June 25, 2015

A Little NHL Draft History


It's NHL Entry Draft day. Enjoy it, folks. I think this year we will see some intriguing story lines from the draft and from the trade fronts.

Here are some year by year capsule reviews of NHL drafts gone by:

1963 - 1964 - 1965 - 1966 - 1967 - 1968 - 1969 - 1970 - 1971 - 1972 - 1973 - 1974 - 1975 - 1976 - 1977 - 1978 - 1979 - 1980 - 1981 - 1982 - 1983 - 1984

Also, take a look at these pieces:

All Time 1st Overall Draft Selections
Best Players Never Drafted
Infamous Draft Trades



My fascination with the National Hockey League Entry Draft more or less began in 1990 with Petr Nedved.

As a young fan of the lowly Vancouver Canucks, the draft represented hope. With Trevor Linden in place as the heart and soul, the team desperately needed a scoring superstar. With the draft in Vancouver and with the Canucks holding three of the first twenty-three picks, including #2 overall pick, these were exciting times.

The draft was said to be, and would prove to be, one of the deepest in history. Mike Ricci entered the previous season as the consensus top pick, but Owen Nolan and Keith Primeau caught up quickly. Jaromir Jagr would have undoubtedly been the top choice but there was risk because his availability was still in doubt as political reform was still in progress.

But the man I wanted was another Czech player - Petr Nedved.

All eyes were on the spindly Czech kid who did nothing to hide his fascination with Wayne Gretzky. He emulated him in every way. He tucked in his shirt the same, wore the same Jofa helmet, and copied his hunched over skating style. He'd fly down the wing, curl at the blue line looking for an amazing pass, although he really should have been more greedy and use his laser of a shot more often.

Nedved was a household name among hockey fans, bravely defecting to the Canada at age 16 to great fanfare to chase his dream of playing in the National Hockey League. Nedved tore up the Western Hockey League with 65 goals and 145 points in 71 games. His offense was undeniable. He had the creativity and vision of #99. He was a game breaker through and through. He had already showed more courage than any other player possibly could.

I, like a lot of west coast fans, desperately wanted Vancouver to take Nedved. The rumour at the time had Philadelphia was supposedly offering Ron Sutter and Scott Mellanby if Vancouver flipped picks and slipped down to #4. They wanted Nedved too.

The Canucks did take Nedved, but did not really not what to do with him. He made the NHL team immediately, but he was too slight to make an impact. But sending him back to junior was not an option either, as he was too good for that league, and he had no other place to play. So the Canucks coddled him on the 4th line. To this day I believe Nedved's development was stagnated by this decision. He probably should have been returned to junior, even if the WHL offered no competition.

Nedved, despite glimpses of brilliance, never really found his way in the NHL until his third season. I don't think he ever came close to matching my expectations as a NHL player, no matter how much I wanted him too. Then again, my expectations were unfairly through the roof.

You can read more about Petr Nedved here. But Nedved is not the point of this long post.

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