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95 Days Until The Season Begins
By Cam Lewis7 months ago
Nobody has ever worn No. 95 for the Oilers, so we’re going in a different direction for today’s countdown. Let’s talk about the 1995 NHL draft.
The first-ever NHL draft was held in Montreal in 1963 and it remained there until 1985 when it started to generate more fan interest as a public and televised event. In 1995, the draft was held at the Edmonton Coliseum, marking the first and only time that Edmonton was the host.
The Oilers were mired in their post-dynasty slog and held the sixth overall pick after going 17-27-4 over the course of the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. Defencemen Bryan Berard, Wade Redden, and Aki Berg were the first three selections and forwards Chad Kilger and Daymond Langkow went fourth and fifth, so the Oilers had an opportunity to delight their fans with a promising local talent on the board.
Shane Doan, a native of Halkirk, Alberta, was a prospect who could score goals, throw big hits, and drop the gloves. He was coming off of a season with the Kamloops Blazers in which he scored 37 goals and 94 points and racked up 106 penalty minutes and appeared to be a perfect pick for an Oilers team lacking an identity.
Fans at the Coliseum were chanting ‘Doan, Doan, Doan!’ as the Oilers were set to make their pick but general manager Glen Sather didn’t listen. The Oilers selected Steve Kelly, a speedy winger from the Prince Albert Raiders, much to the disappointment of the many observers who had visualized Doan in orange and blue.
Edmonton Journal Clipping From Sunday, July 9, 1995
Doan wound up being selected by the Winnipeg Jets with the next pick at seventh overall. He jumped right into the NHL the following season and established himself as a very good power-forward over the next few years after the Jets packed up and moved to Phoenix.
Kelly, meanwhile, went back to the WHL for the 1995-96 season and scored 27 goals and 101 points for the Raiders and added 31 points over 18 games in the playoffs. The following season, he made the jump to the professional level and scored 38 points over 48 games for the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs and one goal over eight games during his NHL debut.
The hope was that Kelly could break through as a full-time player for the Oilers in 1997-98. He started off the season with the team but was demoted to the AHL after putting up just two assists over his first 13 games. Kelly came back up for six more games in December before being moved as part of a multi-player trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Heading to Tampa were Kelly, Jason Bonsignore, and Bryan Marchment, while former first-overall pick Roman Hamrlik and local talent Paul Comrie came to Edmonton. It was a change-of-scenery deal for a handful of top draft picks, as Kelly and Bonsignore couldn’t find their groove with the Oilers and Hamrlik was struggling with being the franchise player on a new team.
Hamrlik was excellent for the Oilers over parts of three seasons in Edmonton. He scored 22 goals and 103 points over 196 games and logged an average of 24:35 per game. Following the 1999-00 season, Hamrlik was moved to the New York Islanders for young defenceman Eric Brewer, who was dealt a few years later in the deal that brought Chris Pronger to Edmonton.
Kelly scored 21 points over 149 games in the NHL and won the 2000 Stanley Cup as a depth player with the New Jersey Devils while Bonsignore put up 16 points over 79 games in his career. Both are viewed as two of the biggest draft busts in team history but the selections were salvaged by this trade.
Circling back to Doan, he finished his career with 402 goals and 972 points, the second-most of any player in the 1995 draft. The best player from that draft wound up being one of Doan’s teammates from the Blazers, Jarome Iginla, who was selected four picks later at 11th overall by the Dallas Stars.
How many days are left until the Edmonton Oilers start the 2023-24 season? 95! Can you guess who will be featured in tomorrow’s countdown?
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