NHL teams build their teams in many different ways. Some build their clubs through free agency while others do so through trades. However, the main way teams create a roster is through the NHL draft. Most years, maybe a player or two made the roster, but some years the CEO gets it right and gets a cornerstone or two for the franchise. The Last Word on Hockey makes the best draft class for every team except for the Seattle Kraken. Today we’re looking at Colorado Avalanche’s best draft class.
Colorado Avalanche Best train class: 1979
The 1979 draft was the first for the Quebec Nordiques since joining the NHL. It would surely be hard to know what to expect from a brand new franchise that has kicked off several seasons in the chaotic WHA. However, it turned out to be great for the future Colorado organization as it produced several of the best players in franchise history.
The first pick came in 20th overall in the form of future Hall of Fame skater Michel Goulet. It also included another player who could skate in over 1,000 games, Dale Hunter. Lee Norwood and Anton Stastny cannot be ignored in the next two laps either. It may not have been the deepest grade or produced a lot of postseason success, but it’s hard to argue with sheer talent.
Michel Goulet, 1st round, 20th overall
It’s a little overwhelming to imagine a future Hall of Fame player who has fallen this far, but that’s exactly what happened. Goulet would continue to regret some teams for overlooking his skills. He would appear in 1,089 regular season games, tied for the 10th most of the 1979 class. Goulet would also be the fourth most productive player of the year with 548 goals and 1,153 points. Only Mark Messier, Ray Bourque and Mike Gartner produced more.
Despite his overall talent, Goulet never won many awards. He was an All-Star five times, but played in the shadows of much better-known players for most of his career in the 1980s; it would have been hard to shine in an era when Wayne Gretzky was among others. What’s even sadder is that Goulet never won a Stanley Cup as a player. In 1991-92, when he was 31, he got close to the Chicago Blackhawks, but they got in the way of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He wouldn’t play much longer as he suffered a concussion in 1994 that ended his career at the age of 33. It was a disappointing ending, but it shouldn’t belittle the reality that Goulet was the franchise’s first superstar.
Dale Hunter, 2nd round, 41st overall
Goulet was the shining beacon of the 1979 class, but Hunter deserves its own credit. Born in Petrolia, Ontario, he produced for Quebec for years before joining the Washington Capitals in 1987. Interestingly, the election that came back in exchange for Hunter became Joe Sakic. Overall, Hunter would appear in the fourth most games of all 1979 draftees. His 323 goals and 1,020 points are the sixth best behind Messier, Bourque, Gartner, Goulet and Glenn Anderson. Hunter never won a Stanley Cup, won an award, or appeared in an All-Star game, but he was a standout talent in several ways. His career ended after the 1989/99 season with Quebec / Colorado when the team fell to the Dallas Stars in the postseason.
Lee Norwood, 3rd round, 62nd overall
Norwood was the franchise’s first defender to be selected in 1979. The native Californian never played for more than five seasons with an organization, but still managed to collect 58 goals, 211 points and 1,099 penalty minutes in 503 games. Norwood’s career doesn’t stand out in itself, but over 500 games from a third round selection in an era when defenders existed primarily to review and battle them out, more than noteworthy.
Anton Stastny, 4th round, 83 overall
The Stastny’s really are one of the big hockey families. Five members appeared in an NHL game and it all started with Anton. He was the first Slovak-born player to be drafted into the NHL. Stastny only ran for nine seasons, but his 252 goals and 636 points in 650 games are still the sixth ever in franchise history. Not bad for a European in an era that didn’t trust foreign players as much as they could.
There are several classes worth mentioning in the history of this franchise. First up, in 1987, we have Joe Sakic’s Titanic talent. There was also the NHL Garth Snow and his 368 career games. In 1988 Quebec designed what is probably the deepest class of all time. A whopping seven players from that year ran in at least 278 games, led by Curtis Leschyshyn. Perhaps the most interesting “what-if” is in 1991, when the team picked Eric Lindros, who refused to play in Quebec. It was eventually traded in for an absolute king’s ransom that brought back so many players. If Lindros had been more flexible, we might never have seen Peter Forsberg in an Avalanche uniform. That would certainly have been something.
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