For most of you, there is either no memory of 1988 or you were still doing the one-legged doggy paddle in father’s satchel. All the same, we’re going to take a look at what should have happened in that year’s NHL entry-draft.
Sports franchises are made and broken on entry drafts, as even those of us with temporal challenges can appreciate. The ability of a team's front office to properly scout promising young talent can be the most important part of on-ice success. Any sports fan knows that in all drafts, a number of the first players taken will end up being the next busts like former number-one picks Kwame Brown (NBA Draft, 2001) or Alexandre Daigle of the 1993 NHL draft. I don’t blame you if you are unfamiliar with either of those two as they amounted to less than nothing.
So you might be thinking, “What’s so impressive about the 1988 draft?” For starters, 12 of 20 guys in this here re-draft were originally outside of the first three rounds. Additionally, without getting deep into politics, we should remind ourselves that this took place back in 1988. In that year, there were still just 21 NHL teams and far fewer international players as the USSR had yet to dissolve. The first Russian drafted in 1988 was Alexander Mogilny at #89. Try to imagine that happening in 2016.
To re-pick these lovely men, several things need to be considered:
After each player is his original pick number and the team they were drafted by.
20 Minnesota North Stars - Teemu Selanne
“The Finnish Flash” is a hair ahead of Modano at number one. Originally drafted at #10, Teemu Selanne is 15th all-time in points and 11th all-time in goals. That puts him ahead of Jari Kurri, who I feel inclined to remind you was a member of five Stanley Cup-winning Oilers teams, for most NHL points all-time by a Fin.
Some records are simply left to be unbroken. Selanne ensured that would be the case after scoring 76 goals in his rookie 1992-93 season with the Winnipeg Jets, shattering Mike Bossy’s previous record of 53. Outside of the NHL, Selanne has four Olympic medals (three bronze, one silver).
19 Vancouver Canucks - Mike Modano
Originally the first pick of the draft, Mike Modano drops one spot to number two simply because of who is ahead of him. Widely considered the greatest American hockey player of all-time, Modano lead the Minnesota North Stars and Dallas Stars franchise to three Stanley Cup Finals and has the 23rd most points in NHL history. He won amidst controversy in 1999 with Brett Hull’s infamous triple-overtime inside-the-crease goal that beat Dominik Hasek and the Sabres. Of note, Modano holds a career +114 rating, and is certainly a household American name you won’t forget.
18 Quebec Nordiques - Mark Recchi, 67th Penguins
Originally pick #67, Mark Recchi deserves a biopic. Of everyone in this draft, Recchi has the most points, games played, and Stanley Cups. This guy played at the highest level for twenty-two years, winning three Stanley Cups with three very different teams in vastly different eras. Recchi’s first and third Stanley Cup victories came twenty years apart. He ranks 12th all-time in points scored, sandwiched between Ray Bourque in 11th and Paul Coffey in 13th. In all of the NHL’s lore, there are only three players with more games played than Recchi: Ron Francis, Mark Messier, and Gordie Howe.
17 Pittsburgh Penguins - Rod Brind'Amour
Rod Brind’Amour is the guy Flyers or Hurricanes fans will remember - the latter of which there are very few. Brind’Amour was originally the 9th pick, jumping ahead of several players purely due to his longevity and Stanley Cup victory. Considered one of the league’s “ironmen,” Brind’Amour holds the Flyers franchise record for 484 consecutive games played from February 1993 through April 1999.
16 Quebec Nordiques - Alexander Mogilny
Astoundingly, Alexander Mogilny was the 89th pick. He is the perfect example for why so few Eastern Europeans were taken early in NHL drafts before the dissolution of the USSR. Of the 88 players drafted before Mogilny, 32 never played a game in the NHL. Read that sentence again. It’s a testament to the Sabres’ General Manager Gerry Meehan that they took a chance on Mogilny. The Sabres traded him to the Canucks who years later traded him to the New Jersey Devils, where Mogilny won one of two Stanley Cup Finals in front of Martin Brodeur.
