The One That Got Away: Dale Derkatch Should Have Been an NHL Star

Steve McSween@dansallowsSenior Analyst IJanuary 3, 2010

Over the years, some great players have slipped through the cracks and never gotten their opportunity to shine on the NHL stage.

In Dale Derkatch's case, it was never a question of his skill, but in his own words, it was that he never tried. Which makes his story all that more unbelievable, as talent just seeped from his pores.

While playing with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League in 1982, he was named rookie-of-the-year after scoring 62 goals and racking up 142 points in 71 games.

The following year, Derkatch won the WHL scoring race with 84 goals, 95 assists (179 points overall) in just 67 games, which was enough to get him an invite to represent Canada at the 1983 World Junior Tournament.

At the World Junior Championship, Derkatch finished third in scoring (3 goals and 4 assists in 7 games) behind only Dave Andreychuk and Mario Lemieux.

Not too bad for a team that also featured the likes of Steve Yzerman, Sylvain Turgeon, Pat Verbeek, Tony Tanti, and Gary Leeman.

The Edmonton Oilers would select Derkatch in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, but because of his size (5'5" 145 lbs.), he was chosen in the seventh round 140th overall. On a team that boasted stars such as Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, and Glenn Anderson it would prove to be a tough lineup to crack.

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Derkatch would return to Regina for another stint with the Pats, and put up yet another impressive campaign in 1983-84. He scored 72 goals and added 87 assists, which was good for 159 points in 62 games.

In the playoffs, he would raise his game to yet another level putting up 53 points in 23 games en route to an appearance in the WHL finals, where the Pats would fall 4 games to 3 to the Kamloops Junior Oilers.

During that same season, He would once again represent his country at the World Junior Tournament and score 5 goals in 7 games for the Canadian squad.

After the season ended, Derkatch was offered his first contract from the Oilers, but he opted to spend his time training with the Canadian Olympic team and never made Edmonton's training camp and as a result never signed.

In 1985-86, he played 28 games for Asiago HC in Italy and scored 41 goals and 100 points, then moved to Ilves Tampere of the Finnish Elite League.

After three more seasons of dominant offensive outputs the Oilers came knocking again and offered Derkatch a two-way contract where he would make different salaries whether he played in the NHL or the teams affiliate.

Since Derkatch was making good money in Europe, he declined the offer.

Nobody will really know just how Dale Derkatch would have done in the NHL, but if the record books are of any indication he wouldn't have had a problem putting up points.

If the NHL had expanded earlier, we most likely would have seen him display his skills on hockey's brightest stage, instead he will just be known to us as the Regina Pats all time leading scorer and the one who got away.