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June 16, 2007

NHL Entry Draft History: 1980

The 1980 Entry Draft may always be remembered for the controversy over the top selection, but its great legacy will its depth and diversity.

Because the 1980 draft was part of a transitional period from 20-year-old drafts in the 1970s to the underage-draft years of the 1980s, it included a wide range of players born from 1960 to 1962. As a result, several talented players were available in late rounds, particularly older players who had been ignored in 1979.

The lower age minimum placed high school players in both the U.S. and Canada and Canadian Tier II junior players in attractive positions. And with the draft expanded to 210 total selections, more Europeans were selected than ever before. Late round finds included many great Europeans.

Making this draft unique was it was the first draft that was open for public viewing. 2500 fans attended the proceedings at the Montreal Forum, eager to witness the hometown Canadiens make the 1st overall pick.

The battle for top billing was between the universally agreed upon top player, Doug Wickenheiser of the Regina Pats, vs. the hometown favorite, Denis Savard from Pointe Gatineau.

Wickenheiser was the Canadian Junior Player of the Year, scoring 89 goals and 170 points. He was the WHL MVP and led the Pats to a Memorial Cup appearance. Savard was no slouch either, obviously. The QMJHL MVP scored 63 goals and 181 points while playing with "Trois Denis Line" with the Montreal Jr. Canadiens. (Savard's linemates, Denis Cyr and Denis Tremblay, not only shared the same first name but also the exact same birth date.

Montreal opted for the bigger and two-way Wickenheiser, a move that would not pan out. Savard, who was drafted 3rd overall by the Blackhawks, would quickly become an electrifying NHL superstar in Chicago. Under the immense pressure from the already unhappy Montreal fans and media, Wickenheiser was doomed to fail, although he did play over 500 games and transformed himself into a very good checking center.

Savard fell to #3 because Winnipeg took the #2 rate player, and top rated defenseman, Dave Babych. Babych enjoyed a fine career, but his legacy is somewhat overshadowed by some of the other members of a strong blue line draft class of 1980, namely Hall of Famers Larry Murphy and Paul Coffey.

Other notable 1st rounders included Rick Lanz, Jim Fox, Mike Bullard, Brent Sutter and Barry Pederson. Otherwise there was a lot of misses or fringe players, such as Darren Veitch, Fred Arthur (who quit hockey a year later and became a doctor), Denis Cyr, Jim Malone, Jerome Dupont, Brad Palmer, Steve Patrick and Mike Stothers.

Other notables to come out of this draft: Moe Mantha, Normand Rochefort, Craig Muni, Don Beaupre, Kelly Hrudey, Troy Murray, Craig Ludwig, Tom Fergus, Carey Wilson, Jari Kurri, Kevin McClelland, Bernie Nicholls, Greg Gilbert, Steve Kasper, Aaron Broten, Reijo Ruotslainen, Steve Larmer, Mike McPhee, Brian Mullen, Andy Moog, Doug Lidster, Randy Cunneyworth, Patrik Sundstrom, and Hakan Loob.

Of interest, Andy Brickley was chosen last overall, #210. He did appear in 385 NHL games, scoring 82 goals and 222 points, the best of any last overall pick in NHL draft history.

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