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April 09, 2016

Perry Turnbull

The 1979 NHL Entry Draft has long been hailed as one of the all great draft classes. The first round alone saw 11 of it's 21 picks play at least 1000 games each, including the likes of Mike Gartner, Raymond Bourque, Michel Goulet and Kevin Lowe.

There were no real misses in that first round. But one of the more anonymous players in history's eyes was the second overall pick was Perry Turnbull.

The St. Louis Blues selected Turnbull ahead of the aforementioned legends and with good reason. Turnbull was a six-foot-two, 200 pound center/left winger who had just scored 75 goals and earned nearly 200 penalty minutes in 70 games with the Portland Winterhawks.

Turnbull had a nice nine year career in the NHL. Three consecutive seasons he topped 30 goals with the Blues. In a career which included stops in Montreal and Winnipeg he was a six times 20 goal scorer. In total he scored 188 goals and 351 points in 608 career games, all while accumulating 1245 penalty minutes.

Yet he remains one of the least known members of the famous 1979 draft class.

The Blues were thrilled to get him. They had visions of reuniting him with Wayne Babych, who played in Portland as well. They envisioned him as strong two way power forward, who could play it rough and tough or run and gun.

In the three seasons he hit 30 goals in St. Louis he was very good. He was not the same combination of physicality and talent as teammate Brian Sutter, but he was was a nice compliment to the Blues heart and soul player.

The Blues moved Turnbull to center, a position he was comfortable with even if he would have preferred to stay on the left boards. But the Blues had Sutter and skilled Jorgen Pettersson on the top two lines there.

Perhaps that as much as anything led to Turnbull's exit. They were looking for more of a skilled centerman to play behind Bernie Federko.

In the middle of the 1983-84 season the Blues swapped Turnbull to Montreal in exchange for a nice return - Gilbert Delorme, Doug Wickenheiser and Greg Paslawski. It was hoped that Wickenheiser could find his offensive game with the Blues.

"It's going to be tough to replace three players," Turnbull joked at the time.

Montreal coach Bob Berry was thrilled.

"We've got to win in Boston, Quebec and Buffalo. you can't play there with eggs in your pocket. In Turnbull we feel we're getting an aggressive player who can score."

While Turnbull was hailed upon his arrival, it was short lived. He scored just six goals in 40 games and was a target for the fans and media alike. He was traded to Winnipeg for Lucien Deblois in the summer time.

Turnbull left the NHL in 1988 and played several more years in Italy and Germany.

He returned to St. Louis after hanging up his skates. He had owned a travel agency there since his playing days. He got involved with the St. Louis Vipers professional inline skate hockey team, serving as both a player and an assistant coach. He later owned his own roller hockey rink.

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