Flames Draft History: The Atlanta Years (1972-79)

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The National Hockey League’s annual entry draft is a hugely important event in the history of each of the league’s member clubs. In essence, the draft is a once-a-year “Get Out Of Jail Free” card: every team gets a free asset, with the NHL’s drafting system set up to theoretically help the league’s worst teams catch up to the pack.

Of course, poor drafting and asset management often conspire against the draft’s designs, and keep mediocre teams spiraling down the standings. A good (or lucky) general manager can find players that play for their club for a while, or at least can get some value out of that player and then trade them to another club to perpetuate the draft pick’s value into the future. A bad one? Well, they grab terrible players, or they trade away the picks for next-to-nothing and fail to maximize the asset’s value.

In the first of several trips down memory land between now and the 2015 edition of the NHL Draft, we take a look at the drafting and transactional history of the old Atlanta Flames. Who did Cliff Fletcher select? And once he added these free assets, how did “Trader Cliff” manage them?

1972: Jacques Richard (2nd overall)

  • Richard was chosen with Atlanta’s own first round pick in 1972.
  • The first player acquired by the fledgling Flames, Richard struggled with consistency and off-ice issues during his tenure wearing the Flaming A. He spent three seasons with the Flames before being traded to Buffalo in exchange for Larry Carriere and Buffalo’s first round pick in the 1976 Draft.
  • The Flames packaged that pick (along with Gerry Meehan and Jean Lemieux) to Washington for Bill Clement, who spent just shy of seven seasons with the Atlanta (and Calgary) Flames before retiring. Larry Carriere was eventually traded to Vancouver in exchange for John Gould and a draft pick that never panned out.
  • The Stat Line: 57 goals, 46 assists, 103 points
  • Flames Games By Pick: 215
  • Flames Games Related To Pick: 953

1973: Tom Lysiak (2nd Overall)

  • The Flames traded up to get Tom Lysiak: Montreal got Calgary’s first in ’73 (5th), their first in ’77 and their second in ’78 in exchange for this pick (originally California’s), Montreal’s first (16th) and Montreal’s second (21st), all in the 1973 Draft. In retrospect, that was a great trade for Atlanta, who selected Calder winner Eric Vail with the second round pick.
  • Lysiak was basically Atlanta’s “mulligan” for the disappointing Richard. He immediately emerged as one of Atlanta’s best young players, was runner-up for the Calder, and helped the Flames make their first few playoff appearances. He even served as team captain. He was eventually traded away to Chicago (along with Greg Fox, Harold Phillipoff, Miles Zaharko and Pat Ribble) to Chicago for Phil Russell, Darcy Rota and Ivan Boldirev.
  • Russell played parts of five seasons with the Flames, serving as team captain after the club moved to Calgary. He was eventually traded to New Jersey (with Mel Bridgman) for Steve Tambellini and Joel Quenneville. Quenneville (and Richie Dunn) was traded to Hartford for Mickey Volcan, who soon washed out of the NHL. Tambellini left as a free agent.
  • Rota and Boldirev were sent to Vancouver for Don Lever and Brad Smith. Lever was eventually traded to the Colorado Rockies in the detail that sent Lanny McDonald to Cowtown. Smith was sent to Detroit for future considerations.
  • The Stat Line: 155 goals, 276 assists, 431 points
  • Flames Games By Pick: 445
  • Flames Games Related To Pick: 1663

1973: Vic Mercredi (16th Overall)

  • This was the second first round pick the Flames had this draft, having acquired it from Montreal.
  • Mercredi was not particularly good. He bounced around the professional leagues and never really cemented himself anywhere. I believe he left the Flames organization for nothing.
  • The Stat Line: 0 points
  • Flames Games By Pick: 2
  • Flames Games Related To Pick: 2

1975: Richard Mulhern (8th Overall)

  • This was Atlanta’s original pick.
  • Mulhern put up decent numbers over parts of four seasons with the Flames. He was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Bob Murdoch. Murdoch spent three and a half seasons with the Flames, moving with them from Atlanta to Calgary, before retiring.
  • The Stats Line: 25 goals, 67 assists, 92 points
  • Flames Games By Pick: 207
  • Flames Games Related To Pick: 469

1976: David Shand (8th Overall)

  • This was Vancouver’s first round pick, which they sent to Atlanta for Curt Ridley.
  • Shand spent four seasons with Atlanta and put up unimpressive numbers. Before the move to Calgary, he was traded to Toronto for a draft pick the Flames used on Kevin LaVallee. LaVallee was eventually flipped (with Carl Mokosak) to the Kings for Steve Bozek. Bozek (and Brett Hull) were turned into Rob Ramage and Rick Wamsley from St. Louis. Ramage was sent to Toronto for Kent Manderville.
  • Manderville and Wamsley (along with Ric Nattress, Jamie Macoun and Doug Gilmour) were sent to Toronto [in the worst trade in NHL history] for Gary Leeman, Alex Godynyuk, Jeff Reese, Craig Berube and Michel Petit.
  • Berube was sent to Washington for a pick that didn’t pan out. Godynyuk was claimed by Florida in the expansion draft. Reese was sent to Hartford for Dan Keczmer. Leeman was sent to Montreal for Brian Skrudland (who was also claimed by Florida). Petit left as a free agent. Keczmer (and Phil Housley) were sent to New Jersey for Tommy Albelin, Jocelyn Lemieux and Cale Hulse. Albein and Lemieux left via free agency, while Hulse was traded to Nashville for Sergei Krivokrasov (who was claimed by the Minnesota Wild in the expansion draft).
  • The Stats Line: 14 goals, 63 assists, 77 points
  • Flames Games By Pick: 288
  • Flames Games Related To Pick: 2080

