June 12, 2007

NHL Entry Draft History: 1970

In 1970 two new franchises were awarded in the NHL — the Buffalo Sabres and the Vancouver Canucks. The two franchises were slotted to pick 1 and 2 in the NHL Entry Draft, with a spin of a roulette wheel to determine which of the two would pick first. The Canucks would have numbers one through six, while seven through 12 belonged to the Sabres. The rest of the teams drafted in reverse order of their 1969-70 finish.

The prize: Gilbert Perreault, easily the class of the draft both back then and in historical retrospect. He was a scoring superstar who tap danced through opposition defenses, the perfect player to build a franchise around.

When the wheel stopped, Vancouver cheered ecstatically, somehow confusing the number 11 for the roman numeral II. The spin was quickly verified. Buffalo had won the draft lottery. They subsequently picked Perreault, and gave him the number 11.

How important was that spin? Buffalo almost immediately became a Stanley Cup threat, and a very respected organization right from the get-go. Vancouver drafted talented defenseman Dale Tallon, but were unable to properly develop him. The franchise languished in mediocrity for much of its first 20 years.

Tallon was a solid pick, but the Canucks rushed him into the lineup and could not decide whether to use him as a defenseman or a forward, hindering his development. Though circumstances always are altered in different situations, the Canucks could have done better with Reggie Leach or Rick MacLeish, drafted 3rd and 4th overall by Boston, though both were best known as key members of the Philadelphia Flyers championships. Or the Canucks could have taken Darryl Sittler, drafted 8th by Toronto, the only Hall of Famer other than Perreault from the first round.
One other Hall of Famer graduated to the big leagues in the 1970 draft. Billy Smith, the Islanders dynastic goalie, was drafted 59th overall by Los Angeles. Other late round finds included goaltenders Dan Bouchard (27th), Gilles Meloche (70th) and Ron Low (103rd)

Other notable names from the draft include forwards Dan Maloney (14th), Bill Clement (18th), Hound Dog Kelly (32nd) and Yvon Lambert (40th). It was a very weak year for defenseman, as other than Tallon the best of the crop was either Bob Stewart or Fred Barrett.

The notable draft bust of 1970 was Ray Martynuik, a goalie from Flin Flon drafted 5th overall by Montreal. Thanks largely to Montreal's great depth in net, including starter Ken Dryden, Martynuik was buried in the farm system and never got a chance to play in the NHL.

An interesting story is that of Pittsburgh's 110th pick - Ron Lemieux, who never played in the NHL. Ron Lemieux is of no relation to Mario Lemieux, but he became a noted politician and cabinet minster in Manitoba.

In total, 115 players were drafted in 1970. 66 were forwards, 36 defenders and 12 goalies, with one player unidentified. 109 of the draftees were Canadian, the other 6 were American as no Europeans were drafted. 60 of the 115 draftees would play at least one game in the NHL, a success rate of 52%.

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