Friday, June 5, 2015

The First NHL Draft - 1974-75 Vancouver Canucks Garry Monahan Jersey

The first NHL Amateur Draft was held on this date in 1963 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. The draft was instituted by NHL President Clarence Campbell as a way to bring to an end the sponsorship of amateur team by NHL clubs as a means to lock up emerging talent and provide a more level playing field in regards to each team having an equal opportunity to acquire future star players.

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Queen Elizabeth Hotel

Being a new process, some things we take for granted today were not yet in effect however. The draft order, for example, was not simply based on the reverse of the previous season's finishing order, with the last place team choosing first. Instead, the team that finished last in 1962-63, the Boston Bruins, were instead given their choice of which position they wanted to pick, a subtle but important difference, as the Bruins chose to pick third!

The fifth place New York Rangers then chose to pick fourth, the fourth place Detroit Red Wings chose second, the third place Montreal Canadiens chose first. Then the second finishing Chicago Black Hawks chose fifth and the first place Toronto Maple Leafs were left to pick sixth and last, as one would expect.

This first draft would set the order for the foreseeable future, as the plan was that each team would move up one place in the picking order the following year, with the first picking team moving to last - regardless of the finishing order in the standings going forward. This system would remain in effect for four years until the great NHL expansion of 1967.

For the first two drafts in 1963 and 1964, the talent pool was limited to players 16 years of age who would reach 17 between August 1, 1963 and July 31, 1964. Players already on sponsorship lists under the previous system were not eligible. Additionally, teams were not allowed to even talk to their selected players about turning professional until they turned 18 years old, some 15 to 27 months later!

The draft consisted of four rounds, but not many top prospects were available, due to many of them being already assigned to NHL clubs through sponsored junior teams from the previous system. Teams were also allowed to pass on their turn if they felt there was no player of interest to them.

The Canadiens kicked off the proceedings by selecting center Garry Monahan of the St. Michael's Buzzers. Detroit followed by choosing right winger Peter Mahovlich, whose older brother Frank Mahovlich was already playing in the NHL for Toronto. Boston, the Rangers and Chicago all chose players who never made it to the NHL, despite the rapid expansion of the league by the time the chosen players would be turning 20.

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The first ever NHL draft pick, Garry Monahan

Toronto picked last in Round One and made a good choice with Walt McKechnie, who would play more professional games than any other player chosen in 1963.

None of the players chosen in the Second Round would ever make it to the NHL. In the third round, the Red Wings passed on their opportunity to make the 14th pick, standing pat with their first two choices. With the last choice in Round Three, Toronto chose Jim McKenny, the only player of the entire 1963 draft to play in the NHL All-Star Game.

The fourth and final round saw both Detroit and Chicago pass on their picks and once more, Toronto showed the others how it was done when they selected Gerry Meehan, the fifth and final player chosen in 1963 to play in the NHL out of the 21 selections made. With McKechnie, McKenny and Meehan, Toronto saw three out of their four choices make it to the NHL.

Of note, every player selected was a Canadian and by position, 7 were centers, 3 were right wings, 2 were left wingers, 2 were listed simply as a forward, 7 were defensemen and no goaltenders were chosen.

The draft would be held at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel for the first ten years of the draft and 12 times total. The draft would be held in various Montreal locations (the Mount Royal Hotel, the NHL Montreal Office and the Montreal Forum) through 1984 before the draft moved to Toronto for 1985.

For the 1964 draft, all 24 picks were made, with nine of those reaching the NHL, including the first Hall of Famer chosen in the draft, goaltender Ken Dryden, who was chosen not by Montreal, with whom he would achieve his fame, but by the Bruins! When Dryden informed Boston of his intentions to attend Cornell University in the United States, Boston traded his negotiating rights to Montreal, who had to patiently wait seven years until the 1971 playoffs for Dryden to play his first game with the Canadiens.

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Ken Dryden

In 1965, the rules were changed to increase the minimum age for eligible players to 18 with the negotiating age raised to 19. With many players already being on sponsored teams or already having turned professional, only 11 picks were made and just two of those ever made it to the NHL, with Toronto not making any picks at all!

1966 saw all 24 possible picks made, with 14 reaching the NHL, highlighted by Hall of Fame defenseman Brad Park, who was picked second overall by the Rangers.

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Brad Park

The six new expansion clubs who were to join the NHL for the 1967-68 season found the cupboard bare in the 1967 draft, as only ten picks were made in Round One, seven in Round Two and a lone player chosen in "Round Three" for a total of 18 among 12 clubs, with a mere three ever seeing time in the NHL.

It was more of the same in 1968 with 24 picks over just three rounds with nine making it to the NHL. Of note, Montreal held the first three picks overall! Also noteworthy was the selection of Regina, Saskatchewan-born and Rhode Island raised Curt Bennett by the St. Louis Blues 16th, the first American chosen in the six years of the draft. He was immediately followed by Herb Boxer, the second American chosen with the 17th pick, who was born in Hancock, Michigan.

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The first American draft pick, Curt Bennett from Brown University

Finally, a new era in the NHL Amateur Draft arrived in 1969, as this was the first draft held after the NHL ended team's direct sponsorship of junior teams. The results were dramatic, as 84 players were chosen over 10 rounds, 49 of which made the NHL, highlighted by future Hall of Famer Bobby Clarke.

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Bobby Clarke

Today's featured jersey is a 1974-75 Vancouver Canucks Garry Monahan jersey, as worn by the first player ever selected in the NHL Amateur Draft. Monahan would take five years to make his NHL debut with Montreal before being traded to Detroit for the player drafted immediately behind him, Peter Mahovlich!

His career would also include stops with the Los Angeles Kings, Maple Leafs, Canucks and back to Toronto again. After his NHL career ended in 1979, he then played three additional seasons of pro hockey in Japan.

The Canucks joined the NHL for the 1970-71 season and played in their original specification jerseys for two seasons until a changed in sleeve striping and coloring in 1972-73 which lasted until 1977-78 until being replaced by the radical and controversial black, yellow and orange "Flying V" jerseys.

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Vancouver Canucks 1974-75 jersey photo Vancouver Canucks 1974-75 B jersey.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1975-76 Montreal Canadiens Peter Mahovlich jersey as worn by the second player ever selected in the NHL Amateur Draft.  Mahovlich made his NHL debut with three games in 1965-66. He was traded to Montreal in 1969 and played for the Canadiens until 1977, winning four Stanley Cups and scoring 100 points twice. He was then traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins before finishing his NHL career back in Detroit in 1980-81.

This classic Montreal home white jersey was first introduced back in 1941-42 and was worn by Mahovlich during the Canadiens championship season of 1975-76.

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photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

In today's video section, friend of Third String Goalie and Sportsnet's Jeff Marek looks back at the first NHL Draft in 1963, which includes recollections from first ever draft pick Monahan himself.

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