The path to the Stanley Cup begins at the draft.
The men in the suits like to think that what is seen on draft day is science. They watch players for years, get the consensus of scouts and executives based on production, size, strength and intangible characteristics and they make their selections.
However, it is not science. No matter how many times you watch a player in junior or college competition, you can never know for sure how a player is going to turn out. In many cases, mistakes are made.
Some mistakes turn out to be hilarious. Ridiculous conclusions are drawn and lines in the sand are drawn. Here's a look at the 20 most hilarious moments in NHL draft history.
The Great Guy Lafleur could have been drafted by Oakland.
Jean Beliveau was nearing the end of his career with the Montreal Canadiens, and general manager Sam Pollock knew he needed a superstar to replace his team's aging legend.
He wanted Guy Lafleur. He manipulated the expansion Oakland Seals and managed to get their No. 1 pick in the 1971 draft by trading their top pick in the 1970 draft and winger Ernie Hickey.
Pollock figured the Seals would be an awful team, but as the 1971 season got underway, the Los Angeles Kings were playing even worse than the Seals. That meant they might be in a position to have the No. 1 pick and take Lafleur or trade his rights. Pollock knew that was not in the Canadiens' best interest, so he traded forward Ralph Backstrom to Los Angeles. Pollock figured that Backstrom would make the Kings stronger and they would not finish in the basement.
Pollock was right, as usual. Instead of ending up with the second pick—which could have been Marcel Dionne—they had the No. 1 pick and selected Lafleur.
A spin of a wheel helped the Sabres draft Gil Perreault
The NHL expanded prior to the 1970-71 season, adding teams in Buffalo and Vancouver. The powers that be decided the two expansion teams would be allowed to have the first two picks in the 1970 draft.
But who would get the first pick? The league decided it would create a "wheel of fortune." There were 20 spots on the wheel. Spots 1 through 10 belonged to Vancouver and spots 11 through 20 belonged to Buffalo.
When NHL commissioner Clarence Campbell spun the wheel, it appeared to land on No. 1. However, Buffalo GM Punch Imlach pointed out that the wheel's spinner was blocking out another No. 1. The wheel had actually landed on 11, and the soon-to-be-named Sabres were able to draft the great Gilbert Perreault. Vancouver ended up drafting Dale Tallon, a solid defenseman who would eventually become a top executive for the Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers.
All was not wonderful when the Penguins drafted Mario Lemieux.
The 1984 NHL draft was memorable for a number of reasons. It was the first draft that was televised, and it was also the draft that allowed Mario Lemieux to enter the league.
Lemieux was a widely-touted prospected who was a phenomenon as draft day approached. Nearly everyone believed he would be the league's next superstar because of his magnificent stickhandling, playmaking and skating. Lemieux had said he did not want to play for the hometown Montreal Canadiens because it would simply be too much pressure.
There was no danger of that because the Pittsburgh Penguins were not about to let Super Mario pass. Pittsburgh general manager Eddie Johnston was already in negotiations prior to the draft with Lemieux, but the two sides had not finalized a deal. As a result, Lemieux refused to put on the Pittsburgh jersey after his name was called. He simply did not want to give up his leverage.
Ten days later, the contract was signed, and he was a Penguin throughout his stellar career. He remains involved in Penguins ownership.
The St. Louis Blues chose not to participate in the 1983 draft.
The annual draft is the time for every NHL franchise—strong or weak—to replenish the coffers and bring in young talent.
That's how it works year in and year out. But there are exceptions. In 1983, the St. Louis Blues refused to participate in the draft. This was done because the St. Louis ownership was in a dispute with the NHL over the proposed sale of the team to a group from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The Blues had already traded away their first- and second-round picks, so they decided to embarrass the league by not showing up.
An imaginary Japanese player was drafted by Buffalo in 1974.
The draft can be a long, drawn-out affair. Especially in 1974, when the draft rounds went into double-digits. Sure, there was excitement in the first round, but after that, it can get pretty boring. Even for the participants.
Buffalo Sabres general manager Punch Imlach was getting punch drunk as the rounds went by. He got tired of calling the names of young Canadian players whom nobody had heard of and had little chance of making any NHL roster. So Imlach decided to create some excitement. When the Sabres had an opportunity to select a player with the 183rd pick, he handed in his selection.
The name on the piece of paper was Taro Tsujimoto. The Japanese player was a center who supposedly played for the Tokyo Katanas, which translates to Sabres.
It was a great story at a time when international scouting was barely on the radar. And there were no scouts in Japan. But that didn't stop Imlach, who broke up the boredom with his choice of a player who existed only in his own mind. Tsujmoto was a made-up player who was completely fictitious. Imlach had pulled a prank that would live on in NHL infamy.
Bobby Clarke forgot Claude Giroux's name on draft day.
Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers is clearly one of the best offensive players in the league. He has an array of moves, and he has fulfilled all the promise he had demonstrated when the Flyers drafted him with the 22nd pick in the 2006 draft.
