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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

Re-selecting the 1985 entry draft

It is a popular thing for hockey writers to do - take an Entry Draft from the past, and re-select the players based on years of hindsight. Seems easy right? I am going to give a try today with the 1985 draft. Why 1985 when this is a website called 90s hockey card history? Two of the players featured in this post were drafted in 1985. And I have an affinity for the year of my birth. Without further ado, below is my re-selection of players from the 1985 draft. Rankings are based strictly on best talent, not best team fit or any other criteria.

Original # 1 pick - Wendel Clark, Toronto Maple Leafs. An absolute legend amongst Leafs fans of a certain age, Clark was the definition of heart and soul player. He could score (five times 30+ goals), hit and fight. Too much of the last two caused his career to wane due to injury.

New # 1 pick - Joe Nieuwendyk. Hall of Famer, three time Cup champ, Calder, Conn Smythe and King Clancy Award winner. Scored over 500 goals and 1100 points in career. Originally selected 27th overall by Calgary.

Original # 2 pick - Craig Simpson, Pittsburgh Penguins. Two time Cup champ with Edmonton , scored 56 goals in 1987-88, good for second in the league. Like Clark, his career ended early, in Simpson's case due to a bad back.

New # 2 pick - Igor Larionov. The Professor was 24 years old when selected 214th overall by Vancouver. If not for the uncertainty around Soviet players, the man who became a three time Cup champion and scored over 600 points would have gone much higher given his Hall of Fame calibre career.

Original # 3 pick - Craig Wolanin, New Jersey. See post below.

New # 3 pick - Wendel Clark. Sometimes the brightest stars burn out fast.

Original # 4 pick - Jim Sandlak, Vancouver Canucks. Played 11 NHL seasons, nine with Vancouver. Made all rookie team, maxed out at 40 points (twice in career).

New # 4 pick - Calle Johansson. This spot was a hard choice between Johansson, Eric Weinrich and Dave Manson. Johansson played 17 seasons (15 with Capitals), scoring 30+ points in 11 seasons, and earning Norris Trophy votes. Originally selected 14th overall by Buffalo.

Original # 5 pick - Dana Murzyn, Hartford Whalers. Played over 800 NHL games, made all rookie team and won Stanley Cup in 1988 with Calgary.

New # 5 pick - Mike Richter. Richter gets the edge over Sean Burke as he hit a higher peak in his career. Richter led the Rangers to their first Cup victory in 40 years in 1994, won 20+ games in 10 out of his 14 seasons and played in three all-star games. A concussion and fractured skull forced an early retirement at 36. Originally selected 28th overall.

484 - Randy Velischek

A defenceman, Velischek was drafted 53rd overall by Minnesota in 1980 after his freshman season at Providence College. He played three more seasons with Friars, where he was captain during his senior season, along with winning the ECAC Player of the Year and being a Hobey Baker Award finalist. Velischek turned pro at the end of his senior season, appearing in three regular season and nine playoff games with the North Stars.

His first turn pro season was split between Salt Lake in the CHL and Minnesota, with Velischek playing in 52 games with the North Stars in 1984-85, scoring four goals and 13 points. In October 1985 he was claimed off waivers by New Jersey, playing between 47 and 64 games each season over three seasons with the Devils. During the 1988-89 season he played in a career high 70 games, equaling his previous careers highs for goals (four) and points (18)

In the summer 1990 Velischek was traded to Quebec to complete an earlier trade that saw the Devils land Peter Statsny. In his first season in Quebec he played 72 games, dropping down to 38 games in 1991-92 while spending part of the season in the AHL with Halifax. From 1992 to 1995 Velischek played in the AHL and IHL, ending his career in 1995-96 after a brief tenure in Great Britain.

In 10 NHL seasons, Velischek played in 509 games, scoring 21 goals and 97 points. He coached the Metropolitan Riveters of the NWHL for one season (2018-19) and is currently coaching youth hockey in New York. From 1995 to 2006 he worked as broadcaster with the Devils.

YouTube clip: putting the Bruins’ Nevin Markwart through the end glass at the old Boston Gardens

485 - Myles O’Connor

A defenceman, O’Connor was drafted 45th overall by New Jersey in 1985. Following the draft he played four seasons at Michigan University, scoring 54 points in his sophomore season. His first full pro season came in 1989-90 with Utica, scoring 47 points in 76 games. The following season O’Connor made his NHL debut, playing in 22 games, scoring three goals and four points. Over the next two seasons he appeared in only 16 games with the Devils, recording two assists.

In July 1993 O’Connor signed with the expansion Mighty Ducks of Anaheim as a free agent. He played his final five NHL games with the Mighty Ducks that season. O’Connor played three seasons in the AHL and IHL, recording 200 or more penalty minutes in two seasons as he transitioned to an enforcer role. His final pro season came in 1997-98 in Japan, where he scored 15 points and recorded 107 penalty minutes in 31 games.

In four NHL seasons, O’Connor played in 43 games, scoring four goals and seven points. During his time at Michigan he earned a BA in Business/Commerce, which he now uses to run his family owned/operator clothing and footwear store in Calgary. O’Connor’s son Logan currently plays in the NHL for Colorado.

YouTube clip: fighting Keith Primeau during a January 1991 game versus the Detroit Red Wings.

486 - Craig Wolanin

A defenceman, Wolanin was drafted third overall by New Jersey in 1985. He started immediately in the NHL, playing in 44 games during the 1985-86 season, scoring two goals and 18 points. Wolanin’s third season was arguably the best of his young career statistcally, scoring six goals and 31 points along with 170 penalty minutes. That season the Devils made the Prince of Wales Conference Finals, with Wolanin contributing eight points in 18 games.

