top of page
  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

Efficient shooters and expansion team career extensions

One of the most interesting aspects of researching and writing these blogs are the connections that I undercover small batches of players. For this post I discovered two players that I never would have guessed that rank in the 20 all-time for shooting percentage.

I also came to appreciate how the expansion of the NHL in early 1990s (San Jose, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Florida and Anaheim) extended the career of many NHLers. Four players in featured in this post had stints in Tampa Bay or Ottawa (Pat Elynuik covered both teams) toward the end of their careers. I'm curious to see how many more players will have cups-of-coffee with expansion teams as I research further.

Card 107 - Pat Jablonski

Goaltender Pat Jablonski was drafted 138th overall by St. Louis in 1985. He would play three seasons for Windsor in the OHL, winning a league title in 1987-88. Jablonski would play 22 games for the Blues between 1989 and 1992, recording five wins. He would spend the majority of his time with Peoria in the IHL; in 1990-91 he put up a 23-3-2 record and owned the league’s lowest goals against average while the Rivermen won the Turner Cup.

Jablonski would be traded to the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992 for future considerations; in the Lightning’s debut season he would play a career high 43 games, going 8-24-4, and recording his lone NHL shutout.

In February 1994 he would be traded to Toronto for cash, and then claimed by St. Louis at the start of 1995-96 without ever suiting up for Toronto. His second stint in St. Louis would last about a month before he would be traded to Montreal for JJ Daigneault. Jablonski would play 23 games for the Habs that season, and then earn occasional games in Phoenix and Carolina from 1996-1998, but would spend the majority of his time in the IHL.

He would retire in 2001 after playing two seasons in Sweden. For his career Jablonski would play in 128 games over 8 seasons, posting a 28-62-18 record, 3.74 GAA and .879 save percentage.

Jablonski has not been active in hockey since his retirement but did make the news in 2008 after a near-death experience while boogie-boarding, resulting in two fractured vertebrae. He has also been featured in Down Goes Brown’s Obscure Former Player of the Week.

YouTube clip: taking a bump from Eric Lindros.

Card 108 - Jarmo Kekalainen

The Finnish left winger signed as a free agent with Boston in 1989 while playing for Clarkson University. Kekalainen would play 27 games for Boston between 1989-91, returning to Finland for the 1991-92 season.

He would re-appear in the NHL with the Ottawa Senators in the 1993-94 season, playing in 28 games.

In 1994-95 he would return for a season in Sweden before retiring from hockey. His NHL totals read 55 games, five goals and 13 points.

If you are familiar with Kekalainen’s name, it’s likely not because of his short playing career but because of his front office exploits. After retiring he became a European scout for the Senators as well as a general manager in the Finnish Elite League. In 2002 he would become St. Louis’ director of amateur scouting and eventually assistant GM. In 2010 he would return to Europe to become the GM for Jokerit in Finland; midway through the 2013-14 season, Kekalainen would become the first European general manager in NHL history when he took the reins in Columbus, where he is still employed today.

Card 109 - Pat Elynuik

The right winger was drafted 8th overall by Winnipeg in 1986. A two-time 50 goal and 100 point scorer with Prince Albert in the WHL, Elynuik would debut with the Jets in 1987-88, playing in 13 games. In his first full season he would record 26 goals and 51 points in 56 games, followed in 1989-90 with a career high 32-42-74 stat line.

Elynuik’s numbers would begin to decline after the 1990-91 season and he would be traded before the start of 1992-93 to Washington for John Druce and a draft pick. After one season in Washington he would be traded to Tampa Bay where he would last just one season as well.

For 1994-95 he would sign as a free agent with Ottawa, playing parts of two seasons for the Senators. His career would end with two seasons in the IHL before retiring after the 1996-97 season.

In total Elynuik played 506 games over nine seasons, recording 154 goals and 342 points. He was an efficient scorer, finishing in the top 10 in shooting percentage from 1989 to 1991, ranking 26th all-time with a percentage of 18.4%.

For the last decade he has run a hockey development agency in Calgary and his son Hudson was drafted by Carolina in the third round of the 2016 draft.

YouTube clip: a nice toe drag goal against Pittsburgh.

Card 110 - Corey Millen

The centre was selected 57th overall by the New York Rangers in 1982. Millen spent four years at the University of Minnesota and then time with the US National Team and in Switzerland before starting his pro career in North America.

