To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first NHL Draft, NHL.com assembled a 13-member panel to select the best first-round picks of all time, based on selection number. NHL.com will feature one of the top first-round picks each day, beginning with the best No. 30 pick on June 1 and culminating with the all-time No. 1 pick on June 30, the day of the 2013 NHL Draft.
When asked about Mike Bossy, NHL Network analyst Craig Button relayed a story told to him by his father, legendary scout Jack Button, regarding a discussion about the 1977 NHL Draft between New York Islanders general manager Bill Torrey and coach Al Arbour.
"Bill Torrey went back to Al Arbour and said, 'Here's our choice,'" Craig Button said. "'We can take this guy, he's a really good two-way player, more of a defensive player, really knows how to check. Or we can get this guy, he might be a prolific scorer at the NHL level, but his defense isn't good.' Al Arbour said to Bill Torrey, 'Let's take the scorer, I can teach him to check. I can't teach the checker how to score.'"
Arbour made a pretty good choice. Mike Bossy became one of the game's greatest goal-scorers and was voted the best No. 15 first-round pick by NHL.com's Dream Draft panel.
With the Laval Nationale of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Bossy scored at least 70 goals in four straight seasons.
He was inserted into the Islanders' lineup after being drafted, and in 1977-78 showed that his scoring abilities from junior hockey would translate to the NHL. Playing on a line with fellow young players Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies, Bossy set a League rookie record with 53 goals, which also were second-most in the League. He was sixth with 91 points and won the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year.
He was even better the following season, leading the League with 69 goals -- including a League-best 27 on the power play -- and posting a plus-63 rating that was third, behind teammates Trottier and Denis Potvin.
In 1979-80, Bossy had 51 goals in the regular season, then had 10 goals in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games as the Islanders won the first of four straight Stanley Cup championships. His 23 playoff points were second to Trottier's 29.
The 1980-81 season saw Bossy accomplish something done once previously in League history: score 50 goals in 50 games. Bossy had 48 going into his 50th game, then scored twice in the final five minutes of his 50th game, against the Quebec Nordiques, to match Maurice Richard's mark from 1945. Bossy finished with a League-best 68 goals that season. In the playoffs, he led the League in goals (17), assists (18) and points (35), and his nine power-play goals set a League record that has been matched once since (Cam Neely, Boston Bruins, 1991).
In 1981-82, Bossy set a League record for right wings with 147 points, a mark that stood until the 1995-96 season (Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh Penguins, 149). He followed that with a League-best 17 goals in 19 playoff games and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Islanders won their third straight Stanley Cup. He had 60 goals again in 1982-83, and added the first of three Lady Byng trophies as well as his fourth Stanley Cup.
A chronic back injury finally got to be too much for Bossy to deal with in the 1986-87 season, when he had 38 goals in 63 games -- the first time he failed to score at least 50. He sat out the 1987-88 season hoping his back would get better, but when it didn't, he retired in the summer of 1988 at age 31.
Bossy's scoring numbers are incredible. With 573 goals in 752 games, his average of 0.762 goals per game is the best all-time. His nine consecutive 50-goal seasons are the most in League history, and his total of five 60-goal seasons is tied for the most all-time (Wayne Gretzky). He skated in seven NHL All-Star Games, was a five-time NHL First-Team All-Star, and won a Canada Cup championship. He was inducted to Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.
It took those kind of accolades to earn nine votes from NHL.com's 13-member Dream Draft panel, finishing ahead of two-time Stanley Cup champion and fellow Hall of Fame member Joe Sakic.
"Joe Sakic is a great player, a no-question Hall of Famer," NHL.com columnist John Kreiser said. "But Mike Bossy is arguably the greatest shooter of all time. No player in our lifetime will average 57 goals over a 10-year span. Add his role in a team that won four consecutive Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy, and you have an immortal -- a player who was better than great."
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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