After another season and a half in New Jersey he was traded to Quebec for Peter Stastny. Wolanin experienced some lean years during his time in Quebec, none more so than in 1992-93 when he played only 24 games. During the time he played the majority of games in a season, Wolanin scored in the mid-teens in points while taking on a defensive role.

In 1995-96 the Nordiques moved to Colorado, with Wolanin scoring 27 points in 75 games and finishing +25. He played in seven playoff games, scoring one goal as the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup. In the following off-season Wolanin was traded to Tampa Bay for a second round pick. He played 15 games with the Lightning before a trade to Toronto for a third round pick. With the Leafs Wolanin played in 33 games over two seasons, recording four assists. He ended his pro hockey career with Detroit of the IHL in 1998-99.

In 13 NHL seasons Wolanin played in 695 games, scoring 40 goals and 173 points. In retirement he has coached youth hockey in Michigan, with his son Christian playing several seasons in the NHL, most recently with Los Angeles. Father Craig now works in marketing and development for a construction firm.

YouTube clip: three and half minutes of highlights from Wolanin’s time with Quebec, set to Motorhead. The video features several hits that would be penalties and/or suspensions by today’s standards.

487 - Mike McPhee

A left winger, McPhee was drafted 124th overall by Montreal in 1980 after his sophomore season at RPI. After one more season with the Engineers he turned pro, playing in 42 games with Nova Scotia in 1982-38. McPhee made his NHL debut the next season, and in his first full season of 1984-85 he scored 17 goals and 39 points, finishing tenth in Calder voting.

He was a key part of the Cinderella 1986 Habs team that finished seventh overall in the NHL standings but won the Stanley Cup, contributing three goals and seven points in 20 games. The following playoffs McPhee scored seven goals in 17 games as the Habs lost to Philadelphia in the Prince of Wales Conference Finals.

McPhee was remarkably consistent throughout his career; from 1984-85 to 1993-94 he scored between 16-23 goals and 31-43 points each season. To get even more granular, in seven straight seasons he scored between 39 to 43 points per season. During this run of consistency McPhee earned Selke Trophy votes five straight seasons, finishing fifth in 1988 and 1991.

In August 1992 McPhee was traded to Minnesota for a draft pick. He played one season with the North Stars and one with the Stars after the franchise moved to Dallas. McPhee was forced to retire after the 1993-94 season at the young age of 33 due to knee injuries. In 11 NHL seasons he played in 744 games, scoring 200 goals and 399 points with a career +98 rating. McPhee played in the 1989 all-star game and scored a surprising four hat tricks during his career. In retirement he worked in banking, having obtained a degree in civil engineering as well as an MBA.

YouTube clip: scoring a hat trick against Minnesota during a February 1991 game.

488 - Claude Lapointe

A centre, Lapointe was drafted in the twelfth round, 234th overall, in 1988 by Quebec after scoring 37 goals and 120 points in the QMJHL. He played an additional season in junior before turning pro in 1989-90 with Halifax in AHL. Lapointe made his NHL debut the following season, playing in 13 games, before making the NHL full-time in 1991-92, scoring 13 goals and 33 points in 78 games.

Despite being a high scorer in junior, Lapointe developed into a defensive specialist during his time in Quebec. He moved with the franchise to Colorado for the 1995-96 season, but was traded to Calgary for a draft pick early in the season. Lapointe played 32 games with Calgary, scoring nine points, while also playing in the AHL.

In the 1996 off-season he signed with the New York Islanders, a major turning point in his career. Lapointe’s scoring totals gradually increased, capped with a career-high 37 points in 1998-99 and 15 goals the following season. He also took on a leadership role, as an assistant captain from 1999 to 2001. In March 2003 Lapointe was traded to Philadelphia for a draft pick. During that season’s playoffs he scored two goals and five points in 13 games. Lapointe played one final season in Philadelphia before retiring after the 2003-04 season. His career ended as he was placed into the second stage of the joint substance abuse and behavioural health program.

In 14 NHL seasons Lapointe played in 879 games, scoring 127 goals and 305 points. He attempted a comeback in 2006-07, playing a handful of games in Switzerland and the following season in the LNAH in Quebec. In retirement he has coached youth hockey and was behind an online hockey teaching tool known as Straight Talk Hockey.

YouTube clip: scoring on a great individual effort against Montreal during an April 1998 game. Bonus points for also rocking the original Fisherman/Captain Highliner jersey.

489 - Troy Loney

A left winger, Loney was drafted 52nd overall by Pittsburgh in 1982. He played a third and final season of junior with Lethbridge in the WHL before turning pro in 1983-84. Through Loney’s first four pro seasons he split time between Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the AHL; in the 1984-85 season he scored 10 goals and 18 points in 46 games, his best showing in his early career.

1987-88 was Loney’s first full season with the Penguins, scoring five goals and 18 points in 65 games. Two seasons later he scored a career-high 27 points and 168 penalty minutes. Loney was part of the Penguins teams that won back-to-back Cups in 1991 and 1992, playing in every postseason game both years. In the 1992 playoffs he contributed four goals and nine points.

In 1993 Loney was claimed in the expansion draft by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Named the first captain in franchise history, he scored a career high 13 goals in 62 games that season. In summer 1993 he was traded to the New York Islanders for Tom Kurvers. Loney played 26 games for the Islanders, scoring nine points, before being claimed off waivers by the New York Rangers. Loney appeared in four games on Broadway, the final games of his NHL career.

In 12 NHL seasons, Loney played in 624 games, scoring 87 goals and 197 points. He and his wife were part owners of the Youngstown Phantoms in the USHL until selling their share in 2018. He currently works in the medical technology field, specifically pharmacy business processes.

YouTube clip: converting a beautiful feed from Anatoli Semenov to score the second goal in Ducks franchise history.

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