July 29, 2015

Dan Focht

The fastest rising star of the 1996 NHL draft was Dan Focht. He started his draft season as a mid round prospect, but rose all the way to the 11th overall pick.

And how could a scout not be intrigued. 6'6"and 225lbs. Very mobile for such a giant. He certainly was not shy to use his physical advantages, though he lacked a true mean streak. There was little offensive upside to Focht's games, but with general managers drooling about the next Derian Hatcher or Scott Stevens.

The Phoenix Coyotes, freshly relocated from Winnipeg, made him the first ever draft pick by the new team. He was selected ahead of Derek Morris, Dainus Zubrus, Marco Sturm, Daniel Briere, Corey Sarich and Matt Cullen, all of whom would play close to 1000 games or more in the NHL.

Coyotes manager selected the hulking Focht largely based on the Team Orr vs Team Cherry, a mid-season all star game of sorts for the top prospects. Focht was not even supposed to play, but was a last minute replacement for the injured Ric Jackman. Focht was so dominant on that nationally televised game that he was named as the game's MVP.

Focht's career trajectory did not continue on the same fast path. It would take him six years before he would ever play a NHL game. His stops included the AHL, ECHL and Finland.

In the 2001-02 season Focht finally appeared in a Coyotes uniform, playing in nine games.  He also got into what proved to be his only NHL playoff game, picking up his first assist.

In 2002-03 he returned to Phoenix for 10 games before being traded to Pittsburgh with Ramzi Abid and Guillaume Lefebvre for Jan Hrdina and Francois Leroux.

The move to Pittsburgh was a good move for Focht's career. He finished the year playing 12 more games. He also played the full 2003-04 season in Pittsburgh, scoring two goals and five points while averaging 17 minutes per game with the rebuilding Penguins.

Focht was a casualty of the 2004-05 lost lockout season. He signed AHL level contracts for two more seasons before retiring from the game at age 28.

Focht returned to his native Saskatchewan where he coaches youth hockey and is an avid outdoorsman.

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