With the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft just days away it seemed appropriate to look back on the previous 10 expansion drafts in NHL history.
Looking back through the history of each expansion draft should make the Vegas Golden Knights appreciate the situation they’re in. Vegas isn’t expected to be playoff bound, but they should be able to draft a decent enough team with the help of the new expansion draft rules. They’re certain to draft a handful of good players that will help accelerate their rise out of the bottom of the league faster than previous expansion teams.
There have been articles about the best players picked in the expansion draft, but the thing that stood out after going through each of the drafts was the goalies. Sure there have been some great picks in players like Brian Bradley, Scott Mellanby and Geoff Sanderson over the years, but they pale in comparison to the franchise defining goalies that have been picked over the years. Here they are.
Tomas Vokoun (Nashville Predators)
Tomas Vokoun was easily the best player that the Nashville Predators picked in the 1998 NHL Expansion Draft. He had played two seasons with the Montreal Canadiens’ AHL team before being taken in the expansion draft by Nashville. Vokoun then spent four seasons as the backup goalie to Mike Dunham before claiming the starting role in the 2002-03 season.
Vokoun took on a heavy workload as the starting goalie. Playing 69 games in 2002-03, 73 games in 2003-04 and then 61 games in 2005-06. His best season came in the 2005-06 season when he had 36 wins in 61 games and a .919 save percentage. He played eight seasons and 383 games with Nashville before being traded to the Florida Panthers in the offseason of 2007.
Vokoun was the face of the franchise and held all of Nashville’s goaltending records until Pekka Rinne surpassed him.
John Vanbiesbrouck (Florida Panthers)
In the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft, the Florida Panthers chose to go with an established goaltender in John Vanbiesbrouck. The 1985-86 Vezina Trophy winner had spent nine seasons with the New York Rangers before being traded to the Vancouver Canucks and then picked by Florida in the expansion draft.
Vanbiesbrouck played 268 games over five seasons with Florida and had 106 wins; a record only surpassed by Roberto Luongo. In Florida, Vanviesbrouck was finally able to fully take over the starting role after splitting most of the season while playing in New York. In 1995-96, Vanbiesbrouck helped the Panthers make the playoffs for the first time with 26 wins in 57 games and a .904 save percentage.
Vanbiesbrouck had an amazing playoff performance with a .932 save percentage and helped Florida make it to the Stanley Cup Final. Unfortunately, they were swept in four games by the Colorado Avalanche. The Panthers have only made the playoffs four times since then and haven’t made it past the first round.
Dan Bouchard (Atlanta Flames)
There were two great goalies taken in the 1972 NHL Expansion Draft, one that went to a future NHL dynasty and one that went to a doomed franchise. Dan Bouchard was taken by the Atlanta Flames from the Boston Bruins and slowly developed in the franchise’s starting goalie.
Bouchard played in Atlanta for all eight seasons of its existence before relocating and becoming the Calgary Flames. For the first five seasons, Bouchard evenly shared the net with Phil Myre, who was also acquired from the expansion draft, until Bouchard finally took over the starting role in the 1977-78 season.
Bouchard’s best season came in the 1978-79 season when he had 32 wins in 64 games, which was the most wins that season by a goalie. Unfortunately, that success couldn’t translate to the playoffs that year where Atlanta was swept in the first round.
Bouchard followed the team to Calgary but was traded halfway through the season to the Quebec Nordiques. In the eight years of the franchise, Bouchard holds the record for most wins (164), most shutouts (20) and most games played (384).
Billy Smith (New York Islanders)
The other great goalie in the 1972 NHL Expansion Draft was Billy Smith of the New York Islanders. This future Hockey Hall of Fame inductee only ever played two seasons in the AHL and five games with the Los Angeles Kings before being picked by the Islanders in the expansion draft.
Smith played 37 games in his first season with the Islanders and finished with only seven wins. The team finished with a league-worst 12 wins and 30 points, last place in the NHL. The 1974-75 season was when things turned around for the Islanders. Smith had 21 wins in 58 games and the team began to make the playoffs every season.
The Islanders then won four consecutive Stanley Cups from the 1979-80 season to the 1982-83 season as well as losing in the Final the next year. Smith’s best season came in the 1981-82 season when he had 32 wins in 46 games which earned him the Vezina Trophy.
Smith finished his career having played 17 seasons with the Islanders and still holds the record for the most wins (304) and most games played (675) in franchise history.
Bernie Parent (Philadelphia Flyers)
When the league doubled in size to 12 teams in the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers decided to take the Boston Bruins’ goalie Bernie Parent. Parent had already played two seasons in the NHL with the Bruins before eventually becoming the Flyers’ undisputed starting goalie.
Parent played four seasons with the Flyers before being dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a trade. He spent two seasons with the Leafs before joining the Philadelphia Blazers in the World Hockey Association. In the 1973-74 season, Parent rejoined the Flyers and had one of the best seasons of any NHL goaltender.
Parent had 47 wins in 73 games which became an NHL record for the most wins by a goalie in a single season. He held that record until Martin Brodeur had 48 wins in 78 games in the 2006-07 season and then again when Braden Holtby had 48 wins in 66 games in the 2015-16 season. Parent still holds the record for most wins in regulation since he didn’t have the benefit of overtime wins added to his total.
The Flyers won back-to-back Stanley Cups in the 1973-74 season and the 1974-75 season. And in both of those seasons Parent also won the Vezina Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy. By the end of his career, Parent had played 486 games over 10 seasons with the Flyers and had 232 wins. Those team records for games played and wins have only been surpassed by Ron Hextall who played three more games and had eight more wins.
In 1984 Parent was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Parent goes down as the greatest goalie to ever be picked in the expansion draft.
Toronto Maple Leafs contributor for The Hockey Writers.
I’ve been a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs since I was a kid and have always had an interest in writing. At The Hockey Writers, I get to enjoy both of my passions as well as writing about small convoluted details in player contracts and stats.