However, it almost never happened. When Flyers boss Bobby Clarke confidently went up to the podium to announce Giroux's selection, he stood open-mouthed for several seconds. Clarke had forgotten the name of the player who would go on to star for the Flyers. Luckily, he remembered when he turned around and looked at the draft board and quickly shouted Giroux's name.
J.J. Daigneault got off to a rough start with the Canucks.
The Vancouver Canucks were excited to have the No. 10 pick in the 1984 draft. They were in love with a prospect from Montreal named J.J. Daigneault.
Daigneault was a mobile defenseman with golden wheels, supposedly. After the Canucks called his name, Daigneault was delayed in coming onto the stage. Actually, he wasn't delayed. He was just slow because he was on crutches. The Canucks had no idea.
Daigneault would play in the NHL through 2001, but he shocked the Canucks on that night.
The Canucks passed on selecting hometowner Milan Lucic
The Boston Bruins had their eyes on a power forward out of Vancouver in the 2006 draft. Big, strong Milan Lucic was something of a legend with the Vancouver Giants during his junior years, as he loved bouncing bodies and had a knack for making big plays. The Bruins never would have had the chance to select Lucic in the second round if the Canucks had not traded away two second-round picks. Lucic would go on to punish his hometown Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals that the Bruins won in seven games.
The Washington Capitals were named as an expansion team for the 1974-75 season. They were awarded the No. 1 pick in the 1974 draft.
The Caps wanted to make a big impression, so they selected Greg Joly from Regina of the Western Hockey League. At the time, Bobby Orr was the best player in hockey. They knew that Joly was no Orr, but they thought he might be a reasonable facsimile because he scored 92 points in 67 games in the 1973-74 season.
Joly may have been flashy at the junior level, but he did not belong in the NHL. As a rookie with the Caps, he scored one goal in 44 games and was an incredibly bad minus-68 while playing for one of the worst teams in NHL history.
Mike Bossy (left) was bypassed by the Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens general manager Sam Pollock was the team's dominant decision-maker when the team made its dynastic run of four straight Stanley Cup titles from 1976 through 1979. He made many brilliant decisions that allowed this team to overwhelm the NHL as it built up to its magical run. Perhaps the best of those moves was a trade with the Oakland Seals (see panel 1) that allowed them to draft Guy Lafleur.
However, not every move Pollock made was a winner. Take the 1977 draft when the Canadiens had the No. 10 pick in the first round. Pollock decided that a swift but small Toronto winger named Mark Napier was the right player to skate for the Habs. Napier, 5'10" and 182 pounds, was not imposing physically. However, Pollock thought his quickness would allow him to be a dominant goal scorer.
He was wrong. Napier had some decent years in Montreal—he scored 40 goals in 1981-82 and 1982-83—but he was not a superstar. Mike Bossy was a superstar, but Pollock chose to pass on him, and the New York Islanders selected him with the No. 15 pick in the draft.
Bossy, a Montreal native, scored 53 goals as a rookie for the Islander. He followed that up with four 60 goal-or-more seasons in the next five years. Bossy played with the Islanders throughout his career and he scored 573 goals in 11 seasons, connecting on a mind-boggling 21.2 percent of his shots.
The Islanders would go on to their own dynasty, much to the consternation of Pollock
When the draft gets into the late rounds, it can get very tough on the participants. Such was the case during the 1978 draft. Once the teams got into the 16th round, it became hard for some of the participants to wait their turn.
Sam Pollock of the Montreal Canadiens learned this the hard way. He knew that he wanted to pick St. Lawrence defenseman Brian Crawley and when it was his turn—or so he thought—he shouted out Crawley's name. There was one problem. The Detroit Red Wings had not made their selection and the Montreal selection was not accepted.
Who did the Red Wings take? Crawley, much to the consternation of the Canadiens.
Eric Weinrich played for eight teams during his long NHL career.
During the 1984 draft, the Buffalo Sabres were committed to bringing in some young defensive talent in the draft. But one thing the Sabres did not do when they drafted Eric Weinrich in the ninth round was check his birth certificate. Weinrich, born in December of 1966, was not yet eligible for the NHL draft because he was 17 at the time. So the NHL decided that the selection of Weinrich was not valid and the pick was not accepted.
One year later, the New Jersey Devils selected Weinrich in the second round and the Sabres were left wondering what might have been. Weinrich would go on to play in the NHL through the 2005-06 season.
Bob Carpenter's dad threw a fit after he was drafted by the Caps.
Bob Carpenter was one of the greatest high school hockey players in Massachusetts during the early 1980s. He set scoring records and was viewed as one of the top players in the draft. His father, Bob Carpenter Sr., was a local policeman who had designs on watching his son play in the NHL because it appeared that he would be drafted by the Hartford Whalers with the No. 4 pick in the draft.
