With all the hype that swallows up the NHL’s Entry Draft, it’s easy to forget the player who wasn’t quite good enough, in the scouts’ eyes at least, to be chosen first overall. This short series will be looking that the other guy; the fella who went second. Yesterday we looked at Eric Staal, and as there’s 11 days to go until Christmas, here’s #11 in the 4th Line Podcast’s top 12 2nd Overall Picks.
11. Tom Lysiak, C
Drafted 1973, Atlanta Flames
Games Played 919
1973 was a tense time in the NHL; the rival World Hockey Association was very much a thing, and the fight to keep the best talent in the older league was a real challenge. While this tension was building, in the WCHL there was a young center who was dominating the league with the Medicine Hat Tigers and teams in both the NHL and WHA had their eyes on him.
Tom Lysiak had averaged 1.67 points per game in the WCHL and while the highly-touted Denis Potvin was drafted first overall by the New York Islanders, Lysiak was snapped up by the Atlanta Flames. In the WHA draft he was selected 23rd by the Houston Aeros, but wisely signed with the NHL team.
The impact of Lysiak was almost instantaneous. The Flames made the playoffs for the first time and Lysiak was a solid candidate for the Calder Trophy. Lysiak missed out but his linemates frequently won, such was the impact he had. Of the five full seasons that Lysiak played in Atlanta, he never played fewer than 77 games in a season and, aside from his rookie year, never scored less than 68 points.
As team captain and regular All-Star, Lysiak was a clear fan favourite in Atlanta. So the fans’ dismay was very real when Lysiak was part of a then record eight player trade deal between the Flames and the Chicago Blackhawks. The deal was done mid way during the 1978/79 season. Shortly after the deal the Flames relocated to Calgary.
The impact Lysiak had in Chicago was immediate and lasting. In his eight seasons in the windy city, he quickly became a fan favourite and often pops up on polls of the best ever Blackhawks.
Lysiak retired with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1986 after 191 career NHL games, 292 goals and 843 points and passed away last year.
Whether or not Lysiak should have been picked before Denis Potvin is difficult to say. Both were exceptional players, but while the Islanders were a team in the ascendancy, the Flames were on borrowed time. It’s also hard to compare centers and blueliners. On balance of probability; Potvin was probably the better of the two.
Tomorrow: number 10!