June 11, 2007

NHL Entry Draft History: 1969

1969 marked the first time the amateur draft would completely enter the modern stage. All junior prospects were eligible for drafting as the old sponsorship system had been phased out. Under the draft system, all teams had a chance to acquire the top prospects in junior hockey, although teams would bedraft in reverse order of finish the previous season. This gave the worst teams a chance to improve.

There was one notable exception to the reverse order rule. Since the draft's inception in 1963, the Montreal Canadiens, operating in the only non-English market in the NHL, cleverly used their political pull to secure the top two French-Canadian players in any draft until 1969, should they choose.

The Canadiens took full advantage of this rule in 1969, seeing as though the exemption would be discontinued in 1970 and beyond. The Habs proceeded to select Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif, both from the Montreal Jr. Canadiens. Other notable first rounders included Dick Redmond, Moose Dupont, Ivan Boldirev and John Van Boxmeer. There was no real star player, although Tardif did put up some terrific numbers in the upstart World Hockey Association.

1969 was a weak draft year, full of busts. Boston picked third and fourth, selecting two wingers: Don Tannahill from Niagara Falls and Frank Spring from Edmonton. The duo combined for just a paltry 172 career games.

Philadelphia did even worse. With the 6th pick they draft Bob Currier of Cornwall. Currier would join 9th overall pick Ernie Moser of Toronto as the only two 1st round picks of 1969 never to play in the playoffs.

The Flyers made up for the Currier bust by overlooking the diabetic health concerns of Bobby Clarke in round 2, 17th overall. Without a doubt Clarke proved to be the best of the class. He is the only player from that year to be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Philadelphia also found some late round help two, securing two physical forwards who could play over 500 games each:
Dave "The Hammer" Schultz (52nd) and Don Saleski (64th)
But the most notable late round find was easily Butch Goring, 51st by Los Angeles. Goring, a 4 time Stanley Cup champion with the NY Islanders, would join Boldirev and Clarke as the only three players from this draft to play in over 1000 NHL games.

Although he would never play in the National Hockey League,
Tommi Salmelainen made NHL history when he was drafted 66th overall by the St. Louis Blues. The Finn became the first European trained player drafted by the NHL. (note - though Boldirev was born in Zranjanin, Yugoslavia, he moved to Canada as an infant.) Salmelainen's son Tony Salmelainen did make the NHL after being drafted 30 years later.

Of the 84 players selected in 1969 (58 forwards, 18 defenseman and 8 goaltenders), 49 of them would play at least one game in the NHL. 78 of the 84 players were Canadian.

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