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Pens Draft History - Michel Briere

by Greg Fernandez / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins and CONSOL Energy Center will be hosting the 2012 NHL Draft on June 22nd and 23rd. In the days leading up to the draft, will be highlighting some past draft selections throughout Penguins' history.

Michel Briere/Pittsburgh Penguins

1969 - 3rd round - 26th overall

Coming out of juniors, Michel Briere had just completed a season to remember, scoring 75 goals and dishing out 86 assists to post a 161-point season in 50 games for the Shawinigan Bruins. Looked over though because of his diminutive size (5-foot-10, 165 pounds), the Penguins snatched him in the third round (26th overall) in the 1969 NHL Draft. As a 20-year-old rookie, Briere was third on the team in scoring, tallying 44 points in 76 games and was named the Penguins’ rookie of the year. During his first playoff run Briere shined, leading the team with eight points and three game-winning goals. He also netted the first overtime goal in franchise history, helping the Penguins secure its first playoff series victory against the Oakland Seals on April 12, 1970.

After his first season, many NHL observers believed Briere was going to be a star, grouping him with other such rookie superstars Tony Esposito and Bobby Clarke. A month after the playoffs ended though, Briere was involved in a lethal car crash in Quebec that would leave the young superstar in critical condition. After four brain surgeries and a year of battling, Briere passed away on April 13, 1971 at the age of 21. Briere’s number 21 was officially retired on Jan. 5, 2001, making him and Mario Lemieux as the only two players in Penguins’ history to have their numbers retired. The Pens also created the Michel Briere Rookie of the Year award, given to the Pittsburgh Penguins player who was the most proficient player on the team in his first year in the league.

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