NEWARK, N.J. -- It was almost four months ago that New Jersey natives Peter McMullen and Matt Killian were helping lead Delbarton to an unprecedented fourth straight Non-Public high school championship at the Prudential Center.
The duo made a triumphant return to the area this week as invites to the New Jersey Devils rookie camp at the connecting arena, AmeriHealth Pavilion. Only this time, instead of parading the championship trophy on the ice in the presence of over 7,300-plus fans, they were on opposite teams looking to get the best of each other in front of Devils staff and media members.
"I think I got him good a couple of times during practices this year (at Delbarton) but we were on opposite teams at the camp and there were a bunch of guys rotating in and out so everyone looked the same with the same equipment," Killian told NHL.com. "It was tough to point him out, but if I get a chance to hit him, I'll hit him."
"We never did go head-to-head, but I was watching him out there," McMullen said with a grin.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Killian was actually NHL Central Scouting's top-rated (No. 97) draft-eligible high school player from New Jersey back in April. Despite that fact, the All-State defenseman, who finished the season with 8 goals and 27 points, never heard his name at the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn.
"I'm not going to lie, it's definitely disappointing," Killian said. "I had a little bit of expectations to get picked, but it's definitely motivating. I'll work harder … every time I step on the ice I have something to prove. I think it's awesome getting the opportunity to come to Devils rookie camp in preparation for college next fall. It's a great experience for me to get a taste of what pro hockey is all about."
Delbarton fans will recall Killian's goal that pulled the Green Wave into a 2-2 tie in the state championship game with just 2:10 remaining in the third period, converting a 2-on-1 breakout.
"Coming from New Jersey (Basking Ridge), I've been a Devils fan my whole life and have been watching them play since I was a little kid," Killian said. "Obviously, to see guys like Scott Stevens and Larry Robinson on the ice as instructors is absolutely incredible. It's an honor to see them here and be taught by such a great group of guys."
Unlike Killian, McMullen, who was ranked No. 200 on Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters, didn't expect to be drafted, although he admits it was honor to be mentioned. The Livingston, N.J., native is the grandson of the late Dr. John McMullen -- the man responsible for bringing NHL hockey to the Garden State in 1982 -- and the son of Devils executive vice president of operations, Peter S. McMullen.
"I really didn't expect to be drafted, but it was cool to be on the list," he told NHL.com. "I watched Matt out there when I was on the bench and he looked confident. I think he was upset he didn't get drafted, but he'll use that as motivation and do well next year.
"As far as the camp goes, it was a lot different than high school, that's for sure. Everyone was fast and a lot bigger and stronger; the puck moves really fast and there are no weak links out there. Everyone is phenomenal and I just have to take the time to adjust."
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound center scored two goals, including the decisive tally 4:41 into overtime to give Delbarton (24-3-2) a 3-2 victory over St. Augustine in the state championship game on March 13. The game was the first Non-Public final to go to OT since 2005, when Christian Brothers earned a 2-1 decision over Delbarton on a goal by current Philadelphia Flyers forward and Middletown native James van Riemsdyk.
"That championship meant a lot to us, we were prepared all season," McMullen said. "Coach (Bruce) Shatel did a good job preparing us and we worked hard all season. St. Augustine was really a good team and it was great to go out on top."
McMullen, who finished the season as the leading scorer for the state's No. 1-ranked team with 25 goals and 45 points, was chosen in the 19th round (No. 281) by the Omaha Lancers during the 2011 United States Hockey League entry draft in May. He'll play for the Lancers in 2011-12 before heading to Boston College in the fall of 2012.
"I'll play a year in Omaha in the USHL and hopefully be more prepared for B.C. and I'm looking forward to it," McMullen said. "I know (B.C.) coach (Jerry) York talked to me before the draft and there was a lot of respect for the coach in Omaha (Bliss Littler). Omaha also has a tradition of winning and they have a really good program, so I'm really looking forward to it."
Killian, who has a strict workout regimen planned for the summer, will enter Yale in September.
"I hope I'm in their plans right away," he said. "They lose three key defensemen, so I think it's anybody's job this year and being a right-shot defenseman, maybe I can step right in."
While the speed and strength of the players was an upgrade over the scholastic game he played for four seasons, Killian certainly held his own during rookie camp.
"It was definitely faster and everyone is bigger and stronger, so it was a little bit of an adjustment," he said. "We had the morning sessions, so I got that hour to adjust but I thought I was right there with them."
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