Alex Chauvancy The Hockey Writers
Devils’ Top 10 Goal Scorers of All-Time
The New Jersey Devils have had more than a few Hall of Fame-caliber players come and go over the years. Most people will associate greats like goaltender Martin Brodeur or defensemen Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer with the team. But they’ve also had more than a few high-level scorers who played a hand in shaping the franchise’s history since they relocated to New Jersey from Colorado in 1982. Here are the Devils’ top 10 goal scorers over that time.
1. Patrik Elias — 408 Goals
Elias is the Devils’ all-time leader in points, assists, and of course, goals. He was a second-round draft choice of the team in 1994, but it took a few years for him to become a mainstay in the NHL. His first, full season in New Jersey came in 1997-98, and he managed to finish with 18 goals in 74 games.
From that point on, there was no looking back for Elias. By their second Stanley Cup, he was one of the best players on the team. He had 33 goals in the 1999-00 season and followed it up with a 40-goal, 96-point campaign in 2000-01. He was a remarkably consistent scorer throughout his 20-year career, finishing with 20 or more goals in 10 seasons, as well as 30 or more in five seasons.
Elias played with many different linemates throughout his career, but none is more iconic than the A-line with Petr Sykora and Jason Arnott, and they may not have won the 2000 Stanley Cup without them. As the years progressed, Elias played well with any linemates he had, such as Zach Parise or Brian Gionta.
And that was evident even towards the end of his playing days, as Elias was still a scoring threat who made his linemates better. He finished with 26 goals as a 35-year-old in 2011-12 when the Devils reached the Stanley Cup. That would prove to be his last shot at hoisting the trophy in what was an illustrious career. He retired in March 2017 and became the first Devils’ forward to have his number retired. He played all 20 years with the organization, and it’ll likely take a similar stint with the team for someone to break his goals record.
2. John Maclean — 347 Goals
Maclean was the sixth overall pick in the 1983 Entry Draft. Unlike some of the team’s earlier draft picks, the Devils would hang on to him long enough to enjoy plenty of success with him. In his fourth, full NHL season (1987-88), he scored the game-winning, overtime goal against the Chicago Blackhawks on April 3, 1988, to send the Devils to the playoffs for the first time since relocating from Colorado.
By next season, Maclean was a 40-goal scorer, and it would be the first of three straight 40-goal campaigns in a Devils’ uniform. He was part of their 1995 Stanley Cup championship, where he had five goals and 18 points in 20 postseason games.
But after that point, Maclean’s game had begun to decline gradually. He was a member of the Devils until Dec. 7, 1997, when general manager Lou Lamoriello traded Maclean to the San Jose Sharks. He’d go on to have a couple of productive seasons with the New York Rangers after signing with them as a free agent in 1998. He retired in 2002, but he still maintains an active role in the NHL, as he’s an assistant coach for the Arizona Coyotes. He also had a brief stint as the Devils’ head coach but was fired after a disastrous start to the 2009-10 season.
3. Bobby Holik — 202 Goals
Holik was an original draft pick of the Hartford Whalers (10th overall) at the 1989 Entry Draft. But the best seasons of his career came with the Devils. Lamoriello acquired the rugged forward from the Whalers in exchange for goaltender Sean Burke and defenseman Eric Weinrich (from ‘HOCKEY; Devils Trade Burke, but Weinrich Goes, Too,’ The NY Times – 8/29/1992).
Holik’s physical style of play landed him on a line with Randy McKay and Mike Peluso, which became known as “The Crash Line.” But Holik also had a knack for scoring. He potted 20 goals in his first season in New Jersey and had six 20-goal seasons, including four in a row from 1996-2000. He won two Stanley Cups with the team (1995, 2000) before leaving to sign a lucrative five-year, $45 million contract with the rival Rangers in 2002.
Like many players who played for Lamoriello, Holik had a final stint with the Devils in 2008-09. He only scored four goals that season, but it served as his swan song, as he announced his retirement in May 2009. And there’s no doubt he has a significant place in Devils’ history.
