NEWARK, N.J. – The name Matteau has taken on a whole new meaning for the New Jersey Devils.
For almost two decades, the mention of Matteau brought back memories of the Devils’ crushing loss in Game 7 in 1994 to the rival New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals.
It was a series that ended when Stephane Matteau scored on a wraparound in double overtime, a tally made famous by broadcaster Howie Rose’s call of “Matteau, Matteau, Matteau.”
The Devils added irony to the opening round of the NHL draft on Friday night when they selected Matteau’s son, Stefan, with the No. 29 pick.
“All I can tell you is he was the best player available, and nothing was going to get in the way of making the right decision for us,” Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said in a telephone interview from Pittsburgh, the site of the draft. “His name came up when we were going through everything, and it never was an issue.”
Stephane Matteau’s goal against a young Martin Brodeur helped the Rangers win their first Stanley Cup title since 1940.
Brodeur and the Devils won the first of their three NHL championships the following year, and they came close to adding a fourth title earlier this month when they lost in six games to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup finals.
Matteau, a 6-foot-2 centre, had 15 goals and 17 assists in 46 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program. The Rangers passed on Matteau when they chose defenceman Brady Skjei one pick earlier.
“He is size and strength,” Lamoriello said of the 18-year-old Matteau, who almost certainly will play junior hockey next season. “He is big and physical. He works out with (Dainius) Zubrus, so we know a lot about him from a different direction. He is a size and strength power forward.”
Lamoriello refused to compare Matteau with anybody currently on the team.
There was some speculation that the Devils were going to forfeit their first-round pick this season to comply with the penalty the NHL imposed on the team for its original contract to leading scorer Ilya Kovalchuk, a deal the league said tried to skirt the collective bargaining agreement. New Jersey will have to give up a pick in either 2013 or 2014.
The Devils selected defenceman Adam Larsson last season with the fourth pick overall.