To commemorate the 50th NHL Draft, TSN.ca Web Producer Shane McNeil looks back at Eric Lindros, the up-and-coming superstar who had so much promise he was traded twice.
Originally published on TSN.ca – June, 2012.
The 1991 NHL Entry Draft offered one of the most coveted prizes in the event’s 50-year history.
Dubbed ‘The Next One,’ Eric Lindros had been physically dominating his competition and scoring at will through much of his teenage years.
And for the third year in a row, the Quebec Nordiques held the first overall pick. The team had the opportunity to add Lindros to a stable of elite young talent including previous No. 1 picks Mats Sundin and Owen Nolan, as well as budding superstar Joe Sakic.
Before he reached the age of 18, Lindros had already racked up an impressive resume. He won a Memorial Cup with the Oshawa Generals in 1990 and won the CHL Player of the Year Award in 1991 after dominating the opposition to the tune of 71 goals and 149 points in just 57 games. He also won a World Junior gold medal in 1990 and would go on to win another in 1991.
The Nordiques were predictably excited.
Lindros, however, had other ideas.
Knowing well into the 1990-91 season that the Nordiques were destined to select him, he took a public stance that he had no intention of reporting to the team.
It was not the first time Lindros took this position, as he refused to report to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds after being selected first overall in the 1989 OHL Draft. The move forced the team to later deal him to the Generals.
The Nordiques went ahead and selected him anyway, glad-handing with Lindros on Draft Day despite his refusal to don their jersey. The decision would trigger a year-long soap opera surrounding which NHL team could land his rights.
Lindros sat the out the NHL season out but still managed to prove his professional mettle, first holding his own against the world’s best players at the 1991 Canada Cup and then aiding Canada to a silver medal at the Albertville Winter Olympics with 11 points in eight games.
Finally, on the day of the 1992 NHL Draft, the Nordiques would broker not just one but two separate trades for Lindros; one with the Philadelphia Flyers and the other with the New York Rangers.
While the New York deal was believed to include future All-Stars Doug Weight, Alex Kovalev, Tony Amonte and John Vanbiesbrouck, arbitrator Larry Bertuzzi ruled the Philadelphia deal to be the first one to be completed.
The Nordiques would use the pieces from that deal to help build a championship team (albeit one that would win in Denver), acquiring a package of veterans, draft picks and future franchise cornerstone Peter Forsberg.
Lindros would star for the Flyers throughout the 1990s, appearing in every All-Star Game from 1994 onward and winning the Hart Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award in 1995. However, he was unable to lead the Flyers to a Stanley Cup despite serving as team captain from 1994 until 2000.
He would have a tumultuous NHL career, mired by concussions and disputes with Flyers management.
For many, though, the defining moment in his NHL career would be his very first: on Draft Day in 1991.