4. Travis Zajac — 195 Goals
It may be a bit of a surprise to see Zajac this high on the list, but he’s been a Devils lifer. He was their first-round pick (20th overall) at the 2004 Entry Draft and had a similar route to the NHL as a Parise, as they both played for the University of North Dakota (NCAA) before turning pro. He made his professional debut in the 2006-07 season, where he finished with 17 goals as a rookie.
Zajac’s best seasons came alongside Parise as part of the ZZ Pop Line with Jamie Langenbrunner in 2008-09 and 2009-10, where he had 20 and 25 goals, respectively. He hasn’t topped those totals since then, but he’s been a consistent presence in the team’s lineup for well over a decade now. He has one year left on his contract, but there’s a good chance he moves up this list if he plays in a majority of games next season — he needs just eight goals to surpass Holik.
5. Zach Parise — 194 Goals
The Devils were a bit fortunate to end up with Parise at the 2003 Entry Draft. He was the ninth-ranked North American skater but fell to the middle of the first round due to concerns about him being too small for the NHL. That’s when Lamoriello traded up to select Parise with the 17th overall pick, and that was a decision that had a significant impact on the Devils for the rest of the decade.
His first NHL season came in 2005-06, where he had 14 goals in 82 games. But that’d be the last time he’d finish with less than 30 goals in a Devils’ uniform in his seven years with the team. The best season of his career came in 2008-09, when he finished with 45 goals in 82 games, the second-most in a Devils’ season.
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Parise was an integral part of the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2012. But that was the last time he’d play for the team, as he’d go on to sign a mega, 13-year contract with his hometown Minnesota Wild in July 2012. Who knows how the Devils would look now if he chose to stay with them. But there’s no doubt he was one of the best players they’ve had since the 2004-05 lockout.
6. Kirk Muller — 185 Goals
Muller was the second overall pick in the 1984 Entry Draft, just behind Mario Lemieux. It didn’t take long for him to earn the nickname “Captain Kirk,” and he soon became a significant contributor for the Devils. He made his NHL debut as an 18-year-old during the 1984-85 season and finished with 17 goals and 54 points.
Muller would soon become one of the top goal scorers in the league after his impressive rookie season. He finished with 37 goals as a 21-year-old in 1987-88, the first of what was three consecutive 30-goal seasons with the Devils. Unfortunately, the team never became serious contenders while he played for them. The Devils ended up trading Muller to the Montreal Canadiens for Stephane Richer and Tom Chorske before the start of the 1991-92 season, and he’d help the Canadiens win the 1993 Stanley Cup.
Muller never returned for a second stint with the Devils, leaving him with 185 goals in the red and black. But even though his playing days are long gone, he’s maintained an active presence in NHL coaching circles. He served as the Carolina Hurricanes’ head coach from 2011-2014 and is now an assistant with the Canadiens on Claude Julien’s staff.
7. Pat Verbeek — 170 Goals
Verbeek was part of the Devils’ very first draft class after relocating to New Jersey. He was selected 43rd overall in the 1982 Entry Draft and would make his NHL debut the following season. It wouldn’t take long for him to assert himself as one of the Devils’ top goal scorers. He finished his first, full NHL season with 20 goals and would eventually turn into a 30-goal scorer by the time of his age-22 season (1986-87).
After the 1988-89 season, the Devils traded Verbeek to the Hartford Whalers for Sylvain Turgeon, where he’d go on to have the best seasons of his career. But one wonders where Verbeek would rank among Devils’ goal scorers had they hung on to him. He scored 192 goals with the Whalers, and if those had come with the Devils, he’d be among their top three.
8. Petr Sykora — 166 Goals
Sykora’s time with the Devils came with plenty of success. He was a first-round selection (18th overall) at the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, and it didn’t take long for him to become a household name among the fanbase. He made his debut during the 1995-96 season and scored 18 goals in 63 games.
But the best was yet to come for Sykora, as he was an integral part of the Devils’ 2000 Stanley Cup championship team. He finished that season with 25 goals while playing on the A-line and would follow it up with 35 the following season when the Devils lost to the Colorado Avalanche in seven games in the Stanley Cup.
