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DRAFT: Hatcher Recalls '90 Draft

by Bill Meltzer / Philadelphia Flyers
The crop of players selected in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft has gone down in history as one of the top five draft classes in league history. Held on June 16, 1990 in Vancouver, eleven players selected in the first round of the draft went on to play at least 900 games in the NHL, and even the later rounds of the draft were chock full of youngsters who went to enjoy productive careers.

The 1990 draft was especially kind to the Flyers. Among the team’s own selections that year, seven players ended up wearing the orange and black for varying lengths of time. Meanwhile, eight players chosen in the first round eventually became Flyers and the draft class overall produced a record 21 players who suited up for Philadelphia at some point during their careers.

The Flyers owned the fourth overall pick in the first round of the 1990 draft. Russ Farwell, the team’s general manager at the time, was hoping to be able to select Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) standout Petr Nedved, with whom Farwell was deeply familiar from their time together in Seattle. As it turned out, Nedved went second overall to the draft-hosting Vancouver Canucks and future Flyers captain Keith Primeau went third overall to the Detroit Red Wings. Late in Nedved’s NHL career, he played parts of two seasons with the Flyers.

With the fourth pick, Philly had the option of going conservative or rolling the dice. The club opted for Peterborough Petes (OHL) center Mike Ricci, who had entered the draft as the top-ranked prospect by Central Scouting and was widely considered the safest pick in the entire draft class, even more than top overall selection Owen Nolan, who went to the Quebec Nordiques. In picking Ricci, the Flyers bypassed Czech prodigy Jaromir Jagr, whom no one knew at the time would be able to leave his formerly communist country in the near future without defecting. Jagr went to the Pittsburgh Penguins with the next pick.

Ricci debuted in Philadelphia the very next season. The gritty pivot had a pair of 20-goal campaigns before being traded to the Quebec Nordiques in the package of players, draft picks and cash that brought Eric Lindros to Philadelphia. The final deal also ended up including young enforcer Chris Simon, the first of three second-round picks the Flyers made in the 1990 Entry Draft.

Meanwhile, North Bay Centennials (OHL) defenseman Derian Hatcher entered the 1990 draft as the top rated American player and 10th top-rated player overall by Central Scouting. He sat in the stands with his family as the teams made their selections. Unlike many of the other prospects in the room, the 18-year-old was at least somewhat familiar with the nervous anticipation of waiting to find out which NHL would select him.
Derian Hatcher played with his brother Kevin in the 1997 NHL All-Star Game.

Older brother Kevin Hatcher had been chosen in the first-round (17th overall) by the Washington Capitals in 1984, and was a rising NHL star offensive defenseman by the time Derian was eligible for the draft.

“I kind of knew what it was like, but I was just 12 when Kevin was drafted,” Hatcher said. “It’s a little different when you go through it yourself when you are older.”

After Jagr’s name was called by the Penguins, Hatcher had to wait about 15 minutes longer in real time until his name was called. New York Islanders chose center Scott Scissons sixth overall and the Los Angeles Kings opted for Hatcher’s future longtime teammate in Dallas, Darryl Sydor, with the seventh pick.

The Minnesota North Stars owned the eight overall pick in the draft, selecting Hatcher. Coming off a 36-40-3 record and a first-round playoff exit in seven games at the hands of the Norris Division winning Chicago Blackhawks, the club made several changes. Bob Clarke, who had been relieved of his duties as Flyers’ general manager and replaced by Farwell, was hired to be the North Stars’ new general manager. Shortly thereafter, Minnesota head coach Pierre Page was succeeded by Bob Gainey.

“The Stars weren’t a great team, but there were some good young players there, especially [top overall 1988 draft pick] Mike Modano, and some of these guys were still there when the team moved to Dallas and took off,” said Hatcher.

In addition to Modano, the North Stars had fast-rising stars such as Dave Gagner, high scoring Brian Bellows and underrated Ulf Dahlen. To this core, Clarke added some familiar faces from his years in Philadelphia, acquiring veteran forwards Brian Propp (26 goals, 73 points) and Ilkka Sinisalo (later dealt to Los Angeles). Although Gainey’s Stars went just 27-39-14 during the regular season, the club peaked at the right time. Goaltender Jon Casey got red hot during the playoffs, and the team made a shocking run to the 1991 Stanley Cup Final before losing in six games to the highly-favored Penguins.

Hatcher was not a member of the North Stars’ team that reached the Final. In need of a little more seasoning, he spent the 1990-91 season with North Bay. The next fall, he joined Minnesota for the first of 16 seasons in the NHL. After the 1992-93 campaign, he moved along with the team to Dallas and the team became the Stars. Over the course of his 12 seasons with the club, Hatcher became an All-Star defenseman and captained the club to the Stanley Cup in 1998-99.

“I played with some great clubs with the Stars, so I guess everything worked out for the best,” said Hatcher, who played the final three seasons of his NHL career as a key member of the Flyers’ defense corps and today serves as the team’s Player Development Coach. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.
Hatcher being inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame in October of 2010.

Twenty-one years after Derian Hatcher was selected by Minnesota and 22 years since the last time the NHL Entry Draft was held in the state (the 1999 Draft took place at the Met Center in Bloomington), Minnesota will play host to the 2011 NHL Entry Draft on June 24-25, 2011. This time around, the venue will be the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, home of the Minnesota Wild.

Apart from Hatcher and fellow top-10 picks Primeau, Ricci and Nedved, four other players chosen in the first round of the 1990 Draft later wore Flyers uniforms: defensemen Karl Dykhuis and John Slaney and forwards Shawn Antoski and Mark Greig.

Among the Flyers’ own picks in 1990, several made notable contributions to the team. Late second-round pick Mikael Renberg went on to set a team rookie scoring record and later became a member of the fearsome “Legion of Doom” line before a lengthy string of injuries affected his productivity. Third-round pick Chris Therien played 753 of his career 764 regular season games in a Flyers uniform. Other latter-round players selected by the Flyers that year who later played for the big club included enforcer Dan Kordic, goaltender Tommy Soderstrom, center Vycheslav Butsayev and winger Kimbi Daniels.

Meanwhile, a host of players selected by other teams in rounds 2 to 12 of the 1990 Entry Draft passed through Philadelphia during the course of their NHL careers.  Most notably, Winnipeg Jets’ fourth-round pick Alexei Zhamnov was later an important member of the 2003-04 team that reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. Other future Flyers included forwards Andrei Kovalenko, Gino Odjick, Todd Hlushko and defensemen Jaroslav Modry and Stew Malgunas.
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