July 14, 2013

Andy Brickley

The NHL Entry Draft is a crap-shoot at the best of times. Even first round picks have proven time and time again to be very unpredictable. Later round picks, as you might imagine, are almost a matter of picking a player you like and hope you find a diamond in the rough. Now imagine having the last pick overall in an Entry Draft. Chances are pretty good that that player will never see any NHL action. In fact its likely the last player taken will never be invited to an NHL training camp.

This article is being written late in the 1998 calendar year. As of the time of the writing of this article, only 3 players who were selected last overall saw NHL action. Two were Eastern European players who were selected prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain. The Edmonton Oilers never expected to have Igor Vyazmikin, the 252nd overall pick in 1987, dress for the Oil for 4 games (scoring one goal). Likewise the Calgary Flames selected Sergei Priahkin 252nd overall in 1988. Priahkin became the first Soviet player to be allowed to play in the NHL.

The Philadelphia Flyers made Andy Brickley the 210th (and last) pick in 1980. The C/LW from the University of New Hampshire holds the title of highest scoring last overall pick in NHL history. In 385 NHL games, Brickly scored 82 goals and 140 assists for 222 points.

Brickley would develop into a NCAA All-American after being drafted. He also became one of the top junior aged prospects in the USA and represented his country at the 1981 World Junior Championships.

Brickley left college a year early to turn pro. He only played 3 games for the Flyers but was an all star with the AHL's Maine Mariners. He would be traded to cross-state rival Pittsburgh Penguins in 1983.

A good skater with good vision of the ice, Brickley was largely used as a defensive role player. However he put up some decent stats in his stints in the NHL. He played 50 games with the Pens in 1983-84, scoring 18 goals and 38 points. He would falter the following season and spent most of the next two seasons in the minors before joining New Jersey as a free agent.

New Jersey was a very weak team at the time, and provided Brickley with the opportunity of NHL employment. He was used sparingly as a role player for two season before he was picked up by his hometown Boston Bruins.

It was in Boston that Brickley enjoyed his best seasons. 1988-89 saw Brickley play a career high 71 games, scoring 35 points. The next season he exploded offensively but had his season cut short by a serious injury. He ended the season playing only 43 games but he scored a career high 40 points. He never regained the offensive form he showed and had trouble regaining his regular role as a checker. In fact the following season he played in 40 games (scoring only 2 goals and 11 points) and finished the season in the minors.

1991-92 saw Brickley return to the NHL after a fantastic start in the AHL with 20 points in 14 games. Upon his return to the NHL he continued his offensive spurt by scoring 10 goals and 17 assists in 23 games. However a serious abdominal pull all but ended Brickley's season.

The Bruins released the injury prone and soft winger and Brickley signed on with Winnipeg. He would only appear in 14 games over two seasons with the Jets, spending most of his time in the AHL. When released by the Jets Brickley signed with the IHL's Denver/Utah Grizzlies and played in parts of three seasons with the IHL Champs. Brickley was a huge part of the Grizzlies playoff runs in both 1995 and 1996, leading the entire IHL in playoff assists and points and helping the Grizz win the Turner Cup in 1995.

Andy Brickley defied all the scouts who had all but written him off. The 1980 Entry Draft's last overall selection enjoyed a 15 year pro career.

Following retirement Brickley became a popular hockey analyst in Boston, and has even been nominated for two Emmy Awards.

No comments: