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June 13, 2007

NHL Entry Draft History: 1976

In a cost cutting measure, the NHL downsized its annual entry draft in 1976, allowing for only 135 picks. Several of its member teams were in financial difficulty, and the bidding war for junior player services with the rival WHA proved costly. The Central Scouting Bureau was created so that individual teams could save on scouting expenses.

Of the 135 draftees, 73 would graduate to the NHL. History would show that the draft got off to a very slow start. Washington selected defenseman Rick Green. Green was a fine defensive defenseman, but one dimensionally so and very nondescript. He wasn't a bust, but he wasn't the prototypical star a 1st overall pick is expected to be, either.

That's alright, neither were the subsequent picks of Blair Chapman, Glen Sharpley and Fred Williams. California provided the shock of the draft at #5, picking Swedish defenseman Bjorn Johansson, easily the highest draft placing of any European. That was about the only time he raised any eyebrows in North America though. He would play just 15 NHL games with the relocated franchise in Cleveland.

The first star of the draft was Don Murdoch, drafted by the Rangers at #6. "Murder" was the toast of Manhattan before drugs and alcohol ruined his promising career.

The clean cut Bernie Federko followed at #7 by St. Louis, and he would be the only Hall of Famer of the class of '76. Buddy Cloutier was drafted 9th, and he was electrifying as Murdoch, but most of his great years came in the World Hockey Association.

Otherwise the 1st round featured forgettable support players like Peter Lee, Paul Gardner and Rod Schutt.

If Federko was the face of Blues, they drafted their heart and soul in round 2. Brian Sutter headlined a 2nd round that also included Greg Malone, Reed Larson, Randy Carlyle and future coach/broadcaster Barry Melrose.

Some later finds included Mike McEwan, Thomas Gradin, Morris Lukowich, Mike Liut (yet another St. Louis cornerstone), Kent Nilsson, Ken Morrow, Ron Wilson and Anders Hakansson.

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