O n Friday night, the NHL will gather at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the 50th Draft in League history.
On June 5, 1963, the six NHL teams gathered at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel for the first Draft in history. The original Draft was instituted due to the domination of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens in terms of recruiting young prospects. The first Draft was 4 rounds long, consisting of 21 picks among the League’s six teams (teams were allowed to pass on selections if they did not see anyone they felt worthy).
For the first Draft, only 16-year-old players were eligible to be selected. At the time, the practice in the NHL was for the clubs to individually sponsor junior clubs. The Draft was also instituted as a way to move away from this practice and – again – to bring parity into the recruiting of younger players.
1. The first player ever drafted in NHL history was Garry Monahan. The Canadiens selected Monahan #1 overall from the St. Michael’s Buzzers in the inaugural 1963 draft. Monahan, a native of Barrie, Ontario, made his NHL debut with the Canadiens in the 1967-68 season. Over the next 12 years, he would bounce around between the Detroit Red Wings, the Los Angeles Kings, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks. At the end of his NHL career, Monahan had played in 748 games, scored 116 goals, added 169 assists for 285 career points.
2. The first Hall of Famer ever acquired through the NHL Entry Draft was Ken Dryden. Dryden was acquired in the third round of the 1964 Draft by the Boston Bruins. On the same day he was drafted, he was traded immediately to Montreal for Paul Reid and Guy Allen. In an unusual path at the time, Dryden opten to play in the NCAA instead of playing junior in order to earn a degree from Cornell University, winning the 1967 NCAA championship. Dryden’s record at Cornell was 76-4-1, an absolutely unheard of 93.8% winning percentage. Finally, in 1970, Dryden joined the Montreal Voyageurs of the AHL, playing 33 games and winning 16 before being called up to the Canadiens late in the season. In his 6 late season starts in 1970-71, Dryden won all 6, posting a 1.65 GAA. He would be Montreal’s starting goaltender during the playoffs instead of veteran Rogie Vachon. The rookie – with only 6 NHL games under his belt – would backstop the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup, taking home the Conn Smythe in his very first postseason. The following season, Dryden – still officially a rookie – captured the Calder Trophy. He would go on to win the Stanley Cup again in 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979 – a total of 6 Cups with Montreal. Dryden only played in 7 full NHL seasons, however, he won 5 Vezina trophies and added 5 All Star appearances, 258 regular season wins, 80 playoff wins, 46 regular season shutouts and 10 postseason shutouts. In 1983, he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, Paul Reid and Guy Allen never made it to the NHL.
3. The first Hall of Famer who was selected first overall was Gilbert Perrault. In 1970, the Buffalo Sabres selected Perrault first overall from the Montreal Junior Canadiens. Perrault made his debut in Buffalo the following season, scoring 38 goals and adding 34 assists in his rookie year, enough to earn the 1970 Calder Trophy. Over the next 17 seasons, Perrault would play in 1,191 NHL games, rack up 512 goals and add another 814 assists for a total of 1,326 career points. He still holds the Sabres record for career games, goals, assists and points. A 9-time All Star and winner of the 1973 Lady Byng Trophy, Perrault was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990.
4. In 1974, the Sabres drafted Taro Tsujimoto from the Tokyo Katanas in the 11th round of the Draft. One small problem – neither Tsujimoto nor the Katanas existed. Buffalo general manager Punch Imlach was bored with the process and decided to play a practical joke. The league officially lists the Tsujimoto pick as an “invalid claim’. However, Buffalo still lists Tsujimoto in all of their official publications as the pick in the 1974 Draft.
5. In 1984, the Los Angeles Kings selected a 300-game winner at #69 overall in the fourth round. Thomas Michael Glavine was selected ahead of future NHL Hall of Famers Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille. Glavine, of course, would never win an NHL game. Instead, he won 305 Major League Baseball games, appeared in 10 Major League All Star games, won two Cy Young Awards, was named World Series MVP and won the clinching game of the 1995 World Series, a game in which he pitched 8 innings of one-hit shutout baseball. Tom Glavine – with Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Steve Avery – was part of one of the greatest pitching rotations in Major League Baseball history during his Atlanta Braves career. However, he was also a top hockey prospect, winning his high school league’s most valuable player award. Glavine would go on to play one professional game in the 2009-10 season with the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators – in his lone appearance, finished with zeroes across the board.
6. While many consider Patrik Stefan – Atlanta’s first overall pick in 1999 – to be the biggest draft bust in recent memory (Stefan played just 455 NHL games before calling it quits in 2007), the first overall picks in 1964, 1965 and 1967 never played a single NHL game. In 1964, the Red Wings selected Claude Gauthier first overall and, in 1965, the Rangers selected Andre Veilleux – neither ever made it past junior hockey. Finally, in 1967, the Kings selected Rick Pagnutti with the top pick. Pagnutti bounced around the AHL and IHL for the next 10 seasons, but never made it into the NHL. The 1964 Draft could go down as the worst first round in history as zero of the six players selected in the first round ever saw an NHL game. In fact, were it not for the drafting of future Hall of Famer Ken Dryden, it could have been the worst draft in history.
7. Every draft from 1963 to 1984 was held in Montreal. In 1985, the Draft was held at the Toronto Convention Center before returning to Montreal in 1986. In 1987, Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena hosted before it again returned to Montreal in 1988. Of the 50 Drafts, 26 have been hosted by Montreal. Pittsburgh – this year’s host – hosted the 1997 Draft at Mellon Arena, “The Igloo”. In that Draft, future San Jose linemates Joe Thornton (Boston) and Patrick Marleau (San Jose) were taken first and second overall.
8. In 1983, Ralston-Purina, the owners of the St. Louis Blues, were in the midst of selling the team to a group who planned to relocate the team to Saskatchewan. Ralston-Purina had determined that the team was either being sold and relocated or it would be contracted by the league. Thus, the Blues did not have a representative at the 1983 Draft and forfeited all of their picks. Selected in that Draft were future Hall of Famers Slava Fetisov, Pat LaFontaine, Cam Neely, and Steve Yzerman, as well as future All Stars Tom Barrasso, Brian Bradley, Russ Courtnall, Dave Gagner, Garry Galley, Dominik Hasek, Alexei Kasatanov, Uwe Krupp, John MacLean, Bob Probert, Daren Puppa, Christian Ruuttu, Kevin Stevens, Rick Tocchet, and Sylvain Turgeon. The Blues, it turned out, neither relocated nor contracted. In fact, they made it to the second round of the playoffs the following season and two years later, won their first ever Norris Division title.