top of page
  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

Random Rookies

We are finally out of insert or subsets that kick off the 1991-92 Upper Deck series and into regular issue player cards. As I was researching the eight cards detailed below, it seemed like a rather random collection, however I figured out that these are all rookie cards. While every player may start off as a rookie, by the end of their careers these eight players were in very different groupings. You have one obvious superstar in Pavel Bure. Next you get serviceable NHLers like Stu Barnes, Shaun Van Allen and to a lesser extent Enrico Ciccone. Finally you get the players whose careers were a cup of coffee (Russ Romaniuk), injury shortened (Dennis Vaske), minor league stardom (Michel Picard) and who never made it (Eric Murano).

These eight players are in their own ways representative of the divergent paths that an NHL career can take, and with almost 30 years hindsight, maybe these aren't such random rookies after all?

Card # 46 - Russ Romaniuk

Selected in second round of the 1988 draft by his hometown Winnipeg Jets, Romaniuk was a high scoring left winger out of the University of North Dakota. In his senior year he scored 40 goals and was a first team all-star in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

1991-92 would be Romaniuk’s rookie NHL season, appearing in 28 games with the Jets, scoring three goals and eight points. He would spend three seasons with the Jets, bouncing between the big club and the minors, playing in 58 games and scoring 16 points. Romaniuk would be traded in June 1995 to Philadelphia, playing his last 17 NHL games in 1995-96 with the Flyers.

Russ would spend three seasons in the old IHL and then several seasons in Europe before retiring from pro hockey in 1995. He is currently a radio host for the Manitoba Moose AHL team.

YouTube clip: From 2005 in Great Britain’s EIHL, fighting another former NHLer, the late Wade Belak.

Card # 48 - Michel Picard

A ninth-round pick by Hartford in 1989, the left winger scored 59 goals and 140 points in his draft season with Trois-Rivieres in the QMJHL. Picard would appear in five games in 1990-91, and an additional 25 games in 1991-92 with the Whalers before a trade in October 1992 to the expansion San Jose Sharks.

Picard would bounce between the minors and the NHL for nine seasons after the trade, playing for Ottawa, St. Louis, Edmonton and Philadelphia. His best statistical season would be 1998-99 with the Blues, when he played in 45 games and scored 22 points. For his NHL career, Picard would play in 166 games, scoring 28 goals and 70 points.

After a couple of seasons in the minors and one in Germany, Picard would play five seasons in the LNAH in his home province of Quebec, leading his team in scoring three of those seasons. He was never quite able to match his success at the minor league level to the pros, as he did win a Calder Cup in 1990-91 with the Springfield Indians and was named an AHL All-Star four times.

Picard is currently a scout with the St. Louis Blues, a position he has held for 10 years.

Card # 49 - Dennis Vaske

The native of Rockford, Illinois, Vaske was a second round pick of the New York Islanders in the 1986 draft. The defenceman out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth would appear in five games in 1990-91, and 39 games in the 1991-92 season, recording a single assist.

Vaske would play off and on for the Islanders until the 1997-98 season; in total, he played 232 games on Long Island, recording five goals and 41 assists. He would suffer concussions in 1995, 1996 and 1997, causing him to miss a significant number of games each year and ultimately limiting his career. He would sign with the Boston Bruins in 1998-99, but only appear in three games; however, he would be a part of the Calder Cup winning Providence Bruins team that year.

Vaske retired following the 1998-99 season, but is still heavily involved in hockey. He currently coaches with the Chicago Fury AAA minor hockey organization, and is the owner of the Hudson Havoc, a United States Premier Hockey League team.

YouTube clip: In a bit of irony, getting run over by Eric Lindros, a man who’s own career was cut short by concussion issues:

Card # 50 - Eric Murano

A centre drafted in the fifth round by the Canucks in 1986, Murano was a second team all-star at the University of Denver. He would never appear in a regular season game in the NHL (he got some pre-season games in, judging by the pictures above), but would have several successful seasons in the AHL (1990-1996) before playing a final four seasons of pro hockey in Europe before retiring in 2002. During his time in Europe, Murano won an Austrian League championship in 1998-99.

Murano is currently a mortgage loan officer in Milwaukee, and also coaches high school hockey.

YouTube clip: getting in a dust up with Nelson Emerson in the AHL.

Card # 51 - Enrico Ciccone

A Montreal native, Ciccone was drafted in the fifth round of the 1990 draft by the Minnesota North Stars. In 1991-92 he would appear in 11 games, recording 0 points and 48 penalty minutes.

A rare type of player now, Ciccone was a defensive enforcer. He would spend most of his time in Minnesota in the farm system, not breaking in as a full-time NHLer until after a trade to Washington in June 1993. He would go on to lead the NHL in penalty minutes (225) in 1994-95 and finish second in 1995-96 (306) while playing in Tampa Bay.