15 Toronto Maple Leafs - Jeremy Roenick
Originally drafted 8th by the Blackhawks, Roenick is likely the most recognizable player from the 1988 draft. He has come under scrutiny in several instances during and after his career for questioning coaches and US Olympic team selections, along with his implication in “Operation Slapshot” - the name police gave to their undercover investigation of an NHL-wide gambling ring. Not known for his shyness or for hiding emotions, Roenick was noticeably emotional during NBC’s 2010 coverage of the Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks, with whom he lost the 1992 Stanley Cup. It would be the only time Roenick made it to the Cup finals. He ranks fourth all-time in points among American NHL players, with a career +153 rating.
14 Los Angeles Kings - Rob Blake
Drafted 70th originally, Rob Blake is the first defenseman to be taken in our re-draft. Known for his big power-play slapshots, Blake was fortunate enough to play with some of the greatest players ever: Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robataille, Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic, Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, and Patrick Roy. Blake won the Norris Trophy for best defenseman in 1997-98 and won one Stanley Cup with Colorado after losing with the Gretzky and the Kings in 1993.
13 Chicago Blackhawks - Martin Gelinas
Martin Gelinas was originally taken 7th by the Kings and ended up on the right side of the 1990 Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers in his rookie season. Despite never being voted to an All Star game or winning any individual awards, Gelinas made it to three more Cup Finals with three different teams only to go 0-for-3.
12 St. Louis Blues - Tony Amonte
Tony Amonte is another very late pick, originally drafted 68th overall, Amonte had tremendous longevity and solid production throughout his career. He played 453 consecutive games from 1996-2002 with the Blackhawks and had played in 904 of 912 games during his career when the streak finally ended. For somebody who has ever played hockey, never mind at the highest professional level, that’s Cal Ripken-type longevity. Amonte nearly won rookie of the year when he tied for second with Nick Lidstrom in Calder Trophy voting behind winner Pavel Bure in 1992. The only knock against Amonte is that he was never able to make a Stanley Cup Final.
11 Winnipeg Jets - Keith Carney
Keith Carney is a guy most of us should know of, but don’t. Originally drafted 76th overall, Carney is the fifth man originally picked outside of the first three rounds to make it into our top-ten. A strong defenseman with an impressive career plus-minus of +164, Carney played for six different teams over 16 seasons and only played his first full 82-game season with the Blackhawks seven years after being drafted by the Sabres. From that point on, he was far more durable and in 2002-03 played a major role in the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim run to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Devils, averaging 26:40 of ice-time.
10 Hartford Whalers - Bret Hedican
We’ve made it way outside of the top ten and unless you’re a true fan of hockey you may not recognize several of the next ten players, but many are Cinderella-stories. At number eleven in our re-draft, Bret Hetican is deserving of major credit for making a career for himself as a defenseman. Originally drafted 198th overall, Hedican went to three Cup Finals, played in over one thousand games and won a Staney Cup in 2006 with the Hurricanes. The only crack at Hedican is that he dealt with nagging injuries throughout his career, never playing a full season.
9 New Jersey Devils - Dmitri Khristich
Another outsider, Khristich was taken 120th by Washington out of Kiev, Ukraine – a former republic of the USSR. Capitals and Bruins fans may recognize his name as he scored 25 goals or more in six of his twelve seasons, racking up an impressive career plus-minus of +104. Khristich is a case-in-point, yet again, that the fall of the USSR truly brought the NHL to new heights.
8 Buffalo Sabres - Valeri Kamensky
Valeri Kamensky. Now, let’s be honest. Who had heard of Valeri Kamensky? Maybe the odd tenured Quebec Nordiques or Colorado Avalanche fan. However, Kamensky was a truly integral part of the Avalanche’s 1996 Stanley Cup victory. Scoring 22 points in 22 playoff games, Kamensky was second only to teammate Joe Sakic’s 34 points which earned Sakic the Conn Smythe trophy. Of note, Avalanche teammate Stephane Fiset held the goaltending duties until Patrick Roy was acquired. Fiset was drafted 24th overall by the Nordiques in the ’88 draft, but failed to make our re-draft.
