Brace yourself, folks; The New York Rangers-New Jersey Devils’ Hudson River Rivalry has officially been reborn.
The 2019 NHL Entry Draft was huge for both New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils. Both organizations drafted franchise forwards in Kaapo Kakko and Jack Hughes, and both teams also managed to acquire great defensemen Jacob Trouba. and P.K. Subban
But what this also means for these two teams is that their rivalry has now been reborn. Not just for the two acquisitions each team made, but now because both teams are going to be relevant again.
Since both teams met in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012, they’ve failed to make the playoffs together in the same year. The Rangers continued on as playoff contenders the following five years only to not make it in 2018.
After a few down seasons, the Devils happened to earn a spot that very year. This past season, of course, both teams failed to make the playoffs, which ironically enough set them up for success.
The Devils and Rangers got the first and second overall picks in the draft. They were put back-to-back, setting them up to draft their franchise players.
For the Devils, it’s Hughes, a guy who made a name for himself with the U.S. National Team Development Program. He put up 48 points (12 goals, 36 assists) in 24 games in his final year with the program. For comparison, Auston Matthews put up 20 goals and 28 assists in his final year with the program.
Across the river at the Garden, it’s Kakko. Though 18-years-old, he made a name for himself playing against grown men in Finland.
Kakko scored 22 goals last year, which broke Aleksander Barkov‘s record (21) for goals scored in a season by a player under 18 in Liiga. The Turku native continued to dominate at Worlds when he led Team Finland in goals with six on their way to a gold medal.
The Rangers and Devils have their own version of Auston Matthews vs. Patrik Laine, who were also an American-Finnish pair to go one-two in the draft. Matthews and Laine, however, are child’s play. The two play in separate conferences. Hughes and Kakko are separated by only nine miles and will be linked to each other to the likes of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.
If this wasn’t enough to spice up the rivalry, their recent defensive acquisitions sure threw fuel onto the fire.
Monday, June 17, the Rangers acquired young defenseman, Jacob Trouba from the Jets. Only 25-years-old, Trouba is solid on both ends of the ice and adds some solid depth for the Rangers. Not to be outdone, the Devils acquired veteran defenseman P.K. Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators on Saturday, June 22. Subban is a Norris Trophy-winning defenseman and the Devils will surely benefit from his presence.
Both teams are making moves. Both teams look like they are trying to match each other after one makes a move. These moves are sending each squad in the right direction—where they will surely collide together in the future.
Above and beyond the matchups of Hughes vs. Kakko, Subban vs. Trouba, or both, the Hudson River Rivalry has a lot more riding on it now. Both teams are immediately set up for Stanley Cup Playoffs contention.
There will definitely be chants like “Hughes is better” or “Kakko’s better” dueling back in forth between both fans. Both teams are going to be good at the same time for the first time in seven years, and aside from a six-game slate in 2012, the tri-state area has been waiting for this since the 1990s.
It goes without saying that bragging rights have officially been laid out on the big-boy hockey table.
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