Best pick at No. 6: Paul Coffey, Oilers

Tuesday, 06.25.2013 / 12:00 PM
Adam Kimelman  - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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.

Today: The best No. 6 pick: Paul Coffey, Edmonton Oilers, 1980

Paul Coffey wore a lot of different uniforms during his 21-season NHL career, but there were two things he did while wearing just about all of them: rack up points and wins in large quantities.

A four-time Stanley Cup champion, three-time Norris Trophy winner and Hockey Hall of Fame member, Coffey was named the best No. 6 first-round pick by NHL.com's Dream Draft panel.

The Oilers chose Coffey in the 1980 NHL Draft after a season in which he scored 102 points in 75 games with Sault Ste. Marie and Kitchener in the Ontario Major Junior Hockey League.

He showed he could score just as well in the big time, getting 32 points in 74 games as an NHL rookie in 1980-81. The following season he blossomed into the explosive offensive force most fans grew to know, leading all NHL defensemen with 89 points and finishing second with 29 goals.

In 1982-83, he scored 29 goals and posted 96 points, best among blueliners, and added 14 points in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games. The Oilers advanced to the Cup Final for the first time, losing to the New York Islanders.

The following season he took the offensive-defenseman role to rarely seen heights. He became the second defenseman in League history to score 40 goals and 100 points (his 126 points were second in the League to teammate Wayne Gretzky) and he finished second to Rod Langway of the Washington Capitals in voting for the Norris Trophy. In the playoffs, Coffey led all defensemen in goals, assists and points to help the Oilers win their first Stanley Cup.

Coffey won his first Norris Trophy after totaling 37 goals and 121 points in 1984-85, but his stellar play didn't stop when the regular season ended. He set League playoff records for most goals (12), assists (25) and points (37) by a defenseman in a single playoff season, and the Oilers won the Stanley Cup for a second straight time.

The 1985-86 season was even more explosive for Coffey. After finishing second in scoring with 11 points in eight games to help Canada win the 1985 Canada Cup, Coffey had a season for the ages. His 48 goals set the NHL record for most in a season by a defenseman, and his 138 points were second to Bobby Orr's 139. Coffey was plus-61, had nine power-play goals, nine shorthanded goals (a single-season record for a defenseman) and won his second straight Norris Trophy.

He helped the Oilers win a third Stanley Cup in 1987, then was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. He had back-to-back 100-point seasons in 1988-89 and 1989-90, then passed another milestone on Dec. 22, 1990, when he became the second defenseman in NHL history to reach 1,000 points. He capped the season with 11 points in 12 playoff games to help the Penguins win their first Stanley Cup, his fourth.

During the 1991-92 season Coffey scored his 311th goal to pass Denis Potvin to become the League's all-time leader among defensemen.

After spending parts of two seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, Coffey was traded to the Detroit Red Wings. In 1994-95, he won his third Norris Trophy after leading all blueliners with 14 goals and 58 points in 45 games. He then added six goals and 18 points (both tops among playoff defensemen) in 18 games to help the Red Wings advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1966.

Coffey made one last trip to the Final, in 1997 with the Philadelphia Flyers, and played until he was released by the Boston Bruins, his ninth team, on Dec. 15, 2000.

He finished his NHL career second among defensemen in goals (396), assists (1,135) and points (1,531), all narrowly behind Ray Bourque. He led defensemen in points eight times and in goals times, including a stretch of four straight seasons (1982-83 to 1985-86) in which he led in both categories. He owns five of the top 10 scoring seasons for a defenseman. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004.

Those numbers made him the choice of 10 members of NHL.com's Dream Draft panel, finishing ahead of Peter Forsberg, who received the other three votes.

"Squeezed into skates several sizes smaller than his feet, Paul Coffey seemed like he would almost take flight as he swung around his net and headed up ice," NHL Network analyst and "NHL Live" host E.J. Hradek said. "As the linchpin of the game's most dynamic offensive club, Coffey compiled numbers from the blue line that are mindboggling. While I love Forsberg, there's no denying Coffey's amazing career."

Voting: Paul Coffey, Edmonton (1980) 10; Peter Forsberg, Philadelphia (1991) 3

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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