Today in Hockey History: June 26

If you are a fan of the draft, then June 26 is a huge day for you. Five separate National Hockey League Entry Drafts were held on this date which brought some Hall of Fame talent into the league. There was even an expansion draft held, as well, and one of the greatest defensemen to ever play called it a career.

The Russians are Coming

The NHL Entry Draft was held in Raleigh, NC, on June 26, 2004. The Washington Capitals made good use of the first overall pick by selecting the new face of their franchise, forward Alex Ovechkin. He became just the second Russian-born player to be drafted first overall, joining Ilya Kovalchuk, who was picked first in 1999.

Ovechkin won the Calder Trophy for being the top rookie of the 2005-06 season when he scored 52 goals. He has 706 goals and 1278 points in 1152 career games and has won the Maurice Richard Trophy, for leading the league in goals, nine different times. He has also won three Hart Trophies for being the league’s most valuable player and one Art Ross Trophy for being the NHL’s top scorer. He led the Capitals to their first-ever Stanley Cup win in 2018 and won the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the most valuable player of the playoffs.

Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals
Ovechkin went first overall on June 26, 2004. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Pittsburgh Penguins stayed in Russia for the second pick when they drafted future superstar Evgeni Malkin. He also won the Calder Trophy after a 33-goal rookie season in 2006-07. He has been a part of three Stanley Cup championships, has won a Hart and Conn Smythe Trophy and two Art Ross Trophies.

Some other notable Russians that were drafted in 2004 include Alexander Radulov (15th, Nashville Predators), Alexei Emelin (84th, Montreal Canadiens), Mikhail Grabovski (150th, Canadiens) and Anton Khudobin (206th, Minnesota Wild).

Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins used the second pick in 2004 to draft Malkin. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There was a big drop off after the top two picks when the Chicago Blackhawks selected defenseman Cam Barker at number three. There were plenty of other first-round picks that worked out well including Andrew Ladd (4th, Carolina Hurricanes), Blake Wheeler (5th, Phoenix Coyotes), Travis Zajac (20th, New Jersey Devils), Cory Schneider (26th, Vancouver Canucks) and Mike Green (29th, Capitals).

Some of the better picks in the later rounds included Dave Bolland (32nd, Blackhawks), Brandon Dubinsky (60th, New York Rangers), David Krejci (63rd, Boston Bruins), Alexander Edler (91st, Vancouver Canucks), Johan Franzen (97th, Detroit Red Wings), Ryan Callahan (127th, Rangers), Kris Versteeg (134th, Bruins), Roman Polak (180th, St. Louis Blues), Troy Brouwer (214th, Blackhawks), Pekka Rinne (258th, Predators) and Mark Streit (262nd, Canadiens).

The Sedins Land in Vancouver

The 1999 NHL Entry Draft was held on June 26, in Boston. After the Draft Lottery, the Tampa Bay Lightning held the first pick with the Atlanta Thrashers picking second and the Canucks third. However, that all changed because Vancouver general manager Brian Burke was hellbent on landing both Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

Burke set off a crazy and complicated whirlwind of trades that when the dust settled, the Thrashers had the first pick, the Canucks the second and third and the Lightning traded out of the first round altogether.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin Canucks
It took some creativity to get the Sedins to Vancouver. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Once the draft began, Atlanta chose Patrik Stefan with the number one pick. He scored just 64 goals and 188 points 455 career NHL games. From there, the Canucks drafted both Sedins, who combined for 633 goals and 2,111 points in 2,636 games, all with Vancouver.

Other notable members of the 1999 draft class included Barret Jackman (17th, Blues), Martin Havlat (26th, Ottawa Senators), Craig Anderson (77th, Calgary Flames), Ryan Miller (138th, Buffalo Sabres), Martin Erat (191st, Predators), Henrik Zetterberg (210th, Red Wings) and Radim Vrbata (212th, Colorado Avalanche).

Senators Miss Out

Quebec City hosted the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, which began on this date. The Senators used the first overall pick to select center, Alexandre Daigle. This turned out to be a major misstep as he scored just 74 goals and 172 points over five seasons with the team. He was eventually traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1998.

While hindsight is always 20/20, there were plenty of better choices they could have made. Other first-round picks included Chris Pronger (2nd, Hartford Whalers), Paul Kariya (4th, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim), Rob Niedermayer (5th, Florida Panthers), Viktor Kozlov (6th, San Jose Sharks), Jason Arnott (7th, Edmonton Oilers) and Saku Koivu (21st, Canadiens).

The later rounds provided some good talent with the likes of Jamie Langenbrunner (35th, Dallas Stars), Brendan Morrison (39th, Devils), Bryan McCabe (40th, Islanders), Vinny Prospal (71st, Flyers), Eric Daze (90th, Blackhawks), Miroslav Satan (111th, Oilers), Darcy Tucker (151st, Canadiens), Patrick Lalime (156th, Penguins), Hal Gill (207th, Bruins), Pavol Demitra (227th, Senators) and Kimmo Timonen (250th, Kings).

