50 Years Ago Today – NHL Has an Unlikely Leading Scorer

After the first week of the 1964-65 NHL season, a look at the league scoring race reveals a very unlikely name atop the leaderboard.  Defenceman Kent Douglas of the Toronto Maple Leafs, banished to the minors last year after being the NHL rookie of the year in 62-63, is the man with more points than anyone else.  Douglas has amassed eight points, including a league-leading seven assists. In 43 games last season, Douglas managed only one point, an assist, in 43 games.

Kent Douglas is the NHL scoring leader after one week of play

Last year’s leading point-getter Stan Mikita is second, two  points back of the leader with one goal and five assists.  Four players lead the league in goals with three each.  They are Red Kelly of Toronto, Claude Provost of Montreal and the Rangers’ Bobby Nevin and Lou Angotti.

Best rookies so far include Angotti, Yvan Cournoyer of Montreal and Chicago’s Doug Robinson, all with three points.

While the list of scoring leaders has a bit of a strange look to it, one shouldn’t be too concerned over some of the usual names missing from the rankings.  Players such as Andy Bathgate, Murray Oliver and of course Bobby Hull are sure to hit their stride and you’ll see them begin to move up the list shortly.

Beliveau, Mohns most penalized

Most penalized players so far are a bit surprising as well.  Jean Beliveau of Montreal and Doug Mohns. acquired by Chicago from Boston in the off-season, have spent 16 minutes in the sin bin.  What isn’t surprising is the name with the second highest total – Detroit’s comeback kid Ted Lindsay with 14 minutes.

Chicago’s Doug Mohns is tied with Beliveau for most NHL penalty minutes.

The race for the Vezina Trophy for top goalkeeper has the Habs’ Charlie Hodge on top with an average of 1.00 for his first three contests.  Hodge and the Black Hawks’ Glenn Hall each have one shut out.

The Bruins Ed Johnston has the worst goals-against average at 4.75, while Boston is also the most penalized club with 70 minutes.

Player profile – Kent Douglas

Our first player profile this season takes a look at the NHL’s leading scorer after a week, Kent Douglas of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  While Kent would be the first to admit that his lofty perch at the head of the NHL scoring list is by no means permanent, his hot start to the season augers well for his future with the Maple Leafs.

Douglas, now 28 years old, was born in Cobalt, in Northern Ontario.  He  began his hockey career in the OHA with the Kitchener Canucks in 1954-55, and the next season, made it to the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League for a 3-game cup of coffee.  After a season playing senior hockey in Owen Sound, Ontario, Kent turned professional full time in 1957-58 with the Winnipeg Warriors of the Western Hockey League.  Near the end of the 1958-59 season, Kent found himself with the Springfield Indians and that is where, as he often says, his real hockey education began.

Eddie Shore – mentor

Kent was mentored by Springfield owner and Hockey Hall of Famer Eddie Shore, generally recognized as the greatest NHL defenseman ever (with apologies to Doug Harvey).  Shore was a tough, unforgiving sort who imparted upon the young Douglas his hard-rock, punishing defensive style of play.  Already gifted with great offensive ability from the blue line, the combination would serve Kent well.

Douglas describes learning from Shore this way: “Eddie Shore wasn’t what you would call the best teacher in the world, but he knew what he wanted you to do and how he wanted you to do it. If you could put up with some of what went on, you could learn.” He learned his lessons well.

Kent Douglas credits Bruins legend Eddie Shore for shaping his career.

After winning the Eddie Shore award in 1962 for being the best defenceman in the AHL, Douglas was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Punch Imlach felt that Kent was exactly what the Leafs needed on the back end, and managed to pry him loose from Shore’s grasp, but the transaction cost him five players.  The Leafs surrendered Jim Wilcox, Roger Cote, Bill White, Dick Mattiussi and the loan of Wally Boyer to Springfield.

Calder Trophy winner

In that first season with the Leafs, Douglas thrived. He scored seven goals, most on the Toronto defensive corps,  and added 15 assists for a total of 22 points.   For his fine play, he was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as the top NHL rookie for the 1962-63 season.  He is the first defenceman to ever win that trophy.

Kent Douglas accepts the Calder Memorial Trophy

Last season, Kent struggled, dealing with injuries and personal problems.  Imlach finally ran out of patience and sent Douglas to the Toronto American League farm team at Rochester.  The hope was that he would find his game in a less pressurized environment, and the ploy worked. Kent scored six goals and added 13 assists in only 19 AHL games, serving notice that he would be back the next season, stronger than ever.

At training camp this season Kent reported in the best condition of his career, determined to prove that last season was not a true indicator of his ability.  Playing with the poise and confidence that marked his rookie year, Douglas won back his job with the Leafs and the quick start to this season certainly gives one the idea that he’s back to stay this time.