Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A brief history of NHL expansion drafts getting weird

One week from today, the NHL will announce the results of the expansion draft and the Vegas Golden Knights will be born. It’s an exciting time in the NHL, with the first expansion draft since 2000 and first ever held under a salary-cap system.

But while an expansion draft is a novelty for modern NHL fans, that hasn’t always been the case. This league has done an awful lot of expanding since 1967, with some decidedly mixed results. So today, let’s take a moment to look back on the various expansion drafts that came before this one, the players that were chosen, and the oddities that always seem to pop up whenever the NHL decides to welcome new members of the family.

(Much of the information in this post was found trough the indispensable Historical Hockey blog, the HockeyDB database of expansion draft results, and


We’ll start with the big one. The 1967 expansion draft wasn’t the NHL’s first; the league had added several teams in its earliest days, all with some sort of mechanism to stock the new franchises with players from existing teams. But it was the 1967 process that spelled the end of an era, as the league doubled in size by welcoming six new teams.

As you’d expect, adding that many teams meant that a lot of guys had to be made available. But the league’s 1967 rules were actually slightly more generous to the existing teams than the 2017 draft. Teams could protect 11 skaters and one goaltender, with exemptions for younger players, and could add players to their protected list as the draft went on. (Legend has it that Habs GM Sam Pollock personally crafted the rules to ensure the best possible result for Montreal.)

Still, with so many new rosters to fill, each of the Original Six teams was going to have to cough up a total of 20 players. Think about that the next time the GM of your favourite team moans about losing a fourth-line winger to Vegas.

As with most expansion drafts, the focus was on goaltenders; only six in the entire league were initially protected, so there were plenty of big names to choose from. That included the first-overall pick, Terry Sawchuk, who went from the Maple Leafs to the Kings (although he’d threatened to retire if he was picked), as well as Glenn Hall, who went from Chicago to St. Louis with the third pick. The skaters weren’t quite so notable, although some decent picks like Jean-Paul Parise and Bill Goldsworthy were snagged.

Best player taken: With apologies to Hall and Sawchuk, the draft’s best pick was a younger goalie; the Flyers used the second-overall pick to grab Bernie Parent from the Bruins. He’d make a detour to Toronto and the WHA before rejoining the Flyers in time to win back-to-back Conn Smythe trophies.

Notable oddity: Legendary sniper Bernie Geoffrion was technically available, but all 12 teams formed a gentleman’s agreement that he wouldn’t be taken and forced to finish his career on an expansion squad.


The NHL’s next crack at expansion was a smaller one, as the Sabres and Canucks joined the league. This time, there wasn’t much to choose from, since the Original Six weren’t all that interested in helping out another wave of newcomers and the six 1967 expansion teams were all still reasonably terrible.

Only two players taken in this draft went on to score even 200 points over the remainder of their career. Gerry Meehan had 418 after being taken by Buffalo, while Mike Corrigan had 337 for the Canucks.

Best player taken: It’s probably a tossup between Meehan and Vancouver’s Orland Kurtenbach. Meehan, of course, went on to become the Sabres GM in 1986; he made the trade that brought Dominik Hasek to Buffalo. But the Sabres weren’t the only team to find a future GM in this draft, as the Canucks picked Pat Quinn with the eighth pick.

Notable oddity: The draft order was determined by the same ridiculous roulette wheel that the league infamously used (and then misread) to figure out which of Vancouver or Buffalo would get to draft Gilbert Perreault.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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