Two More Talented Draft Classes

The 30 teams of the NHL kicked off the NHL Entry Draft, on June 26, 2009, in Montreal. The New York Islanders kicked off a very deep draft by selected John Tavares of the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League. A very impressive top-five saw Victor Hedman go to the Lightning, the Avalanche select Matt Duchene, the Thrashers grab Evander Kane and Brayden Schenn drafted by the Los Angeles Kings.

The very deep first round also included Oliver Ekman-Larsson (6th, Coyotes), Nazem Kadri (7th, Toronto Maple Leafs), Ryan Ellis (11th, Predators), Calvin de Haan (12th, Islanders), Nick Leddy (16th, Wild) and Chris Kreider (19th, Rangers).

John Tavares Islanders
Tavares’ NHL career official began on this date in 2009. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Some of the other impact players selected in 2009 are Ryan O’Reilly (33rd, Avalanche), Jakob Silfverberg (39th, Senators), Robin Lehner (46th, Senators), Tomas Tatar (60th, Red Wings), Tyson Barrie (64th, Avalanche), Reilly Smith (69th, Stars), Cody Eakin (85th, Capitals), David Savard (94th, Columbus Blue Jackets), Sami Vatanen (106th, Anaheim Ducks), Mike Hoffman (130th, Senators), Anders Lee (152nd, Islanders) and Erik Haula (182nd, Wild).

The fourth and most recent NHL Entry Draft that began on this took place in 2015. There were a handful of teams who dressed less than desirable rosters for the 2014-15 season in order to get a crack at landing McDavid. In the end, the Edmonton Oilers won the Draft Lottery and selected the superstar forward.

The Sabres had to “settle” for Jack Eichel with the second overall pick. The Arizona Coyotes used the third pick to take Dylan Strome. Mitch Marner went fourth to the Maple Leafs before the Hurricanes rounded out the top five be drafting Noah Hanifin.

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid
The Oilers won the McDavid Sweepstakes in 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Other successful first-round picks included Ivan Provorov (7th, Philadelphia Flyers), Zach Werenski (8th, Blue Jackets), Mikko Rantanen (10th, Avalanche), Jake Debrusk (14th, Bruins), Kyle Connor (17th, Winnipeg Jets), Thomas Chabot (18th, Senators), Brock Boeser (23rd, Canucks) and Jack Roslovic (25th, Jets).

Some of the notable picks after the opening round included Sebastian Aho (35th, Hurricanes), Brando Carlo (37th, Bruins), Roope Hintz (49th, Stars), Vince Dunn (56th, Blues), Anthony Cirelli (72nd, Lightning) and Conor Garland (123rd, Coyotes).

Odds & Ends

On June 26, 1989, the Devils signed veteran Russian defenseman Viacheslav Fetisov. He was originally drafted by the Canadiens in 1978 before being taken by the Devils when he re-entered the draft in 1983. He made his NHL debut at 31-years-old and played 546 career games with the Devils and Red Wings. His final two seasons in the NHL, 1996-97 and 1997-98, ended with Stanley Cup wins in Detroit.

On that same day, the Islanders named Al Arbour as their new head coach, replacing Terry Simpson. This was his second stint with the team after two seasons away from the game. He would remain behind their bench through the 1993-94 season. His second go round was not nearly as successful as his first which saw him guide the Islanders to four straight Stanley Cups between 1980 and 1983.

Head Coach Al Arbour of the New York Islanders
Arbour returned to the Islanders on this date in 1989. (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Predators filled out their initial roster at the NHL Expansion Draft on June 26, 1998. They selected one player from each of the 26 existing teams, who were allowed to protect either one goaltender, five defensemen and nine forwards or two goaltenders, three defensemen and seven forwards.

They selected goaltender Frederic Chabot from the Kings with their first pick. Other notable names selected included Mike Richter, Tomas Vokoun, Al Iafrate, Uwe Krupp, Andrew Brunette and Greg Johnson. They also acquired multiple players in agreements to not select certain unprotected players. Included in that group was Timonen from the Kings, who they received, along with Jan Vopat, after agreeing not to take Garry Galley.

On that same day, The Maple Leafs named Pat Quinn as their new head coach, the 25th in team history. Quinn replaced Mike Murphy, who had been fired three days earlier. He would lead the team to the postseason in each of his first six seasons, including two trips to the conference finals. He was fired after failing to make the playoffs in the 2005-06 season. He is still second all-time in franchise history with 300 wins.

On June 26, 2001, Ray Bourque announced his retirement just a couple of weeks after winning the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche. The Hall of Famer is still the highest-scoring defenseman in NHL history with 410 goals, 1,169 assists and 1,579 points.

Willie O’Ree, the first black player in league history, was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame on June 26, 2018. He was joined by Martin Brodeur, Martin St. Louis, Commissioner Gary Bettman, Alexander Yakushev and Jayna Hefford.

Happy Birthday to You

There are only 13 current and former NHL players who have been born on June 26. The most accomplished players of the bunch are Kirk McLean (54), Ed Jovanovski (44), John Erskine (40), Cody McLeod (36), Ethan Bear (23) and the late Hall of Famer George Hainsworth.