Flames All Time Top 10 Draft Picks – #10 Sergei Makarov



(Today we begin a new series on the Flames top-10 draft picks of all time. FN writers were polled, their votes tallied and the players ranked accordingly. We begin the countdown to #1 with 10th placed Sergei Makarov.)

As Flames fans, we have become used to a particular phenomenon when it comes to who the organization selects at the NHL draft. That being the only thing most of us are sure about is that their pick is usually going to be “off the board” in some manner. Meaning, no one else is really sure of the pick either.

In 1983, the team indeed went off the board. Not in the sense that fans had razor blades at their readiness with their first round pick, but rather in the twelfth round, 231st overall the Calgary Flames took a flier on a player they were probably never going to see in their uniform. At 24 years of age, Sergei Makarov was easily a first round talent. Heck, he could have even gone first overall had it not been for the cold war and the fact he played in the Soviet Elite League.

At that time there were no such thing as deals or transfer agreements.

What made matters worse is Makarov played for Central Red Army, the flagship of the Soviet league; in other words, Hell would freeze over before he could ever play in North America at all, let alone for the Calgary Flames.

As a result, it wasn’t exactly a blockbuster steal for the Flames to take him so late. There was no reason to take a flier on Soveits at number one, or even in the first round. The ball didn’t even get rolling until the seventh round when the Habs took notorious Russian netminder Vladislav Tretiak with the 134th pick overall. Slava Fetisov followed in the 8th, Alexander Cherykh in the 10th and finally Alexei Kasatonov and Makarov in the twelfth. Oh and in case you were wondering…the Minnesota North Stars selected Brian Lawton with the first overall that year.


Makarov’s career in the Soviet Union was nothing short of spectacular. In his rookie season with Red Army, he scored 39 points in 44 games. By the time he was 21, he would have his best season, tallying 79 points in 49 games. He would then follow that with a 75 point effort but in three fewer games. What makes these numbers remarkable is the fact that seldom were second assists ever awarded on goals in the Soviet league. By the time the Flames drafted Makarov in 1983, he would have recorded 146 goals and 303 points in 213 games.

In his eleven seasons with Central Red Army, Makarov would write his own name into history, collecting Soviet “Player of the Year” eight times, three MVP awards (1980, 1985 & 1989). He led the league in scoring nine times (1980-82 & 1984-89), three of those years, he also led the league in goals. In 1984, Sergei Makarov was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour, given to honour “great deeds and services to the Soviet State and society”.

That was just his accomplishments within the Russian Super League. In international play, Makarov racked up two WJC gold medals, eight golds, one silver and a bronze in the World Championships as well as two golds and a silver medal in the Olympic Games. All in all, he would suit up for the national team 315 times. In 101 World Championship games, Makarov would record 118 points.

When the IIHF celebrated its centennial they asked 56 members from 16 different countries to name the “best six of all time”. Makarov was honoured alongside both Wayne Gretzky and his countryman and idol, Valeri Kharlamov.


In 1988, Sergei Pryakhin became the first Soviet player to play in the NHL, with permission. The following year the unthinkable happened when the Soviet Union allowed Makarov to join his countryman with the Calgary Flames in the NHL.

At 31, in his rookie season, Makarov notched 24 goals and 86 points in 80 games. He was 13th in the NHL with 62 assists, 4th in the league with a +/- 33 and a shooting percentage of 20.3%; good enough to earn him the Calder trophy as the league’s top rookie.

From the moment Makarov arrived in North America, he was under the proverbial microscope. So much so that after winning the Calder trophy, the NHL actually changed its criteria for eligibility. The Makarov Rule, as it became known, said that a player had to be no older than 26 in his rookie season to be eligible to win the award.

Added to the intense pressure was the unfamiliarity of the North American game. More accustomed to the intricate skilled passing game that was taught in the Soviet Union, Makarov now had to adjust to the NHL’s more physical dump-and-chase style of play. With time not exactly on his side, Sergei used his skills to further the play of those around him. Not many people would have pegged Gary Roberts as a model for goal scoring, hovering around the 20 goal average; that is until he played with Sergei Makarov. With #42 on his wing, Roberts would enjoy three of his best seasons in the NHL, notching 38, 39 and even 53 goals in the 1991-92 season.


In his four seasons with the Calgary Flames, Sergei Makarov would total 94 goals and 292 points in 297 games played. The numbers were not as impressive or “remarkable” as his storied career in the Soviet league, but then again he came to the NHL nowhere close to his prime and was thrust into a playing style he was neither familiar nor comfortable with.

That being said, he still managed to be a near point per game player. What really makes it fitting having Makarov lead this series on the Flames top-10 draft picks of all time is that we have to remember this guy was never supposed to be here in the first place.

It wasn’t a question of not belonging in the NHL, his skill and what he brought to the game transcended the age issues and cultural divide. Rather, it just wasn’t plain fair. A time horizon that was skewed in the wrong direction has to be considered a mitigating factor, does it not? Just as it is unfair when a talent has his career cut too short, Makarov’s situation is very much likened to that scenario. Whether you consider it too short or forced because it began too late, Sergei wasn’t given enough time to make the impact he could have made. Of ccourse, if Makarov had been avilable to flee his homeland earlier, the Flames certainly would not have been able to draft him with a throw away pick n 1983 either.

There is no denying what Makarov meant to the game of hockey, but imagine… just imagine for a moment what he could have meant to the NHL or to the Calgary Flames if he was able to come over as that 24 year old phenom. The time he would have had to assimilate to the North American game and the effect he could have had on the game as a whole. Could he have given Gretzky a run for his money? The most unfortunate answer to that, is that we will never know…but it sure would have been fun to see.

