Derek King was an underrated player with the New York Islanders in the 1990s. Late in his career he also played two seasons with Toronto and brief appearances with Hartford and St. Louis.
King was born in Hamilton, Ontario. He grew up playing both forward and defense. In fact, in his final midget season before jumping to the Ontario Hockey League he spent much of the season lining up on the blue line.
King went on to an impressive OHL career as forward with the Soo Greyhounds and Oshawa Generals. He would be a first round draft choice (13th overall) by the Islanders in 1985. He then exploded with a 53 goal, 106 final season in junior.
As a pro King was quickly noted as a power play specialist and a talented finisher. He had a booming shot and a nose for the net. Furthermore he was not afraid to go to the danger zone around the goalie and get take his bumps and bruises to bang in rebounds and deflect shots.
But his adjustment to the NHL was slow. For all his talents he had to learn how to better use his size to create space for himself and his linemates. He also had to work hard to become a reliable defensive player.
The Islanders were rewarded by 1991. King spent a lot of time skating along side newly acquired star center Pierre Turgeon. Turgeon was a great playmaker and the perfect set up man King had never had a chance to play with at the NHL level. While Turgeon quietly became one of the best players in the league, King also emerged as a top gunner. In the next three seasons he would score 40, 38 and 30 goals, respectively.
When Turgeon left the Islanders in 1995, so too did King's lofty goal totals. Injuries certainly did not help, as he battled foot and jaw injuries plus a concussion. Ultimately he struggled for the next two seasons before returning to the 23 goal mark in 1996-97. He would finish the season in Hartford.
King signed as a free agent by the Leafs the next season and would have to two more seasons with 20-plus goals. The most notable of the goals he scored in Toronto came on February 13th, 1999 when he scored the final goal by a Leafs player ever at Maple Leaf Gardens.
The Leafs moved into the Air Canada Centre days later, but King was not a part of their future plans. He would move on to St. Louis the next season but spent most of the next five years playing in the minor leagues, with a season also played in Germany.
King went on to be an assistant coach at both the AHL and major junior levels.