Clark was a Toronto hero, but not one of the best #1 picks ever. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE

Draft Revisited - Wendel Clark And The Class Of 1985

Today I continue my look back at previous draft classes by looking at the 1985 draft. On the heels of the 1984 class, the 1985 class looked like preschool by comparison.  There are no Mario Lemieux or Patrick Roy’s among this group.



By virtue of finishing dead last in the 1984-85 season, the Toronto  Maple Leafs had the honour of picking first overall.  They chose to select a rugged defenseman/winger from Kelvington, Sask. named Wendel Clark.  A fan favorite in three separate stints with the Leafs, Clark is the perfect representative for his draft class – role players who were good but not great.  Don’t get me wrong,  Clark was a fantastic leader and a good goal scorer as well as being one of the toughest players in the game.  However, his style of play also took its toll physically and he was held to fewer than 800 games in 15 seasons.


Igor Larionov, Vancouver Canucks – Before the Russians became a regular sight in the NHL,  the Canucks took a late round flyer on star Russian centre Larionov (11th round, 214th overall).  The hunch paid off, and a few years later, the Russian invasion began and at age 29, Larionov (as well as Red Army linemate Vladimir Krutov) made his NHL debut.  Larionov went on to play until he was 43, some 900 games and over 600 points later.



The Los Angeles Kings – Eight of the 21 players selected in the first round played fewer than 100 NHL games.  However, it was definitely not a banner day for the LA Kings.  Armed with the number  9 and 10TH overall choices, you would expect them to have some solid production from at least one of them.  However, Craig Duncanson and Dan Grafton, both OHL forwards, combined to play 45 total NHL games.



Here are the top players at each position from the 1985 draft:

G: Mike Richter – With a Stanley Cup and over 300 wins under his belt, Richter has a slight edge over Sean Burke and Bill Radford, who are the top three netminders from the class.

D: Calle Johansson – Was an anchor for a very solid Washington defenceman unit interest late 80s and early 90’s. He was drafted by Buffalo, and played there for just over one season before joining the Caps, where he stayed until a short 8 game stint in Toronto. He played over 1,000 games and registered over 500 points.

D: Fredrik Olausson – A fourth round pick of the Winnipeg Jets, Olausson played in 6 cities, stopping in Anaheim on 3 different occasions.  Played over 1,000 games and got just below 600 points.

LW: Wendel Clark – He might not have as many points as some others at the position, but Clark’s blend of goalscoring and toughness made him a pioneer, and one of the reasons the term “power forward” was created.

C: Joe Nieuwendyk – Far and away the highest scorer from this draft.  His 1,126 points dwarfs Ulf Dahlen’s 655 points as what is probably the biggest gap between first and second in any draft.

RW: Nelson Emerson – The fact that Emerson is on this list shows the lack of top end talent from the 1985 draft.  Emerson played less than 800 games and totalled only 488 points as the top scoring RW in the draft.


So there you have it.  From one of the best draft classes to one of the worst in the span of 1 year.  Other “notables” that did not make the list include Benoit Hogue, Dave Manson, Randy Mackay and Kelly Buchberger.  This was definitely a “lunchpail” draft.

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Tags: Igor Larionov Joe Nieuwendyk NHL Draft Wendel Clark

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