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. We’ve already looked at Eric Staal, Tom Lysiak and Jason Spezza, and as there’s 9 days to go until Christmas, here’s #9 in the 4th Line Podcast’s top 12 2nd Overall Picks.
9. Dave Babych, D
Drafted 1980, Winnipeg Jets
Games Played 1195
Of all the great mustachioed hockey players, Dave Babych is one of the best, despite having been drafted by the Winnipeg Jets (the old Jets, now in Arizona). The Original Jets had only joined the NHL in 1979 from the defunct WHA and were in a bad place (the team, not Winnipeg). Having won the WHA title in 1978 and 1979, the Jets’ inclusion into the NHL required them to give up some key players and the 1979/80 season saw the team win just a quarter of their games.
In the 1980 Draft, the Jets were second on the stand and were in need of a blueliner. Future Hall of Famers Larry Murphy and Paul Coffey were available but the Jets picked a young man who’d dominated the Western Hockey League with the Portland Winterhawks.
Babych was assigned to the big team immediately, and despite the Jets’ poor 9/57/14 record, the rookie defenceman still recorded 44 points from six goals and 38 assists. From that turning point, both the Jets and Babych went from strength to strength. In the 1981/82 season, Babych tallied 68 points and the Jets went to the NHL playoffs for the first time, only to be knocked out in the division semi-final. A career-high 74 point season followed that for Babych and although the following seasons in Winnipeg would see fewer points scored and fewer games played; the D-man was still a hero. Aside from that dreadful first season, the Jets made the playoffs every season Babych played. Despite Norris Trophy nominations, unbelievably Babych never won the award. In total Babych played 390 regular season games for the Jets, scoring 321 points.
Where is Babych now? He’s currently Assistant Director of Player Personnel for the Vancouver Canucks. Although that actually means is anyone’s guess. His route from Winnipeg to the Vancouver front office was anything but smooth though. Despite being one of the Jets’ best ever players, just 19 games into the 1985/86 season, Babych was hilariously traded to the Hartford Whalers for Ray Neufeld. After six and a bit seasons in Connecticut, in all of which the Whalers made the playoffs (after a five season drought), Babych was exposed to the 1991 expansion draft and was picked by the Minnesota North Stars, however was then immediately traded to the Vancouver Canucks.
Injuries were never far away from Babych and his seven season stint with Vancouver was as rocky as the mountain range. In the 1993/94 season he almost led the team to Stanley Cup victory, but this is the Canucks and normal poor service quickly resumed. Babych continued to bounce around the league as he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers and the Los Angeles Kings. Babych played one game for Swiss team HC Ambri-Piotta then retired from the game.
Babych is without doubt one of the best number 2 draft picks to play the game of hockey, his points tally is testament to that. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t spend longer with one specific team, or with better teams, then we might have seen his name on some awards, or even #44 hanging in the rafters in a barn or two.