Bernie Nicholls played most of his career in Los Angeles and once scored 70 goals for the Kings. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils are set to face off in the Stanley Cup final for the first time ever. And although there isn’t a history of bad blood between the two franchises, a number of recognizable names and faces have worn the jerseys of both teams. Who are the greatest players to suit up for both the Kings and Devils? That’s the focus of this week’s THN.com Top 10.
Honorable mentions: Alexei Ponikarovsky, Troy Crowder, Adam Mair.
10. Bob Corkum
The American centerman made his NHL debut in 1990 and scored on his first shot, but had only 96 more goals and 199 more points in his ensuing 719 career NHL regular season games. In 2001, the Kings traded him to New Jersey, where he helped get the Devils to their second straight Stanley Cup final appearance.
9. Rollie Melanson
An Islanders third round draft pick (59th overall) in 1979, Melanson shared the William M. Jennings Trophy with teammate Billy Smith in 1982-83. He spent more than three years in the Kings organization and played exactly one regular season game for the Devils in the 1990-91 campaign before finishing his NHL days in Montreal the following year with a career record of 129-106-33.
8. Oleg Tverdovsky
He turned out to be a bust for a player drafted second overall (by Anaheim in 1994), but Tverdovsky did put up 240 assists and 317 points in 713 career regular season NHL games. His best success came as a Duck – and by the time he made it to New Jersey (for a 50-game stint in 2002-03) and L.A. (his final NHL stop, where he played 26 games as a King in 2006-07), he was recognized as someone who wouldn’t realize the potential ascribed to him.
7. Jaroslav Modry
A stay-at-home blueliner who developed some offense later in his career, Modry was drafted by the Devils 179th overall in 1990 and played 725 regular season NHL games (52 with New Jersey, and 454 for L.A.) before heading back to his Czech Republic homeland, where he played in the Czech League until he retired this past April at age 41.
6. Willie Mitchell
The only active Kings or Devils player on this list, Mitchell was selected 199th overall by New Jersey in 1996, but the veteran and current key component of L.A.’s defense corps played only 18 games for the Devils organization before being traded to Minnesota in 2001 – interestingly enough, for the player who occupies the No. 5 spot on this list.
5. Sean O’Donnell
The well-travelled blueliner has played for eight NHL teams – including the Blackhawks this season – but began in the league as a member of the Kings, after the Sabres drafted him 123rd overall in 1991. O’Donnell came close to winning his first Cup as a Devil during a short stint with the organization in 2001, but New Jersey fell to Colorado in the seven-game final, leaving him to wait six more years before he won it all as an Anaheim Duck.
4. Bobby Carpenter
Carpenter was the first American-born player to be selected in the top five of the NHL draft and went on to show why during his 18 years in the league. He played two-and-a-half years in L.A. in the late ’80s, then went on to win a Cup as a Devil in 1995. Carpenter won two more Cups with the Devils, but as an assistant coach.
3. Sean Burke
Burke tended net in nine different cities during his 18-season NHL career, which began in New Jersey in 1987 and ended in L.A. in 2007. He went 62-66-23 as a Devil and 6-10-5 as a King.
2. Neal Broten
The Minnesota native amassed 923 regular season points in 1,099 career games, but will always be remembered in New Jersey for being part of the Devils’ first championship team in 1994-95. He played 19 games for L.A. in 1996-97, the final year of his career, and had just four assists before being shipped to Dallas for his final 20 games and a brief playoff run.
1. Bernie Nicholls
He played the majority of his career as a King and appeared in only 84 regular season games as a Devil in the one-and-a-half years he spent in New Jersey. But Nicholls enjoyed one of his last great playoff runs in Green and Red, recording nine assists and 13 points in 16 games during the Devils’ run to the Eastern Conference final in 1994. And his 1,209 regular season points (in 1,127 games) clearly demonstrate he is the most offensively gifted of anyone on this list.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.