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The First Player in Team History for Every NHL Expansion Franchise

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Reid Duke Vegas Golden Knights first ever player (Photo- Vegas Golden Knights via Twitter)

The Vegas Golden Knights are off again today, and with yet another pause in their 2021-22 season. There isn’t even practice today for me to jam out 300 words about how the team is still hurt.

My mind is wandering.

For those of you familiar with Vegas Hockey Now every weekend I do a report on the Henderson Silver Knights and how their season is going. It was a solid idea to start but I think I am going to be cutting down on the Silver Knights Sundays as we enter the stretch run in the NHL.

Anyways that all is asides the point. What I really want to talk about is Reid Duke, (remember him?) His name has come up in my Silver Knights reports frequently. Duke is famous for being the first-ever player to sign a contract with the Vegas Golden Knights.

That then got me thinking. Who are all the “first-ever” players per each team for all the teams in NHL history? So with the Golden Knights off again today let’s go over every NHL team in the league and see which players are the pioneers of their franchises.

A reminder though before we start, with the Golden Knights in a break now is as good of a time as ever to get into NHL betting with FanDuel.

The 1st Player in Franchise History For Every NHL Team

The Recent Ones

Let’s start with the easy ones. On March 6, 2017, the Vegas Golden Knights made their first-ever signing as they signed forward Reid Duke to a three-year entry-level deal. Duke has still yet to play in the NHL but is still in the Golden Knights organization with the Henderson Silver Knights of the AHL.

Similarly, the Seattle Kraken took this approach of signing a minor-league player as their first NHL contract went they signed Luke Henman on May 12, 2021. The 21-year old also has yet to play in an NHL game but is with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.

The further that we go back into history the harder it is to tell who the first player in franchise history every team had. If you have some hockey history knowledge that I don’t know about or if I missed any names please let me know on Twitter @OKrepps85.

Ineligible/Impossible to Tell

I am going to come out and surrender on the next batch of teams as it is nearly impossible to tell which player was the “first” in their history. The Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers (current Carolina Hurricanes), Quebec Nordiques (current Colorado Avalanche), and old Winnipeg Jets (current Arizona Coyotes) all merged into the NHL from the WHA in 1979.

With these teams having histories that are older than some NHL teams and ones that go back into a completely different league, there is no true answer to who was the first for these teams.

Similarly, the original six teams of the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings have histories that stretch back into the early 1900s where documentation of these players simply didn’t exist.

1991 and 1992 Expansion Drafts

Let’s go back forwards in time to a more modern area and start with the 1991 Expansion Draft which featured the San Jose Sharks. With the first pick in the Expansion Draft, the Sharks selected goaltender Jeff Hackett with their first pick. Hackett played just two seasons with the Sharks before he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks.

In 1992 the Lightning took Wendell Young from the Pittsburgh Penguins with their first pick in the expansion draft. He played just 40 games for the Lightning. Also in that year’s expansion were the Ottawa Senators who selected goalie Peter Sidorkiewicz with their first pick in the draft. He played just one season with the Senators in 1992-93.

1993 and 1998 Expansion Drafts

Perhaps the selection that worked out the best on this list was the Florida Panther’s selection of John Vanbiesbrouck with their first pick in the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft. Vanbiesbrouck went on to play five seasons with the Panthers and led them all the way to the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals.

That year the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim passed up on Charlie Conway and drafted goaltender Guy Hebert with their first pick in the draft. Hebert had a lengthy career with the Ducks playing in eight seasons registering 173 wins.

In 1998 the Nashville Predators entered the league by selecting Frederic Chabot with their first pick in the Expansion Draft. However, the Predators were the only expansion team that year so it is really up to interpretation on who was the “first” Predator.

1999 and 2000 Expansion Drafts

The Atlanta Thrashers, now the new Winnipeg Jets, like the Predators in 1998 were the only team in the 1999 NHL Expansion Draft. They selected Trevor Kidd first but other names like Alexei Yegorov, Jamie Pushor, and Corey Schwab, were selected that year.

The 2000 World Population Expansion Draft saw Owen Krepps come into the world. But more importantly, the NHL saw the birth of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild. Continuing the trend of picking goaltenders first the Blue Jackets selected Rick Tabaracci and the Wild selected Jamie McLennan.

Neither goaltenders went on to do much in the NHL but with the third pick, the Wild selected legendary goaltender, Mike Vernon, though he never played a game for the Wild.

The First Expansion Era

Moving back in time the first expansion era for the NHL started in 1967 when the league doubled in size. Unlike the previous expansion drafts where the players selected were mediocre at best, these drafts were all-out warfare for the best players.

Hall-of-Fame goaltender Terry Sawchuk was the first pick at the 1967 NHL Expansion draft going to the Los Angeles Kings. Two more Hall-of-Fame goaltender selections then followed with Bernie Parent to the Philadelphia Flyers and Glenn Hall to the St. Louis Blues.

The Minnesota North Stars (current the Dallas Stars) then selected Cesare Maniago, the Pittsburgh Penguins Joe Daley, and the California Seals Charlie Hodge. The Seals then went on to become the Golden Seals and then merged with the North Stars.

The Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks got their turn in the 1970 NHL Expansion Draft which was the Sabres select Tom Webster and the Canucks pick Gary Doak. Both are relatively obscure NHL players known only today as answers to trivia questions.

Two years later the New York Islanders selected Gerry Desjardins as their first pick. However, their fourth overall pick in goaltender Billy Smith worked out a lot better for them. That year the Atlanta Flames (current Calgary Flames) picked Phil Myre who played six seasons in Atlanta.

Finally, the Washington Capitals and Kansas City Scouts (current New Jersey Devils) picked players at the 1974 NHL Expansion Draft. The Scouts drafted Michel Plasse first overall and the Capitals drafted Ron Low. Both had relatively short stints with their respective teams.

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JohnJ66

The Oakland/California Seals/Golden Seals became the Cleveland Barons before merging with the Minnesota North Stars.

JohnJ66

Furthermore, in some ways the birth of the San Jose Sharks was an un-merging (don’t know the correct term) of a franchise from the Minnesota North Stars. Owners of the North Stars sold the team in order to be granted the “new” franchise in the SF Bay Area. The soon-to-be Sharks team was allowed to take a number of certain North Stars players with them. For purposes of determining who was the first San Jose Shark, I do not know which came first: the expansion draft, these former North Stars, or another signing. Interestingly, because of losing players to San Jose, I guess, Minnesota took part in the expansion draft that year along with the Sharks.

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