1976: Harold Phillipoff (10th Overall)

  • This was Atlanta’s original pick.
  • Phillipoff wasn’t quite a slam-dunk, though he put up decent numbers in a short run with the Flames. He played just a season and a half in Atlanta before being traded (with Greg Fox, Tom Lysiak, Miles Zaharko and Pat Ribble) to Chicago for Phil Russell, Darcy Rota and Ivan Boldirev. The remnants of the Russell, Rota and Boldirev threads have been examined when we discussed Tom Lysiak. The gist? They turned into Lanny McDonald, via the acquisition of Don Lever from Vancouver.
  • The Stats Line: 26 goals, 53 assists, 79 points
  • Flames Games By Pick: 118
  • Flames Games Related To Pick: 1336

1978: Brad Marsh (11th Overall)

  • This was Atlanta’s original pick.
  • Marsh played three and a half seasons with the Flames, making the move with them to Calgary and becoming team captain. He was a rock-solid defender. Eventually, he was traded to Philadephia for Mel Bridgman, who played a season and a half with the Flames. Bridgman was sent to New Jersey (with Phil Russell) in exchange for Steve Tambellini and Joel Quenneville, whose returns were discussed when we looked at Tom Lysiak – because when it comes down to Atlanta moves, everything comes down to Tom Lysiak.
  • The Stats Line: 3 goals, 41 assists, 44 points
  • Flames Games By Pick: 257
  • Flames Games Related To Pick: 538

1979: Paul Reinhart (12th Overall)

  • This was Atlanta’s original pick.
  • The final first round pick for the Atlanta Flames was a solid one. Reinhart spent nearly a decade with the Flames, helping get them to their first Stanley Cup Final in 1986, and generating nearly a point-per-game as a defenseman. He was flipped to Vancouver (with Steve Bozek) prior to the 1988-90 season in exchange for a draft pick that turned out to be Finnish defender Veli-Pekka Kautonen – who never came over to North America.
  • The Stats Line: 109 goals, 335 assists, 444 points
  • Flames Games By Pick: 517
  • Flames Games Related To Pick: 517

Our journey down memory land continues tomorrow with the first hand-full of first round picks by the relocated Calgary Flames. If you want a chance to witness this year’s draft in person, the Virtual
League of Hockey will be flying two lucky virtual GMs down to Sunrise
Florida to watch it all unfold from June 25th to June 28th. By registering for a free account you
will automatically be entered for your chance to win. The VLH lets you
create your own team, develop players and challenge a community of
hockey fans from around the world. Now you also have the chance to learn
from the world’s best GMs at the entry draft! Join today for your shot at the grand prize.


      • Christian Roatis

        Not really…Ryan is looking at 1st round picks here. Like the 1980s (and hopefully the 2010s), the Flames feasted on wise late round picks: along with with Lysiak, Mercredi and Vail, 1973 also gave us John Flesch in the 5th round (who became trade fodder to the Minnesota North Stars), Ken Houston in the 6th round who was converted from defence to 20 goal scoring, tough as nails RW, and Greg Fox (D) in the 11th round. In 1974 they took star centre Guy Chouinard in the 2nd round, in 1975 they drafted Rick Bowness in the 2nd round and Willie Plett (NHL rookie of the year) IN THE 5TH ROUND! In 1976 along with David Shand in the 1st round, they got serviceable Bobby Simpson (L) in the 2nd round and superstar centre Kent Nilsson IN THE 4TH ROUND! 1977 and 1978 were not memorable but each draft produced 5 players that made it to the NHL. NOT A BAD HAUL !!!

      • Christian Roatis

        Reinhart had a wonky back.

        Take a look at league standings in the 70,s, Atlanta held 6 th spot overall a couple of year’s as well as top 10 for a few more.

        • Christian Roatis

          Paul Reinhart played 14 games in his last year with the Flames, but he had two 57 point seasons in 60 odd games in each of his 2 years with the Nucks.

          Quite good numbers for a guy with a wonky back and and certainly better than the Pekka guy who never left Finland!

          Hockey db has Bozek playing 17 games with St Lou in 87-88 before playing for the Nucks the following year!

          From Wikipedia:

          “After missing most of the 1987–88 season with a knee injury, Bozek was traded to the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline along with Brett Hull in a deal for Rob Ramage and Rick Wamsley.” OUCH!

      • Christian Roatis

        You have to remember that Calgary had a power packed line up including a full compliment on defence (Al McInnis, Gary Suter, Rob Ramage, Brad McCrimmon, Jamie Macoun, Dana Murzyn and Rick Nattress) and did not have contract room to carry him. He played 8 seasons for the Flames but in the later part of his career, Reinhart sustained a chronic and recurring back injury that eventually ended his career which made his presence in the line up a gamble. In his last year with the Flames he only played 14 games. My biggest regret in the 1989 Stanley Cup year is that his name wasn’t on the Cup but I understand why it was done. He was the best defenceman the Flames had to that point. He only played two seasons with Vancouver before retiring but has remained, in at least one Canuck fan survey, the best defenceman to ever play there. The Flames annual defenceman award is named after him. What a fantastic player he was!

    • CofRed4Life

      It seems like our predecessors weren’t too interested in developing talent, and wanted to trade it instead (albeit unsuccessfully). I’m glad we’ve learned (at least partially) that the greatest success comes from building within (though winning a few trades here and there sure makes a big difference).

    • Christian Roatis

      And this confirms that it was Trader Cliff who famously said, “draft schmaft”. Although his 1980s drafting record was quite impressive (better scouts?).

      Was Paul Reinhart the last Atlanta Flame to play in Calgary before he got traded?