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, Jason Spezza, Dave Babych, Trevor Linden, Kirk Muller, Brad Park and Daniel Sedin, and as there’re just 4 days to go until Christmas, here’s #4 in the 4th Line Podcast’s top 12 2nd Overall Picks.
4. Brian Bellows, LW
Drafted 1982, Minnesota North Stars
Games Played 1188
The Kitchener Rangers have produced A LOT of good NHL players. Five of whom have been elevated to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Today’s candidate hasn’t been that fortunate. He is however a great winger and number 4 in our countdown of 2nd overall draft picks. By the time the 1982 Entry Draft came knocking, Brian Bellows had already served as captain of the Rangers and was scoring a ridiculous number of points per game (213 points in 113 games).
Blueliner Gord Kluzak was drafted first overall by the Boston Bruins, while the North Stars needed more offensive weapons moving forward so Brian Bellows was the easy choice when it was Minnesota’s time on the stand. The selection of Bellows, touted as the next Gretzky (aren’t they all?) was by design with the intent of bringing the Stars a Stanley Cup. The pick originally belonged to the Detroit Red Wings but was traded to Minnesota for Greg Smith, the rights to Don Murdoch and the North Stars’ own pick.
The decade prior to the 1982 draft had seen the North Stars miss the playoffs five times and make the finals once, losing to the New York Islanders in five games. In the decade with Bellows on the roster, the North Stars missed the Playoffs just twice, but still only found the finals once and that was against a strong Pittsburgh Penguins team also looking for their first cup win. Unfortunately for Minnesota, the Penguins took the series in six games.
Bellows’ time in Bloomington was still admirably productive, 753 of his 1188 NHL games were played wearing the North Stars’ colours and his 726 points saw him leave the team as almost a point-per-game player (0.96). The 1989/90 season was Bellows’ most productive, he tallied 99 points, falling just short of the century mark.
Where is Bellows now? After missing the playoffs, the Minnesota North Stars were in a bad place and rumours about selling or relocating started to circulate. Bellows was reluctantly traded to the Montreal Canadiens but immediately found his feet north of the border. While he couldn’t exceed the numbers he managed in Minnesota, he did a damned good job and in 1993 his 15 points in the playoffs helped the Habs lift their 24th (and last) Stanley Cup. Bellows also played his NHL hockey in Tampa Bay, Anaheim and Washington before retiring.
On reflection, Bellows was definitely the right choice for the North Stars, had the team not had to battle its own internal battles in the early 90s then perhaps Bellows may have been the man to bring the team their first cup.