The “Did You Know?” series ties in the news of the day with some little-known hockey factoids and/or trivia. It’ll be fun. Trust me.
Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs will face the Tampa Bay Lightning and its veteran leader, Martin St. Louis. The 36-year-old is in the midst of another solid campaign — 5G-11A-16PTS in 19GP — and coming off a loss to New Jersey where he played a season-high 27:26.
Needless to say, St. Louis is showing no signs of slowing down.
Looking back on St. Louis’ career, it’s crazy to think he almost never made the league. Despite earning numerous accolades — six-time All-Star, Hart/Art Ross/Lester B. Pearson/Lady Byng winner, Stanley Cup champion — there was a time 26 NHL teams passed on acquiring his services.
St. Louis went undrafted during his years of eligibility, one of the greatest oversights in league history.
First off, it’s not like St. Louis came out of nowhere — he was a three-time Hobey Baker finalist at the University of Vermont. It’s also not like the draft was the only time he got passed over — both the Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames cut him loose after brief stints with the organizations.
For speculation’s sake, let’s assume St. Louis was available at the ’97 Draft. That was the year he got axed from the Senators as an undrafted rookie free agent and played with Cleveland of the IHL. Knowing what we know now, how different would it look?
Here were the first 15 picks:
No.1 — Joe Thornton, Boston
No. 2 — Patrick Marleau, San Jose
No. 3 — Olli Jokinen, Los Angeles
No. 4 — Roberto Luongo, New York Islanders
No. 5 — Eric Brewer, New York Islanders
No. 6 — Daniel Tkaczuk, Calgary
No. 7 — Paul Mara, Tampa Bay
No. 8 — Sergei Samsonov, Boston
No. 9 — Nick Boynton, Washington
No. 10 — Brad Ference, Vancouver
No. 11 — Jason Ward, Montreal
No. 12 — Marian Hossa, Ottawa
No. 13 — Dan Cleary, Chicago
No. 14 — Michel Riesen, Edmonton
No. 15 — Matt Zultek, Los Angeles
St. Louis has to be a top-four pick, no? He and Hossa would jump up to replace Jokinen and one of Marleau/Luongo. (I’d also bump Brenden Morrow — who went 25th overall to Dallas — way up, easily into the top 6-7.) At the very least you’re taking Marty at No. 15 over Matt Zultek, last known to be playing for the Mississippi Surge of the Southern Professional Hockey League. (Yes, such a team exists. Owned by former Philadelphia Flyer Tim Kerr!)
Would you go as far to say St. Louis should’ve gone No. 1 overall? Thornton has the better career numbers and a Hart Trophy of his own, but St. Louis has a Stanley Cup (and remember, if it wasn’t for Brad Richards’ unprecedented goalscoring streak, St. Louis probably would’ve won the Conn Smythe. He led the Lightning in assists that postseason and scored the key OT winner in Game 6.)
Whatever the case, I think we can all agree: St. Louis probably should’ve been drafted.