Thursday, June 23, 2011

1986-87 Buffalo Sabres Mike Ramsey Jersey

The 2011 NHL Entry Draft, to be held in St. Paul, Minnesota, is just one day away. As part of our countdown to the draft, we are going to take a look today at the Minnesotans selected over the history of the NHL draft.

As we documented earlier, Wally Olds holds the distinction of being the first Minnesotan ever drafted by an NHL team when the Detroit Red Wings chose him in the 5th round 57th overall, just edging out Mike Baumgartner who was chosen by the Chicago Black Hawks just three picks later.

In 1971 Henry Boucha set a new mark as the highest drafted Minnesotan ever when he was chosen in the second round by the Red Wings as the 16th overall selection. Boucha would play six years in the NHL but have his career cut short by a grisly eye injury at the hands of another player in one of hockey's darkest moments. The 1971 draft also set a new mark with six Minnesotans selected, a mark equalled in 1972.

Boucha Red Wings
Henry Boucha

When the draft expanded from 13 rounds to a staggering 25 conducted in secret via telephone in 1978 in an effort to prevent the rival WHA from poaching their prospects, the number of Minnesotans rose to 24, with Pete LoPresti taken at #42 being the highest of the group as well as Buzz Schneider who would go onto fame as a member of the 1980 U. S. Olympic Hockey Team.

Schneider USA
Buzz Schneider

1975 would see another large group, 21 in all, a group that included 11 year NHL veteran and current Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren as well as both Steve Carlson and Dave Hanson, who would go onto their greatest fame as two of the three Hanson Brothers from the movie Slap Shot.

Hanson Brothers
Dave Hanson and Steve Carlson, along with Jeff Carlson (right) as the notorious Hanson Brothers

The 1976 draft would see more future 1980 Olympians taken, with Bill Baker and Phil Verchota and the state's second ever pick in the second round, defenseman Reed Larson who was taken by the Red Wings.

Larson Detroit
Reed Larson

Reflecting the strong nature of the program at the University of Minnesota under the guidance of legendary coach Herb Brooks, the 1978 draft saw the first five of the 16 Minnesota players taken all coming off the roster of the Golden Gophers, including 1980 Olympians Steve Christoff, Rob McClanahan and Eric Strobel.

Christoff Minnesota
Steve Christoff

While only three Minnesotans were taken in the 1979 draft, the quality of those three players was outstanding, led by the first Minnesotan ever taken in the first round, defenseman Mike Ramsey who was selected at #11 overall by the Buffalo Sabres. The other two players were chosen in the second round, Dave Christian at #40 and Neal Broten, picked #42 by the hometown Minnesota North Stars. Broten would go on to be the first American to ever have a 100 point season in the NHL as well as a Stanley Cup champion. Additionally, the trio would be teammates in Lake Placid as part of the 1980 Olympic Team.

Broten North Stars
Neal Broten

Phil Housley became the highest drafted Minnesotan when Buffalo chose the defenseman #6 overall in 1982. Housley would make the jump straight from high school to the NHL and set records for American born players for games played at 1,495 and points, with 1,232 during his 21 year career. That year also set a record which still stands when 30 Minnesotans were drafted.

Housley Sabres
Phil Housley

Tom Chorske became the third player out of Minnesota taken in the first round when he was picked at #16 by the Montreal Canadiens in 1985 and later won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 1995.

Tragedy struck in 1986 when the highest drafted Minnesotan, George Pelawa, taken at #16 of the first round by the Calgary Flames, died in an automobile crash in August of that year. Pelawa had been named "Mr. Hockey" as the top high school player in the state and was about to begin his college hockey career that fall.

Pelawa Flames
George Pelawa after being drafted by Calgary

1988 saw Shjon Podein, Sean Hill and Bret Hedican go onto NHL careers. Doug Zmolek nearly equalled Housely's mark of #6 overall when the Minnesota North Stars picked him at #7 of round one in the only previous draft held in Minnesota in 1989. Trent Klatt was picked at #82 and would see 12 NHL seasons during his career.

