NHL: Top picks Hughes, Kakko ignite “Hudson River Rivalry”

The NHL season is upon us, and with this season’s return, perhaps one of the league’s best rivalries returns as well. 

The Hudson River rivalry flourished through the early 2000s, especially when Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur squared off. The rivalry between the Rangers and the Devils was especially heated, with a short 15-minute train ride separating their stadiums. The fans for both teams are dispersed throughout the New York and New Jersey area, making tensions run high when these teams are competing.

This year, it appears that good offseasons have catapulted these teams into the playoff conversation. Although many people think the Rangers and the Devils are too young to make a run at the Stanley Cup, they will at least prove to be difficult competition.

For both fan bases, there are different views on the rivalry. As a lifelong Rangers fan, Thomas Leone’s perspective differs from Ben Mandell’s, a lifelong Devils fan.


The Rangers have found a way to rejuvenate their fanbase for the 2019-2020 season after a commendable offseason. Being two years removed from a streak of making the playoffs 12 out of 13 years, having three Eastern Conference Final (ECF) appearances and one Stanley Cup appearance has made Rangers fans eager for another impressive season. 

The team released a statement two years ago that they were beginning a rebuild, keeping the future in mind and noting that it would take time to reach an impressive status again. 

Considering the Rangers were forward with their fans, it allowed them to buy-in on the rebuild. Rather than being pessimistic about the possibility of not being a relevant hockey team for four or five years, the Rangers changed their approach this summer and went for younger players.

They traded for the best college hockey player in 2018, defenseman Adam Fox. Then the Rangers proceeded with trading for one of the top defensemen in the league with Jacob Trouba, signed the best free agent of this year’s class with winger Artemi Panarin and took winger Kaapo Kakko in the second overall pick. 

Adding these players to the Rangers’ already young arsenal of Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich made Rangers fans optimistic about becoming relevant again. 

There was just one problem — their competitor over the Hudson was attempting to outdo every one of the Rangers’ moves. The Devils winning the draft lottery and beating the Rangers out for that first pick was frustrating for a franchise that was competing with a rival during a rebuild. 

Trading for P.K. Subban, a player who has had success against the Rangers, and then signing Wayne Simmonds and trading for Nikita Gusev continued to make tensions rise. 

The Devils made all of their moves seemingly right after the Rangers made theirs. If the Rangers traded for a defenseman, the Devils traded for one as well. 

Due to this summer, this rivalry will be great for years to come. It will now be Hughes against Kakko, Subban against Trouba and Taylor Hall against Panarin. 

The moves that were made, no more than a couple of weeks away from each other, can change each franchise for decades. This is an exciting time for Devils and Rangers fans in the tri-state area. 

Have the Devils gotten a little too much hype this offseason? Probably. But that’s a general consensus for most Rangers fans. Have the Rangers have gotten just as good if not better with adding Kakko, Trouba and Panarin instead of Hughes, Subban and Simmonds? Possibly. Devils fans probably feel the same way about their three players. Once again, it’s just another reason to state that the rivalry is back and it’s going to be a good one for fans. 


Since the Devils lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup in 2012, Devils fans haven’t had much to cheer about. The post-Brodeur years were a struggle for New Jersey, as it took them until the 2017-2018 season to make the playoffs again and that was short-lived after the Tampa Bay Lightning needed just five games to knockout New Jersey.

The Devils took a step back last year with Hall missing most of the season, but an exciting summer has the fans invested. The Rangers also made noise this offseason and it has Devils fans ready to face their biggest rival.

Adding Subban, Gusev, Simmonds and Hughes to Hall, Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri, Jesper Bratt, Blake Coleman, Damon Severson and Will Butcher will make for an exciting core for the future. 

As every Rangers fan likes to point out, New York has had more success against the Devils, but it doesn’t have that feel to it. The 2012 ECF remains fresh in the minds of Devils fans, with the anniversary of Henrique’s game-winning goal in game six being named “Henrique Day.” It was the last time these teams met in the postseason, but that can be credited to the lack of recent success for New Jersey.

There is no love lost between both of these teams, but as we ring in the Hughes-Kakko era, both teams look to prove that they picked the better player.

The teams both met on Wednesday, and it was the Devils who took round one, 5-2. The game was evenly matched and both teams opted to use their backup goalies. MacKenzie Blackwood shined for the Devils, making multiple tough saves that kept New Jersey in the game. Alexandar Georgiev also had dazzling moments, but let in a couple of goals one would expect Henrik Lundqvist to make.

On the season, it was the Devils first win, putting them to 1-4-2 through seven games. It hasn’t been a pretty start for New Jersey, which has included three blown leads of 4-0, 3-2 and 4-1. The first win should give them some confidence, but the team still needs to pile up some wins.

The Rangers are now 2-2-0 through four games after winning their first two.

It is fair to expect both of these teams to improve as the new veterans mesh with the young talents that both of these teams brought in. The top teams in the Eastern Conference may not include New York or New Jersey, but the future definitely does.