He appeared in 19 games with the Rangers between 1989 and 1991 before a trade late in 1991 to Los Angeles in exchange for Randy Gilhen. Millen broke out in LA, scoring 20+ goals in his two seasons on the Kings, which included a trip to the 1993 Stanley Cup final.

Prior to the 1993-94 season Millen would be sent to New Jersey, where he would score a career high 20 goals and 50 points that season. In 1995 he would be traded twice, first to Dallas and then to Calgary with Jarome Iginla for Joe Nieuwendyk in the famously mutually-beneficial trade.

Millen would spend two seasons in Calgary and would leave to play in Germany for the 1997-98 season. He would spend five years in the DEL, leading the league in goals in 2000-01. He also won a Spengler Cup with Kolner Haie, adding to the title he won with the US National Team in 1989. In total Millen played eight seasons, scoring 90 goals and 209 points in 350 games.

Since retirement Millen has coached American junior and college hockey, and is currently the head coach of the St. Cloud Norseman in the NAHL.

YouTube clip: scoring a goal against Quebec in 1995.

Card 111 - Petr Klima

Now anyone who knows hockey from the early 1990s is familiar with Klima's famous helmet, but check out the zebra-stripe tape job on his stick on the rear photo.

The Czech winger was drafted 86th overall by Detroit in 1983. Klima made his NHL debut in the 1985-86 season, scoring 32 goals and 56 points with the Red Wings. He would play four-and-a-half seasons in Detroit before being traded to Edmonton with Joe Murphy and Adam Graves for Jimmy Carson and Kevin McClelland.

Klima’s time with the Oilers would be his most productive, scoring a career high 40 goals and 68 points during the 1990-91 season. He would also play a key role in the Oilers’ cup win in 1990, scoring the game winner in triple overtime of Game 1 of the Final, the infamous power outage game at the Boston Garden.

Prior to the 1993-94 season, Klima would be traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a draft pick. He would last three seasons in Tampa Bay before a trade to Los Angeles in 1996. His time in LA would be short-lived (8 games) before he would end up in Pittsburgh for slightly longer (9 games); Klima would be released by the Penguins and then re-sign with the Oilers, playing in 16 games. By the way, all of that happened during the 1996-97 season.

Klima would play in Germany in 1997-98 and return to North America the following season for 13 games where he started his NHL career, Detroit, scoring one goal. Klima’s NHL career would last 13 seasons, playing 786 games, scoring 313 goals and 573 points.

After two additional years playing in his native Czech Republic, Klima would move into management where he is currently the coach/GM for SK Kadan. His twin sons Kelly and Kevin both played in the QMJHL and are currently playing pro hockey in the Czech Republic.

YouTube clip: scoring the aforementioned triple overtime winner in Game 1 of 1990 Cup Final.

Card 112 - Mike Ridley

The undrafted centre was signed in 1985 by the New York Rangers out of the University of Manitoba. With the Bisons Ridley was the Canadian USports Player of the Year in both 1983-84 and 1984-85.

Ridley would make his NHL debut in 1985-86, scoring 22 goals and 65 points, making the all-rookie team and finishing fourth in Calder Trophy voting. He would be traded to the Washington Capitals on New Year’s Day 1987 as part of the deal that landed the Rangers Bob Carpenter. In his first full season in D.C. Ridley would lead the team in scoring with a career high 41 goals and 89 points, and play in that season’s all-star game.

Ridley’s time with Washington would be marked by consistency, scoring more than 20 goals and 69 points in six straight seasons, earning Selke and Lady Byng votes along the way. The Capitals teams of Ridley’s time were talented but disappointing, making the conference finals only once. He would be traded to Toronto before the 1994-95 season as Washington swapped first round draft picks to move up and select Nolan Baumgartner.

Ridley would play one season for Toronto before being traded to Vancouver for Sergio Momesso. He would play two seasons in Vancouver before retiring in 1996-97; he has the distinction of scoring the first goal in General Motors Place (now Rogers Arena) history.

Ridley would play 12 NHL seasons, appearing in 886 games, scoring 292 goals and 758 points. He also ranks 11th all-time in shooting percentage with a rate of 19.2%. Ridley has been quiet since retirement, but stayed active after leaving the NHL, winning an Allan Cup (Canada’s amateur senior hockey championship) in 2005-06 with the Powell River Regals.

3 views0 comments


bottom of page