In total, Ciccone would be traded seven times between 1993 and 1998, including a 1998 trade in which he was traded with Sean Burke and Geoff Sanderson to Vancouver from Carolina for Kirk McLean and Martin Gelinas. In total, he would play nine seasons for seven different teams (Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Carolina, Vancouver, Washington and Montreal), retiring after three games with his home Canadiens in 2000.

Enrico is now a member of the National Assembly in Quebec, representing the Montreal-area riding of Marquette as a member of the Quebec Liberal Party.

YouTube clip: fighting Shayne Corson after he lays out Saku Koivu behind the Vancouver Canucks net.

Card # 52 - Shaun Van Allen

Van Allen, a fifth-round pick of the Oilers in the 1987 draft, was a high-scoring prospect from the WHL. The Calgary native scored 97 points in 72 games in his final junior year with Saskatoon. He continued his scoring pace in the AHL, topping 100 points in 1990-91 & 1991-92 with the Cape Breton Oilers, winning the league scoring title in 1991-92 and the Calder Cup in 1992-93.

For his NHL career, Van Allen played only 23 games between 1990-93 with the Oilers, signing with the expansion Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for the 1993-94 season. That season he would score a career high 33 points, a far drop from his junior and minor league production.

Although not a statistical demon, Van Allen would become a valuable bottom six forward on the Ottawa Senators teams of the late 1990s. He would play six seasons for Ottawa over two stints, and also play for Montreal and Dallas before retiring at the end of 2003-04 season.

Van Allen is currently the head coach of the Carleton Ravens university hockey team in Ottawa, and also appears on TSN 1200 radio broadcasts of his former team, the Senators.

YouTube clip: Van Allen’s biggest goal as a Senator, the overtime winner in Game 1 of the 2003 Eastern Conference final against New Jersey.

Card # 53 - Stu Barnes

Another high-scoring centre out of the WHL, Barnes was selected fourth overall by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1989 draft. In his draft year Barnes scored 144 points (52 goals) and won player of the year in the Western league.

Barnes would play parts of three seasons with the Jets until he was traded to the expansion Florida Panthers in 1993-94. He would prove a key cog in the Panthers team that made a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup final in 1996, scoring 16 points in 22 playoff games.

The Calgary native would post his best individual statistics after a trade to Pittsburgh, recording 30 goals and 65 points in the 1997-98 season. After a trade to Buffalo, Barnes would appear in the 1999 Cup final, and captain the Sabres from 2001-2003. He would wrap up his NHL career with four seasons in Dallas, retiring in 2008 with over 1100 games played, scoring 261 goals and 597 points.

Barnes has been very active in hockey after his retirement, first as an assistant coach in Dallas, then as a part owner of the Tri-City Americans in the WHL. He is currently a scout with the NHL’s newest franchise, the Seattle Kraken.

YouTube clip: Barnes’ overtime winner for the Sabres in 2000 Eastern Conference quarterfinal over Philadelphia, made all the better by the legendary Rick Jeanneret.

Card # 54 - Pavel Bure

The Russian right winger was a sixth-round pick of the Canucks in the 1989 draft, but was already a known commodity in the hockey world, having scored 12 goals in seven games at the 1990 World Juniors.

Bure would not disappoint in his rookie season, scoring 34 goals and 60 points, winning the Calder Trophy as rookie-of-the-year. The following two seasons would be his best statistical output, topping 60 goals and 100 points each season, leading the NHL in goals, and being named a first team all-star in 1993-94. Bure would lead the Canucks to the 1994 Stanley Cup final, scoring 16 goals and 31 points in 24 games as Vancouver would lose the final in seven games to the New York Rangers.

Injuries would start to plague the Russian Rocket, as he would play only 59 games between 1994-96. 1997-98 would prove his final season on the West Coast, scoring 51 goals before sitting out most of the following season demanding a trade. In January 1999 Bure would be traded to Florida in a seven player deal that landed Vancouver former first overall pick Ed Jovanovski.

Bure rediscovered his scoring touch in Florida, leading the league in goals in 1999-00 (58) and 2000-01 (59), winning the Rocket Richard trophy both years and being named a second team all-star.

He would be traded at the 2002 deadline to the New York Rangers for Igor Ulanov, Filip Novak and three draft picks. His time on Broadway would be short, playing only 51 games, but scoring 31 goals before his persistent knee injuries forced him to retire after the 2004-05 lockout season.

Bure would be named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012 and named one of the NHL’s 100 greatest players in the 2017 centennial voting.

I would be remiss if I didn't comment on the fantastic photos used for this card. It doesn't get more 90s than roller-blading on the beach, and throw in the classic minor hockey pose on the back, you get arguably the best card in this set.

YouTube clip: the brilliance of the Russian Rocket on full display for 3.5 minutes. I can only imagine what he would have been able to do if he could stay healthy – I mean he could shoot, skate, stickhandle and even hit.

Our next post will continue with the theme of rookies, this time featuring some of the top players drafted in 1991.

2 views0 comments


bottom of page