However, on draft day, the Washington Capitals traded up to the No. 3 spot because they wanted to select Carpenter. When they used the pick on the young center, the elder Carpenter created a scene by storming out of the Montreal Forum. Later, when Carpenter realized that Washington was not that far away and he would be able to see his son play regularly, he sheepishly returned to the Forum and the draft.
The former WHA teams were not welcomed warmly by the NHL.
The 1978-79 season was the last season played by the World Hockey Association. The league that had begun competing in 1972-73 could no longer sustain itself, and many of its players were redistributed through the NHL. However, the league allowed the Quebec Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers and the Hartford Whalers to compete in the NHL. They also allowed those teams to participate in the 1979 draft, but they got the last four slots in each round.
Not a very warm welcome for those former WHA teams, but there was nothing they could do about it.
Eric Lindros refused to play for the team that drafted him.
Wayne Gretzky was "The Great One" throughout his Hall of Fame career. Prior to the 1991 draft, all the talk was about "The Next One." That was Eric Lindros, a powerful player with a huge stride who had dominated junior hockey. Lindros had been a dominant scorer with the Oshawa Generals—180 goals and 200 assists in parts of three seasons—and it was clear that he would be the top pick in 1991.
That selection spot belonged to the Quebec Nordiques. Before the draft, Lindros declared he would not play for the Nordiques, and he wanted the team to trade his rights. While Lindros was perceived as a spoiled child because of his demanding attitude, the Nordiques decided they would select him anyway because he was clearly the best player. The Nords selected him, and Lindros dug in his heels.
Both sides seemed intractable until the Nords got tired of playing the waiting game. After much consternation, Lindros was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for a package that included Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Mike Ricci and two other players.
The Washington Capitals had a horrible time in their 1974-75 expansion season. Not only did they have the worst season in modern NHL history with an 8-67-5 record, they lost by an average of 3.09 goals per game.
For their efforts, the Capitals earned the No. 1 spot in the NHL draft. What did they do with it? They became the first NHL team to trade the No. 1 pick.
They traded the pick to the Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers, who gave the Caps center Bill Clement, defenseman Don McLean and the Flyers' No. 1 pick, which was the last in the first round. The Flyers selected solid center Mel Bridgman with the pick, and the Caps would respond by winning 11 games in 1975-76.
In the NFL, the last pick taken every year is given the title of "Mr. Irrelevant." The NHL has no such formal title, but the last picks of most drafts are usually tossed aside with disdain.
That was not the case with Andy Brickley, who was taken with the last pick in the 1980 draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. Brickley played in 385 games for five teams throughout his NHL career, and he scored 222 points. That made Brickley the most productive last pick in the history of the NHL draft.
Brickley is now a very popular color commentator on Boston Bruins broadcasts on NESN and also the NBC Sports Network.
College hockey players were introduced to the NHL draft in 1967.
College hockey players are a staple of the NHL draft. However, that wasn't always the case. The first college hockey player to be selected by an NHL team was center Al Karlander, who was taken in the second round by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round of the 1967 draft.
Karlander played for Michigan Tech as a college player, and he played four years for the Wings and another four years in the World Hockey Association.
Tom Glavine had another choice open to him besides baseball.
The Los Angeles Kings thought they had found a solid scorer and skater when they selected a speedy center out of Billerica, Mass. with a hard shot and knack for putting the puck in the net. The Kings selected Tom Glavine with their fifth-round pick (69th overall) in the 1984 draft. Glavine did not do immediate cartwheels and head out to the West Coast. He had other options.
Instead of signing a contract with the Kings organization or heading off to play college hockey, Glavine had a different sport in mind. He was also selected by the Atlanta Braves in the second round, and he accepted that team's offer and started a career that would see him develop into one of the most consistent left-handed pitchers in baseball on perhaps the best pitching staff in the game.
Still, throughout his baseball career, Glavine would occasionally talk about his hockey-playing skills as a high school player. Glavine won 305 games throughout his 22 years in the major leagues, and he apparently made the right choice.
Patrick Roy was an NHL legend for the Canadiens and Avalanche.
When discussing the all-time great goaltenders in NHL history, Patrick Roy's name has to be mentioned prominently. Perhaps Martin Brodeur, Ken Dryden and Jacques Plante rank ahead of him, but Roy deserves to be considered with the greats of the game. His superior glove hand and acrobatic play allowed him to backstop two Stanley Cup championships for the Montreal Canadiens and two more for the Colorado Avalanche.
Roy was selected in the third round of the 1984 draft by the Montreal Canadiens, with the 51st overall pick. One year later, the Minnesota North Stars the Hall of Fame goalie's brother, Stephane Roy, with the 51st overall pick in the third round.
Even though both brothers were selected in the same spot exactly one year apart, Stephane Roy did not enjoy the same success as his brother. He played 20 games for the North Stars during the 1987-88 season as a center and scored one goal in his career.