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.
The Boston Bruins had the intention of taking a defenseman with their first pick at the 1979 NHL Draft.
Keith Brown. But when Brown was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks at No. 7, the Bruins had to go down their list and take a player they considered a notch below.
Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, because the next defenseman on the Bruins' list was Ray Bourque. A 22-season career that saw Bourque earn acclaim as one of the greatest of all-time at his position made him an easy choice as the best No. 8 first-round pick in NHL.com's Dream Draft.
Bourque was a high-scoring player in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and showed he could perform offensively just as well at the next level. He scored a goal in his first NHL game and finished the 1979-80 season with 65 points in 80 games, fifth among defenseman, and won the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie. At the time, it was the most points ever scored by a rookie blueliner.
It was just the start of stellar career for Bourque. He had 15 straight seasons with at least 17 goals, including eight with at least 20.
In 1983-84 he set career-highs with 31 goals and 96 points, and in 1986-87 he led all defensemen with 23 goals and 95 points, was fourth with a plus-44 rating, and won the first of five Norris trophies. He was just as great the following season when he had 81 points and a plus-34 rating in 78 games, won his second Norris, and added 21 points in 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help the Bruins reach the Cup Final for the first time since 1978.
Also during that season, he memorably shed his No. 7 jersey during an on-ice ceremony honoring Phil Esposito, switching to No. 77.
He was named the sole Bruins captain prior to the start of the 1988-89 season after sharing the role with Rick Middleton since the start of the 1985-86 season. The following season Bourque had 84 points in 76 games, won his third Norris, and again helped the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup Final, but just like in 1988, they lost to the Edmonton Oilers.
Bourque won his fourth Norris in 1990-91 after his third 90-point season, and won it again in 1993-94 when he had 91 points. His four 90-point seasons are the third-most for a defenseman in NHL history, behind Paul Coffey (seven) and Bobby Orr (six).
Bourque continued to produce at a high level through the end of the 1990s, but the Bruins began to struggle. Their stretch of 29 straight seasons in the playoffs ended in 1997, and with the team set to miss again during the 1999-2000 season, the Bruins traded Bourque to the Colorado Avalanche, ending a 21-season relationship.
Bourque had 14 points in 14 regular-season games with the Avalanche, then had nine points in 13 playoff games to help Colorado advance to the Western Conference Final.
At age 40, Bourque came back for one more season in 2000-01. He had 59 points to finish tied for third among defensemen, then had 10 points in 21 playoff games and capped his season by going plus-2 in 29:35 of ice time when the Avalanche defeated the Devils in Game 7 to win the Stanley Cup.
Immediately after taking the trophy from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Avalanche captain Joe Sakic handed the Cup to Bourque, allowing him to skate the first lap.
Two weeks after winning the Cup, Bourque announced his retirement. He left the game as the League's all-time leader among defensemen in goals (410), assists (1,169), points (1,579), power-play goals (173) and game-winning goals (60). His career plus-528 rating is third among all players.
With Hall of Fame members Darryl Sittler, Bob Gainey and Grant Fuhr to choose from, as well as more modern stars Jeremy Roenick and Derian Hatcher, Bourque was an obvious candidate for the 13-member Dream Draft panel, receiving 12 votes.
"There were a number of choices at No. 8 and, for me, it came down to a choice between Ray Bourque and Jeremy Roenick, with both clearly deserving of the honor," NHL.com Senior Managing Editor Shawn P. Roarke said. "But I went with Bourque because he was the face of the Bruins for two decades and is considered by many to be the best of his generation. That's not a bad legacy for a player that was considered inferior to seven other players in 1979."