He arrived in the NHL as a part of what might be the single best group of freshman on one team in the league’s history, and he delivered on the promise that made him the final first round pick by the Montreal Canadiens GM Sam Pollock. Dave Hunter was an outstanding shadow.
BEFORE THE DRAFT
PRE-DRAFT AWARDS AND HONORS
World Junior Championships: 1977 (silver medal)
OMJHL All-Star Game: 1977 (Sudbury)
Miscellaneous: Rated in The Hockey News draft preview issue as the No. 17 overall prospect for the 1978 NHL draft. … Named OMJHL’s strongest player and best defensive forward for 1977-78 in a poll of league’s coaches.
Selected in the 1st round, 17th overall in the 1978 Amateur Draft by the Montreal Canadiens.
Hunter did not sign with Montreal after the draft, instead jumping to the WHA with Edmonton. He did not enter the NHL until the 1979 NHL-WHA merger. At the time of the merger, Montreal and Edmonton agreed Montreal would not take Hunter nor Ron Carter back in the June 9, 1979, NHL Reclaim Draft in exchange for a promise that Edmonton would not take Bill Nyrop, Gilles Lupien or Rod Langway off Montreal’s roster in the NHL Expansion Draft on June 13, 1979. Edmonton completed the deal by drafting Cam Connor.
Hunter broke into the league as part of an astounding group of first year NHLers:
- Wayne Gretzky (79, 51-86-137)
- Dave Lumley (80, 20-38-58)
- Dave Hunter (80, 12-31-43)
- Ron Chipperfield (67, 18-19-37) traded during season
- Risto Siltanen (64, 6-29-35)
- Mark Messier (75, 12-21-33)
- Kevin Lowe (64, 2-19-21)
- Cam Connor (38, 7-13-20) traded during season
- Dave Semenko (67, 6-7-13)
- Peter Driscoll (39, 1-5-6)
- Jim Corsi (26, 3.65)
Despite being a first round selection, Hunter quickly established himself in pro hockey as a checker, a shadow for the other side’s best. His performance during the 1981 playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens and Guy Lafleur gave him the reputation for being an up and coming two-way checker. That reputation was established during the two series (1983 and 1984) against the New York Islanders that marked the changing of the guard for 80s dynasties.
Hunter could score goals–he’d end up with 133 in his career–but it was his checking and two way play that got him icetime. Early in his Oiler career, Hunter developed an unusual tic–he’d take penalties late in periods that were unnecessary and harmful to the team. Glen Sather benched him for a time–one of the few times Hunter was in the doghouse for on ice play during his Oiler career. For the style he played, Hunter was rather durable during his Oiler career.
Hunter was not a big man, but he was tough and could skate miles. The Oilers during the early part of their dynasty featured a solid checking line, and Dave Hunter played LW against the NHL’s best snipers during his time in that role with the Oilers.
- Three Stanley Cups (’84, ’85, ’87)
- Scored goal in first NHL game, which was also first game in Edmonton Oilers NHL history and Wayne Gretzky’s first NHL game. Hunter scored against Chicago goalie Tony Esposito at 14:53 of the first period.
- Hunter was the only NHL first-round pick to sign a contract with Edmonton (WHA) during the WHA’s seven-year history.
- Older brother of former NHL players Dale Hunter and Mark Hunter.
Six weeks before his 30th birthday, Dave Hunter was involved in one of the first ‘monster’ trades in Oilers history. Hunter joined Paul Coffey and Wayne Van Dorp in a November 24, 1987 trade to Pittsburgh for Craig Simpson, Dave Hannan, Moe Mantha and Chris Joseph.
Hunter would return to Edmonton on October 3, 1988 as the Penguins re-acquired Dave Hannan in the waiver draft, dropping Hunter from the roster and returning him to the Oilers. Later in the same waiver draft, Hunter would be claimed by Winnipeg from Edmonton. On January 14, 1989, Hunter was claimed on waivers by the Oilers from Winnipeg and in that season played his final 32 NHL games in the city he called home.
Dave Hunter was a role player par excellence. In fact, if you were to look up the term 3rd or 4th line role player in a hockey dictionary – it would say See Dave Hunter. Dave – in typical Hunter fashion, was a mean, extremely physical and effective player along the boards, wearing down the opposition with tenacious forechecking and physical contact. Yet despite his aggressiveness, Hunter usually part had small PIM totals. That shows his true value as a smart and controlled energy player. He was particularly effective on the road.
Dave Hunter was an effective 2-way winger with toughness and skill, and he showed up for work every night of his Oiler career. He was not destined to be one of the men who would win 5 Stanleys as an Oilers, but the three he was he for came in part because of the hard work of that checking line in the post-season.
Perhaps the greatest compliment to Dave Hunter is this: 30 years later, the Edmonton Oilers find themselves without enough of his player-type. Dave Hunter was a solid NHL player and helped the Oiler dynasty teams win hockey games, often playing against the other club’s top sniper.