At the Edmonton Oilers 1980 training camp, the major stories involved first-round draft pick Paul Coffey and a kid from Finland who could barely speak English. They would both go on to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
SEPTEMBER 13, 1980
Jim Matheson wrote an article in the Edmonton Journal, detailing the new additions to the team and making note of Coffey and the increase in Finnish players on the Oilers for the coming season:
- Matheson: “The Oilers will have more new Finns at camp than any other club. Apart from little Risto Siltanen, they have added former Boston Bruins center Matti Hagman and winger Jari Kurri, who was the second best youngster at the World Junior Championships last spring. All three stand a good chance to make the team. Kurri’s biggest problem may be learning how to speak English.”
The article makes quick mention of Glenn Anderson, the 1979 draft pick who was an Olympian in 1980, and Paul Messier—Mark’s older brother—coming in as a free agent from Colorado. The impressive George Pesut (former California Golden Seal) was trying to catch on in the NHL again after playing in the Alps during 1979-80. It was a ragtag group looking to join forces with maybe the greatest young cluster of talent in the game’s history. In the fall of 1980, these young Oilers were less than four years from Stanley.
THE INCUMBENTS (19)
- Goal: Ron Low, Eddie Mio
- Defense: Colin Campbell, Lee Fogolin, Doug Hicks, Kevin Lowe, Pat Price, Risto Siltanen
- Center: Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Stan Weir
- Left Wing: Don Ashby, Brett Callighen, Peter Driscoll, Dave Hunter, Dave Semenko
- Right Wing: Dave Lumley, Blair MacDonald, Don Murdoch
THE DRAFT PICKS (10)
- Goal: Andy Moog
- Defense: Paul Coffey
- Center: Walt Poddubny, Mike Toal, Mike Winther
- Left Wing: Max Kostovich, Jarri Kurri
- Right Wing: Glenn Anderson, Shawn Babcock, Blair Barnes
THE REST (27)
- Goal: Bob Dupuis, Gord Garbutt, Pete LoPresti
- Defense: Bryon Baltimore, Jim Crosson, Mike Forbes, Larry Goodenough, John Hilworth, Charlie Huddy, Mike McCann, George Pesut
- Center: Dave Barr, Matti Hagman, Paul Messier, Kevin Redmond, Gord Stafford
- Left Wing: Scott Currie, Barry Dean, Dean Magee, Mark Miller, Roy Sommer
- Right Wing: Dave Baldwin, Rick Bourbonnais, Mike Kouwenhoven, Bill Joyce, Cal Roadhouse, Tom Roulston
Barry Fraser had delivered two drafts for the ages, and those men added to Wayne Gretzky and a few other role players would sustain Edmonton for the rest of the decade, delivering 5 championships by 1990 summer.
It was an incredible moment in time. Glen Sather and his management group delivered in three ways:
- Astute procurement of pro players, represented in 1980 by Matti Hagman, Barry Dean, George Pesut and Pete Lopresti. Some worked out, others did not, but the club was always looking under every rock.
- Astounding draft success.
- Signing undrafted players to entry-level deals. The 1980 draft was 10 rounds long, the 1979 edition only six—meaning there were some good players being passed over. Edmonton signed Charlie Huddy, Cal Roadhouse and others, and it paid off with Huddy in a big way.
WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THIS?
Craig MacTavish is a more aggressive GM than Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe were in terms of procurement. He’s closer to the Sather style, constantly trying to improve the roster and taking chances in hopes of a home run.
Tonight young Vladimir Tkachev had a very good game in Penticton. Now, one night doesn’t mean one damn thing. However, it’s a small arrow in a good direction, much like the arrows Charlie Huddy built on his way to a contract as an undrafted free agent.
There are no guarantees, and lord knows there are WAY more men like Cal Roadhouse than men like Charlie Huddy, but that’s no reason to pass on a quality prospect.
Risk, meet reward.