7 Philadelphia Flyers - Tie Domi
Possibly the NHL’s most recognizable and respected enforcer of all time, Tie Domi printed his fists on dozens of players and a few fans through his career, totaling 338 career fights (according to dropyourgloves.com). Originally drafted 27th by the Leafs, we think Domi’s ability to instill fear into oppoenents, and energize and protect teammates is worthy of a top-20 draft pick. As ESPN’s Ryan Anderson once said of Domi during Sportscenter coverage of a Leafs game, “Evening scores is his business.” Third in all-time penalty minutes with 3,515, behind only Dale Hunter and Tiger Williams, Domi’s fierce antics towards opponents and fans will litter the internet for years.
6 Washington Capitals - Trevor Linden
Originally taken second after Mike Modano, Trevor Linden is likely the most beloved Vancouver Canuck ever. Nobody outside of Vancouver is quite sure why, but his photos are still all over the Vancouver’s public transport stations. Currently the president of hockey operations for the Canucks, Linden drops 13 spots in our re-draft mostly due to his barely satisfactory offensive production. Unable to win the Stanley Cup in his only Finals with Vancouver in 1994 (despite scoring 25 points in 24 playoff games), Linden did win the NHL’s King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 1997 for leadership and humanitarian contributions to the community.
5 NY Islanders - Curtis Leschyshyn
Curtis Leschyshyn was taken third overall by Quebec and drops thirteen spots in our re-draft like Trevor Linden. His offensive production was never quite there, but Leschyshyn was a consistent defenseman who played for five different NHL franchises in his career. Before moving on from the Nordiques-Avalanche franchise, he won a Stanley Cup in 1996 in front of Patrick Roy.
4 Detroit Red Wings - Joe Juneau
Joe Juneau is one of those great names that you likely won’t forget, especially if you were a Capitals fan. Originally drafted 81st overall, Juneau impressively scored four game-winning goals during the Capitals playoff run of 1997-98 before they were swept by Detroit in the finals. Juneau made it back to the finals the next year, only to see his Stanley Cup fate end in controversy when Brett Hull scored an illegal, yet uncalled triple-overtime game-winner for the Dallas Stars in Buffalo.
Juneau had a very impressive start to his career just like Teemu Selanne. Scoring 102 points in his rookie season, Juneau came second in Calder Memorial Trophy voting behind Selanne. He was never again able to break the 100-point barrier.
3 Boston Bruins - Rob Ray
Rob Ray makes it on this list as another enforcer, like Tie Domi. Drafted 97th overall by the Sabres, Ray was rarely on the ice for more than six or seven minutes in a game. Ray ended his career sixth in all-time penalty minutes, yet somehow won the King Clancy Memorial trophy just as Trevor Linden did for leadership and humanitarian contribution.
2 Edmonton Oilers - Sean Hill
Sean Hill went 167th overall, but just makes it into the top 20 of our re-draft moving up 148 spots. A defenseman for eight different NHL teams, Hill made it to two Stanley Cup Finals winning one with Montreal in 1993. Despite not being a real part of Montreal’s success, he was another beneficiary of playing in front of Patrick Roy. Nine years later he was a core member of the Carolina Hurricanes’ run to the Finals, averaging 25:55 of ice time in 23 playoff games and scoring four goals with four assists.
1 Montreal Canadiens - Claude Lapointe
Claude Lapointe, like Sean Hill and Bret Hedican, was apparently flying in a Pluto-like orbit away from NHL scouts. Drafted 234th by the Nordiques, yes that’s right, 234th, Claude Lapointe is another NHL name that seems timeless. Spending most of his career with the New York Islanders, Lapointe made a name for himself at the faceoff dot. He was among the top three in faceoff percentage through his entire career, making him a very valuable asset.
Claude Lapointe: No Stanley Cups, 14 seasons, 305 points, 879 games
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