The 2017 NHL Draft is upon us and we’re bound to see unexpected drama, transactions and maybe even some bloopers.
With that in mind, here are five of the more memorable moments in NHL Draft history.
That time the Sabres selected an imaginary player
There have been many dramatic and unpredictable NHL Draft moments over the years but this one takes the cake. In 1974, there were only 18 teams in the league and amateur drafts had no set duration. They lasted until every team was done choosing players, so by the 11th round Buffalo Sabres GM “Punch” Imlach was terribly bored.
That’s when he selected a centre from the Tokyo Katanas of the Japanese Ice Hockey League named Taro Tsujimoto.
The only problem with that was the Katanas were not a real team and Tsujimoto did not exist.
International scouting wasn’t anywhere near the level we see today so the league and those in the hockey world just assumed Tsujimoto was a real player. Imlach came clean and admitted his prank—though it took him until training camp to do so—and the league eventually changed the pick to an “invalid claim” in their official records.
Trading card company Panini America released this special Taro Tsujimoto rookie card as part of their “2010-11 Score Rookies and Trade” set.
The Lindros rigmarole
Perhaps the most infamous draft in NHL history was in 1991 when the Quebec Nordiques selected Eric Lindros with the No. 1 pick. Lindros did not wish to be drafted by Quebec, would not put the jersey on at the draft, and was a holdout during the 1991-92 season.
Eventually Quebec struck a deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Nordiques received $15 million in cash, two first-round picks (that turned out to be Jocelyn Thibault and Nolan Baumgartner), future considerations (which ended up becoming Chris Simon), plus Steve Duchesne, Mike Ricci, Kerry Huffman, goalie Ron Hextall and a young Peter Forsberg.
Earlier this year, more than a quarter century after he refused to don a Nordiques sweater, the Hall of Famer finally caved during an appearance on Radio Canada’s Tout le monde en parle and donned the uniform to see what his life could have been.
In February, Lindros revealed he actually kept the jersey he was given by the Nordiques all those years ago.
“That’s in a safety deposit box at the TD Bank,” Lindros told Yahoo Sports. “I’m gonna hang on to that.”
“Philadelphia selects, from Gatineau of the Quebec junior league…whoops, I forget.”
There have been plenty of instances during drafts of yesteryear where GMs or team representatives have mispronounced a player’s name—like when Jim Nill couldn’t quite get Riley Sheahan’s last name correct in 2010—but forgetting which player you’ve selected entirely?
It happened in 2006 when Bobby Clarke couldn’t remember the name of the young forward from the Gatineau Olympiques his team had just picked 22nd overall.
That prospect’s name was Claude Giroux.
Giroux went on to become the team’s captain, currently sitting 10th on the franchise’s all-time points list.
Flames, Canucks both draft ‘Stefan Nilsson’ in 1988
There was confusion late in this draft when the Vancouver Canucks selected Swedish forward Stefan Nilsson in the 12th round. That’s because the Calgary Flames had selected Swedish forward Stefan Nilsson in the seventh round. It turns out the Flames selected a Nilsson from HV71 when they reportedly meant to choose the one from Lulea HF that went to the Canucks. To make it more confusing both Nilssons happened to represent Sweden at the world juniors that year. Ultimately all the confusion was moot since neither player ever ended up playing a single NHL game.
Panthers try to get the jump on the Ovechkin sweepstakes in 2003
One year prior to the Washington Capitals changing the face of their franchise by picking Alex Ovechkin first overall in 2004, the Florida Panthers and then-GM Rick Dudley tried on multiple occasions to draft the Russian star in 2003. Ovechkin was born Sept. 17, 1985, two days after the cut-off date for eligibility in the 2003 draft. Dudley made a pitch to the league that if you took into account leap years Ovechkin should’ve been eligible. The NHL did not bite.