUCT SANTINI SELECTED IN SECOND ROUND
With their 42nd overall pick, the Devils chose defenseman Steve Santini from Mahopac, N.Y.
Santini admitted he grew up a Rangers fan, though that changed immediately when he pulled on the Devils sweater.
“Fifteen minutes ago, I became a Devils fan,” he explained shortly after being drafted. “Being here with my family and hearing my name called was definitely an awesome feeling. So, I’m overjoyed.”
How does the 6-foot-2 Santini describe his game?
“I’m just a big, physical strong defenseman,” he said. “I don’t put up a lot of points, but I’m very reliable. I can eat minutes up, I’m great in the shutdown role.”
He continued: “I won’t necessarily say I play like him, but Kevin Shattenkirk. Being a New Rochelle kid, he was definitely someone I looked up to growing up. I remember when he got drafted and played for USA, it was something I dreamed of doing and today I’m very lucky to have an opportunity.”
Santini is eager to mold himself into complete defenseman when he plays for Boston College in the fall.
“My skating can definitely improve. Obviously, you can always watch film and get better that way, get stronger in the weight room.”
Follow Sean on Twitter — @HartnettHockey.
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