Lamoriello would trade Sykora to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim before the start of the 2002-03 season. But it wouldn’t be the last time he put on a Devils’ sweater. After a successful PTO during the 2011-12 preseason, Sykora signed a one-year contract and went on to score 21 goals playing alongside his old pal, Elias. The Devils would lose the Stanley Cup to the Kings that season. But had not it been for one last, successful run in New Jersey, he’d remain outside their top 10 goal scorers.
9. Brian Gionta — 152 Goals
When Gionta broke into the league with the Devils, there weren’t a ton of players of his mold. He was on the smaller side (5-foot-7, 175 pounds), but that didn’t stop him from becoming one of the team’s best goal scorers. A third-round pick in the 1998 Entry Draft, he spent four seasons at Boston College, where he totaled 121 goals in 164 games. So it wasn’t a surprise to see that translate to the NHL.
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By Gionta’s age-25 season (2003-04) — his third in the NHL — he tallied 21 goals in 75 games for the Devils, the season before the year-long NHL Lockout. But when play resumed in 2005-06, he went on to have his best pro season, finishing with 48 goals in 82 games. He’d finish with 20 goals or more in each of the next three seasons before signing with the Canadiens as a free agent in 2009. To this day, his 48-goal campaign remains the team’s single-season record.
10. Randy McKay — 151 Goals
Most Devils’ fans will remember McKay from the team’s glory days, as he was part of their first two Stanley Cup championships. But he wasn’t an original draft pick of the team. When the Red Wings signed Devils’ winger Troy Crowder to a deal as a free agent, they were due compensation since he was a restricted FA. That compensation ended up being McKay and Dave Barr, which came through arbitration.
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McKay was never a prolific scorer, but he was always a solid bottom-six winger. He also had longevity on his side, as he played 11 seasons in a Devils’ sweater, And his best years came when the team was an Eastern Conference powerhouse. From 1998-2001, McKay had 80 goals in 288 games, which is where he scored more than half of his 151 goals with the team. The Devils traded McKay to the Dallas Stars for Langenbrunner and Joe Nieuwendyk on March 19, 2002. He’d go on to play one more season with the Canadiens, before retiring in 2003.
If Kansas City Scouts/Colorado Rockies Were Included
Paiement never played a game as a member of the Devils. Instead, he was part of the Kansas City Scouts and Colorado Rockies before the team relocated to New Jersey. He was the second overall pick by the Scouts in 1974 and quickly became one of their top scorers, tallying 26 goals as a rookie.
It didn’t take long before he became one of the Rockies’ top scorers, too, as he scored 41 and 31 goals in back-to-back seasons from 1976 to 1978. But Paiement’s success couldn’t make up for the Rockies’ flaws as a team. They finished with 59 points in 1977-78 and had a woeful 42 points at the end of 1978-79. That led to the Rockies trading Paiement to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 29, 1979. He finished his Scouts/Rockies’ tenure with 153 goals.
Devils’ fans are probably a bit more familiar with Broten than Paiement. He was a Rockies’ sixth-round draft choice but only played in one season for them before the team relocated to New Jersey. For a while, he was one of the team’s most prolific scorers. He finished with double-digit goals in every season with the franchise and eclipsed 20-plus goals three times. The team was never any good while he was with them, which led to the Devils trading him to the Minnesota North Stars on Jan. 5, 1990.
Broten retired from professional hockey in 1992. He finished his career with 186 goals, but his best years easily came with the Devils, as that’s where he scored 147 goals. Had his one season with the Rockies come with the Devils, he’d rank ninth all-time in goals scored.
Who Could Be Next to Crack the Top 10?
The top five all-time scorers are pretty safe for the foreseeable future. And Elias’s record of 408 goals may never be touched. With that said, there could be some movement in the top 10 as early as next season. Right-winger Kyle Palmieri sits at 132 goals, meaning he needs just 20 to surpass McKay and 21 to move ahead of Gionta. Palmieri has averaged 29.8 goals per 82 games as a Devil, so there’s a good chance he does it in the near future.
It’s a pretty safe bet this list looks a bit different five years from now too. The Devils are hoping Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, two former first overall picks, become cornerstone franchise pieces like Elias and Maclean. They might not ever become the team’s top two goal scorers, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them etch their names in the record books in due time.
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