It's going to be a year of firsts this year for our New Jersey Devils; first time since the 1980s with a new GM, first season for John Hynes as an NHL head coach, first season without Lou Lamoriello in any capacity again since the 80s, and even the first season in a few years where the Devils didn't make questionable free agent signings to plug the holes in the lineup. The Devils do have a lot of homegrown talent on the roster, and many scored their first NHL goals with the team, which is the vein of "firsts" that I will segue into today.
With a number of new faces on the roster this year, it's very likely that we will be seeing some more NHL first goals by members of our New Jersey Devils. Since we're trudging through the last few weeks before hockey starts up again, I thought this would be a good time to look back at some goals that would were NHL firsts for players that have come up through the system. This list is of course reserved for players that are active members of the team, as I don't think we want to see firsts from guys who have moved on from New Jersey. Without further ado, here are the first goals:
Eric Gelinas - Vs. Vancouver Canucks - 10/24/13
Gelinas' NHL first would come in his second NHL game, and first of the 2013-14 season, upon being called up from Albany. With two defensemen in the lineup that usually did not play on the power play (Mark Fayne and Anton Volchenkov), Gelinas was given time on the man advantage alongside Marek Zidlicky. He would wind up scoring this beauty to break a then 1-1 tie; the Devils would sadly go on to lose this game, but Gelly had a solid showing in this one. He would in later games go on to unleash The Truth from the point, which is still a huge asset to the team to this day; hopefully this is the season where Eric puts everything together.
Damon Severson - @ Florida Panthers - 10/11/14
(For just Severson's goal, skip to 3:20)
Last year's rookie phenom started the season playing with Devils veteran Andy Greene on the top defense pair. No one truly knew what to expect out of this after he made the team out of training camp, but he came on in a big way. Like Gelinas, Severson's first goal would come in his second NHL game; he would first net an assist on Mike Cammalleri's power play goal, the Devils' third of both the game and the first period. Severson wasn't content to allow the Devils to take a three goal lead to the first break; he would intercept what appeared to be a weak clearing attempt and put another one past Roberto Luongo for a 4-0 Devils lead.
While Luongo probably would have liked that one back, Severson's goal was symbolic of that first week of Devils hockey from last season; there was hope, some young blood and a bit of luck. As we all know, it didn't last, and led to changes in the organization.
Stephen Gionta - Vs. Ottawa Senators - 4/7/12
Gionta's first goal was a bit of a famous one since it came during the last game of the 2011-12 regular season and seemingly secured his spot on the fourth line for the playoffs. He would play with his future linemate Steve Bernier here, but the left wing spot would be occupied by Alexei Ponikarovsky rather than future CBGB member Ryan Carter. Poni would be the one to make the nice initial move to the net and put an initial shot on goal which Gio would jam home on the rebound. Funnily enough, a similar goal would be scored a few weeks later, but Stephen would wind up playing Ponikarovsky's part.
Jon Merrill - Vs. Edmonton Oilers - 2/7/14
Merrill must have needed to have a dramatic flair for his first career goal; he waited until the 31st game of his young NHL career. A 1-1 tie with the Edmonton Oilers shifted into an extra period of hockey. With just over half of said period gone, the puck was worked out of the corner by Adam Henrique and
Michael Ryder He Who Must Not Be Named. Merrill skated forward and hammered home a nice goal since three of the Oilers' skaters decided that bunching in the corner on the opposite side of the ice was a good idea; that doesn't take anything away from Jon, who still had to beat a well-positioned Ilya Bryzgalov to win the game and collect his first NHL goal.
Adam Henrique - @ Philadelphia Flyers - 11/3/11
Rico's first goal was potted on current Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky back when he played for the Flyers. Adam took a nice feed from Another #17 Who Must Not Be Named and rifled a nice quick shot into the back of the net. This would be the beginning of a great rookie season for Henrique that saw him nominated for the Calder Trophy, which he would sadly lose to Gabriel Landeskog; shame they don't incorporate playoff performance into the voting, because I really think that would have swung the pendulum in Henrique's favor.
Oddly enough, while I was watching this video over for details, I paused at 0:20 and had to think to myself, "Man, there's three people in that huddle that majority of Devils fans dislike; funny that the other two are both named Adam."
Adam Larsson - Vs. Washington Capitals - 11/11/11
Ah, so easy to type the day that Lars notched his first on! As we move from one Adam to the other, Larsson's first goal came a mere 8 days and 3 games later. Patrik Elias would wrap around behind the net and bounce a shot off of Washington goalie Tomas Vokoun; it would squirt back to the point where Lars would unleash a bomb that beat the glove of Vokoun.
Larsson looked so happy after he got that first goal, and it seemed like he was having the same reaction to scoring again once DeBoer departed. Hopefully we get to see that happy reaction a lot more over the next few years!
Jacob Josefson - Vs. New York Islanders - 3/12/11
Josefson's first goal would come during the forgotten season that broke the team's streak of consecutive playoff appearances a.k.a. The Johnny Mac Year. He would collect a loose puck behind the net, and wrap it around on then Islanders goalie Al Montoya. Not exactly a pretty goal, but still a nice first for Jacob. And hey, Mattias Tedenby sighting!
Andy Greene - @ Pittsburgh Penguins - 3/8/07
Going back in time a bit from some of the above goals, we now have the grizzled veteran of the Devils' D Andy Greene's first goal. The shot winds up being from real long range, almost at the blue line. Somehow it makes its way through the maze of bodies and beats Marc-Andre Fleury for a career first. Andy would appear in a limited number of games (23) during the 2006-07 season, but remained with the team full time after that to become the reliable defender and sometimes point producer that we know today.
Patrik Elias - @ Boston Bruins - 12/12/96
And here's Patty's NHL first in all its grainy glory! As you can see, this is before he was a team regular, as he's wearing #22. The play starts with Bobby Holik playing the puck; Jay Pandolfo takes control of it and sends a pass towards Elias. The puck appears to bounce off his skate and stick as he attempts to direct it into the net; there also does not appear to be a distinct kicking motion, and I'm not even sure if this was a rule at the time; it was almost two decades ago now. The goal could not be overturned after review, and Patty would officially have his first of many to come as a Devil.
Apologies to Travis Zajac, as he is the only Devil on the current roster that I could not find a video for his first NHL goal! If anyone can find that video, please leave a link in the comments, and I will try to update this article.
Hopefully seeing some of these goals brought back some pleasant memories for many of you, and maybe the last couple were even new to some of our readers. Do you think we will see any players in the system get their first NHL goals this season? If so, who? Do you have any special memories that accompany any of these goals? Leave any and all comments below as always, and thank you for reading!