ESNY Devils defensemen Rafalski
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils have produced Hockey Hall of Fame defensemen, but here are five all-time “fan favorites.”

Kyle McKenna

Crosstown rivals and Western Conference foes were normally sour about the New Jersey Devils and the team’s Stanley Cup championship years during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The Devils executed a “boring style” of hockey, according to those donning Broadway blue across the Hudson River or others devouring cheesesteaks an hour south down I-95 in the City of Brotherly Love.

While those fans can critique the three-time Stanley Cup champions all they please, the Devils have employed a number of fan-favorite blueliners.

Let’s revisit five of the most beloved defensemen in Devils franchise history.

Scott Stevens

Let’s begin with “the captain.”

New Jersey retired Scott Stevens’ No. 4 back in 2006, which marked the first jersey retirement night in franchise history. Since that time, the Devils have retired four more numbers, a pair of which were defensemen.

The story behind how Stevens originally began running with the Devils is unique in and of itself, and the dynamic blueliner almost ended up leaving the Garden State as soon as he arrived.

Nonetheless, the hockey heavens had other plans. Stevens captained the Devils from the 1992-93 season until the end of the 2003-04 campaign.

New Jersey advanced to four Stanley Cup Finals during the Hockey Hall of Famer’s tenure. His bone-crushing hits are still viewed on the Prudential Center’s jumbotron on a nightly basis.

Scott Niedermayer

Scott Niedermayer captured fans’ hearts with his smooth skating abilities and clutch performances.

Niedermayer’s overall skill level goes down as one of the best in franchise history, and let’s not forget he ranks second all-time for the Devils with his 364 career helpers. It seems that No. 27 was an ideal leader under a Lou Lamoriello regime.

His humbleness and lead-by-example qualities were key reasons why the Devils won three Stanley Cups from the 1994-95 season through the 2002-03 campaign.

The 1991 No. 3 overall selection was also the third Devil to have his number retired back in 2011 and is one of the few players to leave New Jersey via unrestricted free agency and still find continued success.

There’s no doubting fans wish he remained and retired with the Devils, but Stevens’ complementary D-partner is not only an all-time great, but also a fan favorite.

Ken Daneyko

This list wouldn’t be the same without “Mr. Devil.”

Now a color commentator for the team, Ken Daneyko is a Devil for life and his dedication towards the organization never went unnoticed with the fans.

No. 3 wasn’t the same skilled defenseman as Niedermayer or Stevens, but his grit and fearless play was an ideal change of pace on the Devils blueline for two decades.

No player has dressed in more games for New Jersey than Dano (1283). And at this rate, that feat may never be broken.

Missing teeth and scruffy beard or not, Daneyko is the face of the Devils.

Brian Rafalski

FYI: Here’s where selections can become interesting and vary…

After seven seasons with the Devils, Brian Rafalski finished his tenure in New Jersey with a plus-100 plus/minus rating. That’s Hall of Fame material, no?

Rafalski joined the defense corps in the 1999-00 campaign. His rookie heroics weren’t just impressive alongside Stevens and company, but also a key reason why the Devils won their second Stanley Cup in epic fashion.

His poise and ability to move the puck up the ice were second to none from puck-drop in Jersey. No. 28’s quick release on his snap and wrist shots from the points are still missed and may never be replicated in a red and black sweater again.

Rafalski brought entertainment to the ice, was solid defensively, and had offensive capabilities. The reality is that the Devils probably should’ve won at least one more Cup when the team entailed the likes of Niedermayer, Stevens, and Rafalski on the back end. Nonetheless, that’s an argument for another time.

Similar to Niedermayer, there were no hard feelings when the undrafted skater departed for the Detroit Red Wings via unrestricted free agency in 2007. Rafalski also found success in Hockeytown, winning his third Stanley Cup in 2008 with the Wings.

Colin White

There are likely numerous fans who didn’t appreciate longtime Devils defenseman Colin White towards the end of his career.

By the time the 2010-11 season arrived, the 1996 second-round draft pick seemed to have broken down physically and had already suffered a serious eye injury. Let’s not forget that White was a constant in New Jersey’s lineup for over a decade after joining the team in the 1999-00 campaign. He additionally played in over 100 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Talk about a grind — just ask New York Rangers longtime defenseman Marc Staal.

The 6-foot-3 blueliner was a major physical presence in the team’s lineup for a number of years. He was also an above-average defenseman as a youngster for New Jersey during the memorable Cup years.

His ability to do more than just contribute during the early 2000s was arguably underappreciated due to playing on stacked rosters with Hockey Hall of Famers. Devils fans were spoiled — they may finally realize that now.

At the time, fans likely couldn’t have asked for a better supporting cast on the New Jersey blue line.

White was born to be a Devil, and any player who won multiple Cups with Jersey and was committed to the organization’s philosophy should be appreciated as a fan-favorite.

Honorable mentions to consider: Tommy Albelin, Andy Greene, and Bruce Driver.

Writer’s choice: Niedermayer, Rafalski, and Daneyko.

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