Fogolin and Gretzky

Quite possibly the best-ever local NHL expansion draft pick, Lee Fogolin Jr., left alongside Wayne Gretzky, was taken in 1979 by the Edmonton Oilers. He went on to win two Stanley Cups there, captain the team for three seasons while playing 586 games.

As director of player personnel for the Seattle Kraken, Norm Maciver has been extremely active since joining the National Hockey League’s newest franchise back in January.

Brought on board by Kraken general manager Ron Francis after a successful 14-year front office stint with the Chicago Blackhawks, that featured a trio of Stanley Cup titles, Maciver and the Seattle organization are now on the clock heading into Wednesday’s expansion draft.

With each participating NHL club’s protected lists out, the Kraken brass have a better idea who they will select to help fill their roster for the 2021-22 campaign.

As expected, the time frame leading up to the event was hectic for the Thunder Bay product, despite limitations created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I probably saw about 60 games live this season,” said Maciver. “As a staff, we saw as many as possible live and a lot on video.”

In his mind, GM Francis has a clear vision as to what type of talent he wanted his staff and scouts to be on the lookout for when eyeing potential players.

“In terms of the expansion draft, Ron (Francis) talked about character, hockey sense and obviously skating,” provided Maciver. “We wanted to watch as many players as possible, so to be as prepared, as possible, for any scenario.”

Entrenched in the Pacific Northwest, Maciver has relished being an integral part of the proceedings as the Kraken formulate what their initial lineup will be.

“I’ve been out in Seattle for awhile. Long days, but fun talking hockey and trying to put pieces of the puzzle together.”

Now with the bulk of his expansion tasks completed, he can now wait for the results to be unveiled.

“Once we get to Wednesday, my role will be to watch the draft like everyone else.”

After that though, it’s quickly back to the grind.

“Thursday we are back at it preparing for amateur draft Friday-Saturday.”

LOCAL OPTIONS: There will be a number of local possibilities for the Kraken to select Wednesday night, should they desire.

Both goaltender Matt Murray (Ottawa) and blueliner Robert Bortuzzo (St. Louis) remain under contract, but were left unprotected and can be chosen by Seattle.

Meanwhile Eric Staal (Montreal), Marc Staal (Detroit) and Carter Hutton (Buffalo) are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 28. However, they too are available to the Kraken.

Carolina Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal and New Jersey Devils netminder Mackenzie Blackwood were both protected by their respective teams.

PAST PICKS: Since the first of 12 previous NHL expansion drafts held in 1967, a multitude of players from the area were plucked from rosters to bolster new clubs.

The initial city skater tabbed was defenceman Larry Cahan who was scooped up the Oakland Seals, 41st overall, in that 1967 event.

Then there was Ron Schock, who grew up in Terrace Bay, going to St. Louis one pick later.

That first expansion draft also saw Pete Goegan (Minnesota), Joe Szura (Oakland) and Gary Veneruzzo (St. Louis) change organizations.

Arguably, the best-ever local expansion pick was made by the Edmonton Oilers when they joined the NHL in 1979.

That year they took defenceman Lee Fogolin Jr., seventh overall, from Buffalo. Fogolin went on to be a vital cog in a pair of Oilers’ Stanley Cup wins and was team captain for three seasons while playing 586 games there.

Another solid selection from the city came in 1993 when Anaheim took defenceman Bill Houlder as part of his 846 outings in the NHL.

Houlder’s 43 points in 1993-94 after being taken by Anaheim was just four off of the most recorded by a defenceman in his initial campaign following an expansion draft.

The last time that local products were chosen in this event was back in 1998, when a pair of Thunder Bay hockey standouts were picked up in the proceedings as the Nashville Predators chose Tony Hrkac and Greg Johnson, who went on to captain the club from 2002-06.

Other previous expansion picks included Ralph Stewart and John Schella taken by the newly minted Vancouver Canucks in 1970.

Schella was snagged again by the New York Islanders two years later.

Edmonton also took Bob (Battleship) Kelly in 1979, while the San Jose Sharks tapped David Bruce in 1991 and former Olympian and Fort Frances native Chris Lindberg was tabbed by Ottawa a year later.

Tom Annelin’s column appears weekly in The Chronicle-Journal. Contact Tom at tommyhockey@tbaytel.net.