Plenty of talented and hard-nosed wingers skated for the New Jersey Devils over time, but here are five all-time great “fan favorites.”
The New Jersey Devils have retired five numbers since winning their last Stanley Cup championship in 2002-03. Only one of those banners hanging proudly at the Prudential Center is a forward’s retired number.
While skaters such as Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall recently won over the hearts of Jersey’s faithful, do they rank amongst the top fan favorites since the team’s inception back in 1982?
Let’s find out and dish the puck on five of the most beloved left-wingers in Devils’ history.
All-time greats in a team’s history and fan favorites don’t always entail skaters who were point producers every season. That perspective is fair for a former Stanley Cup dynasty that almost redefined what it meant to be “team-oriented” in the NHL at one time.
Look no further than John Madden’s wingman, Jay Pandolfo.
The Winchester, MA native was drafted by New Jersey in the second round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft and never looked back.
While No. 20 never recorded more than 13 goals in a season, he served as one of the best shutdown forwards of his generation from 1996-97 until the end of the 2010-11 campaign in Jersey.
Pandolfo was remembered most for “shadowing” all-time greats such as Jaromir Jagr and specifically when No. 68 donned a New York Rangers sweater.
The two-time Stanley Cup champion is worthy of making the cut as a fan favorite.
Speaking of unhung heroes…
Forward Sergei Brylin is one of the few Devils to play his entire NHL career with New Jersey and also not have his number retired by the organization.
Similar to Pandolfo, Brylin was normally tasked with a shutdown-forward role and playing alongside skaters on the third or fourth line. Let’s not forget that Brylin had more speed and skill than Pandolfo and other commendable depth players who were appreciated by New Jersey over the last three decades.
Every now and then it seemed that Brylin would contribute a clutch goal or offensive play during the team’s dynasty run. The three-time Stanley Cup champion skated for the Devils from 1994-95 until the end of the 2007-08 season, and still works within the organization in a coaching capacity.
The Russian native’s humble approach is still greatly appreciated to date and the Devils wouldn’t have been as successful without the defensive winger.
Fans have to turn back the clock all the way to the red and green years for this one.
Card #172 presents Captain Kirk Muller! There are a number of fans that felt this should have been Mario Lemieux instead however, the Pens invented tanking for draft picks & Kirk was our consolation prize. Kirk was key in helping the Devils earn respectability. He won a Cup in 93 pic.twitter.com/FGtQ5yOzx9
— Pro Set Sports Cards (@ProSetCards) March 13, 2019
Forward Kirk Muller was an original fan favorite in franchise history, after skating with the Devils from 1984-85 until he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens during the 1991 offseason.
To date, Muller is a top-ranked Devil in numerous offensive categories such as goals (sixth, 185) and assists (seventh, 335).
Unfortunately, the 1984 second-overall selection never won a Stanley Cup with the Devils. Muller’s success during the beginning years for New Jersey cannot go unnoticed given the nightmare-struggles the team experienced during the early 1980s.
After signing with the Minnesota Wild via unrestricted-free-agency in 2012, fans still wear Zach Parise’s No. 9 Devils jersey to the Rock — unlike Ilya Kovalchuk.
Besides being a heartthrob for the ladies, Parise goes down as one of the best and well-liked players to ever wear a Devils jersey.
Zach Parise's power-play goal 📺 got the #NJDevils on the board in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals vs. Florida, on this day in 2012. Martin Brodeur stopped all 26 Panthers shots as the Devils won 4-0 to even the series at 2 games apiece. pic.twitter.com/jbxrwSunyd
— New Jersey Devils History (@DevilsOfYore) April 20, 2020
The 2003 first-round draft pick wore his heart on his sleeve and was the definition of a solid two-way player.
Keep in mind that the one-time Devils captain progressed into flashy goal-scorer territory and also thrived in the shootout round with his notorious backhand bar-down goals.
Parise is ranked fifth in franchise history with 195 career goals and is one of 10 Devils to record 40 goals in a season. His grit, passion, and skill are missed in Jersey and the team has clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs just once since his departure.
Parise might go down as the greatest Devils to never win a Stanley Cup with New Jersey.
There’s not much to say here with the best forward in Devils history…you had to have seen this one coming.
Elias won over fans’ hearts during the late 1990s and transformed into a clutch and top performer for over a decade. No player has recorded more goals (408), assists (617) or game-winning goals (80) in team history.
His electric and dynamic playmaking abilities were unique and the Czech Republic native always injected the Devils lineup with an uncanny energy. Highlights of Elias joyfully hugging his teammates during his prime seasons when Jersey hoisted two Cups back in 1999-00 and 2002-03 never get old.
It was on this date, but do you know what year it was? pic.twitter.com/yw3NTmOZty
— MSG Networks (@MSGNetworks) May 26, 2019
Elias played his entire career in a Devils sweater from 1995-96 until the end of the 2015-16 season. And it’s safe to say he’s one of the most underrated players in NHL history and he provided the organization with memorable moments it may never experience again.
Writer’s top three: Elias, Pandolfo & Brylin.