Hedican Hurricanes
Brett Hedican

With NHL teams now able to confidently able to select Soviet players with early round picks in the early 1990's, it woudl take until 1996 for another Minnesotan to be selected in the first round. Until then, the highlight would be Jamie Langenbrunner's selection by the Dallas Stars at #35 overall in round #2.

Langenbrunner Devils
Jamie Langenbrunner

In 1996, Erik Rassmussen was taken #7 overall in round one by Buffalo. Other notables that year would include Matt Cullen (#35), Mark Parrish (#79) and Dan Hinote (#167).

1999 was David Tanabe's turn to be picked in round one when he was picked at #16 overall and future Hobey Baker Award winner and NCAA champion Jordan Leopold went at #44.

Leopold Hobey Baker
Jordan Leopold poses with the Hobey Baker Award

Jeff Taffe led the Minnesotans taken in 2000 when he went at #30 to the St. Louis Blues before the Devils took two more Minnesotan
s in the second round, Matt DeMarchi at #57 and Paul Martin at #62.

Defenseman Keith Ballard joined the growing list of first rounders in 2002 when he was picked by the Sabres at #11.

In a first, more than one Minnesota native went in the first round in 2003, led by Zach Parise at #17, followed by Mark Stuart at #21 and Patrick Eaves at #29.

Parise USA
Zach Parise

The Phoenix Coyotes made Blake Wheeler the highest drafted Minnesotan yet when he went at #5 overall in 2004. The Minnesota Wild made it two in the first round with their choice of A. J. Thelen at #12.

Another new record was established in 2005 when four Minnesotans went in the first round, led by Brian Lee at #9 to the Ottawa Senators. Late in the first round T. J. Oshie was picked 24th, Joe Finley 27th and Matt Niskanen 28th.

All of Minnesota's hockey community was proud when Erik Johnson became the first player from Minnesota to ever be selected with the first overall pick in the NHL draft when St. Louis made him the top pick in 2006. The record of four first rounders was equalled when Kyle Okposo was taken at #7 followed by Peter Mueller at #8 and later David Fischer 20th.

Johnson St Louis
Erik Johnson becomes the first Minnesotan selected first overall

Since then Ryan McDonagh (12th), Patrick White (25th) and Jim O'Brien (29th) in 2007, Jake Gardiner (17th) in 2008, Nick Leddy (16th) and Jordan Schroeder (22nd) in 2009 and Derek Forbort (15th), Nick Bjugstad (19th) and Brock Nelson (30th) in 2010 have all been first round selections in the NHL draft.

Nelson Warroad
Brock Nelson skating for Minnesota high school hockey powerhouse Warroad

This year the highest ranked Minnesotans are Seth Ambroz of New Prauge, ranked at the 31st North American Skater, and Mario Lucia of Plymouth, ranked at #34, but perhaps the player with the best chance to be the state's first chosen on Friday is Matt McNeely of Burnsville, who is the 4th ranked of the North American goaltenders. Stay tuned for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft on Versus in the United States and on TSN in Canada, beginning at 7 PM Eastern, 6 PM in Minnesota, to see not only who will be taken first overall, but which player will have the honor of being the first Minnesota native selected in only the second draft ever held in Minnesota.

Today's featured jersey is a 1986-87 Buffalo Sabres Mike Ramsey jersey from the first Minnesotan to ever be drafted in the first round of the NHL draft in 1979.

Ramsey was chosen after one year at the University of Minnesota and next became a member of the 1980 United States Olympic Hockey Team, the youngest member of the gold medal winning squad.

He joined the Sabres immediately after the Olympics and never played a game in the minors. He was a defensive defenseman and played in the NHL All-Star Game four times and was also a member of the NHL All-Stars in Rendez-Vous '87.

He was named captain of the Sabres in 1991-92 and also played for the United States again at the 1984 and 1987 Canada Cups as well as the 1982 World Championships. In 2001 he was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame following a career which spanned 1,070 games over his 19 year career.

Buffalo Sabres 86-87 jersey

Today's video section features an unexpected find, Mike Ramsey throwing haymakers against Montreal's Mario Tremblay. The two would later be assistant coaches together for the expansion Minnesota Wild!

Here, Neal Broten scores the game winning goal for the Minnesota Gophers in the 1979 NCAA national championship final.

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