As Sports Illustrated said, the Greatest NHL player to wear #42, Sergei Makarov. What say you FlamesNation? Could Makarov been higher on this list had he not come over six years after he was drafted?

The Rankings

Player BoL KW VF Justin Ryan
Makarov NR 8 8 8 9

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  • MC Hockey

    Great player that I loathed growing up in Winnipeg (along with all other Flames and Oilers). Interesting idea for Top Draft Pick articles guys…can I ask that you skip over “The Dion”? Or hopefully he did not make the Top 10 due to his obvious imperfections?

  • Danger

    Great idea for a series! Very much looking forward to the rest.

    One minor quibble: it would be interesting to see the raw scores each of the panelists gave to the top 10, similar to what was done in the top 10 prospects series over the summer. Even if you made it anonymous, it’d be interesting to see how many had Makarov at #8 vs. how many forgot about Sergei, et cetera. Although obviously it would be more fun to have panelists’ names next to their rankings, so we can praise or (more likely) deride them for their choices.

    • Vintage Flame

      it would be interesting to see the raw scores each of the panelists gave to the top 10, similar to what was done in the top 10 prospects series over the summer. Even if you made it anonymous, it’d be interesting to see how many had Makarov at #8 vs. how many forgot about Sergei, et cetera.

      I have no problem putting my name beside our rankings. We did it for the prospects series we did way back when.. Makes sense now as well.

      For the record Danger… I had Makarov at #8 😉

  • Danger

    Oh, and actually more related to the article: while Makarov was undoubtedly a better player than some of the others who will be on the list, I have to agree with putting him at #10 in terms of draft picks.

    Dude was already 24 and an established star on the best team in the second-best (if not the best) league on earth when he was picked. When he’s still available in the 12th(!) round, of course you should take a flier on the off chance he might later defect. Not exactly a masterclass in scouting, talent projection, or development.

    • supra steve

      But..as with all draft picks..having the advantage of being able to look back, years later, sure it was an easy pick to make in round 12. But in 1983 the Flames were the only organization that called his name. No other team was willing to “waste” even an 11th round choice on this aging Russian. Great pick by the Flames.

      Now Dion in round one, when there were a lot of other prime players available. I wouldn’t put him above the Makarov pick. Not with, again, the advantage of hindsight.

      The real test, if they had it to do over again (knowing what they know now) would they still take Dion? Not likely.

      • SmellOfVictory

        Well, they got a top pairing dman out of it. The only real failings were how he was handled after being drafted (massive contract c.o. Sutter, terrible trade return).

        • supra steve

          Not saying Dion was an awful pick. He is clearly one of the best 1st rounders taken by the Flames in the past 20 years, they could have done a lot worse with that pick. And yes, Sutter got gang raped on the Dion trade.

          But with the benefit of hindsight, would they not have been better off if they had taken one of the following (not saying they are all better then Dion, but surely one or two of them qualify) who were all available at the Dion pick?

          J Carter

          D Brown

          B Seabrook

          Z Parise

          R Getzlaf

          R Kesler

          C Perry

          S Weber

          For me, the really great picks are the ones where you get the absolute best player who is still available. Picks like Makarov, Theo, Nieuwendyk, G Suter, and possibly Gaudreau and Baertschi (fingers crossed, time will tell).

          • SmellOfVictory

            I definitely thought that the Flames could’ve done a lot better initially. However, I’d pare that list down; I wouldn’t put Carter, Brown, or Kesler above Dion at this point, for various reasons. I also hate Perry, so there’s that.

            Getzlaf, Parise, Weber, Seabrook or Bergeron are all guys I’d have rather had, to varying degress, though (there are others as well) – I will say that. I just don’t know if the Flames have enough picks that are “really great” enough to knock Dion out of the top 10.

        • Vintage Flame

          not to mention that they paired him with Regehr for some reason, and didn’t separate them even after months (!!!) of it being an obviously terrible decision.

          KLM– Krutov, Larionov, Makarov–3 of the greatest players anywhere, ever.

          The Habs would have been unstoppable with Tretiak in net. I mean, even more unstoppable.

  • Danger

    @suba steve

    You might be right about hindsight as far as drafting the current captain of the make-beliefs ahead of, well, basically every one of the guys you listed, but especially the ones who turned out to be #1C material. I hear those kinds of players are good to have…

  • supra steve

    My 10 great Flame picks (no particular order):

    G Titov #252 overall

    R Reichel #70

    Loob #181

    Vernon #56

    Makarov #231

    Hull #117

    Suter #180

    Theo #166

    Nieuwendyk #27

    Moss #220

    My selections because all turned out to be way better then their draft position would have indicated, not because they are the best players the organization has ever drafted.

    • Vintage Flame

      I had to give some thought and consideration when I thought about German Titov. I came back to him a couple of times but in the end, he slipped out of the top 10 for me.

      I think if we had gone to 15, you definitely would have seen Titov on my list.

      Moss was #11 on my list as well.

  • Vintage Flame

    KLM was easily, hands down the best line ever put together in hockey. NHL or otherwise.

    Those guys have enough Gold between them to start their own Fort Knox.

    Sadly, once Makarov was reunited with Larionov in San Jose, the “OV” line [with Johan Garpenlov] just wasn’t the same.

    I would like to point out that in my home office I have 5 sticks hanging on my wall, that I treasure. One of them is Sergei Makarov’s stick from the 1988 Olympics when they played Canada.