1979 NHL Expansion Draft
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1979 NHL Expansion Draft
1979 NHL Expansion Draft
General information
Date(s)June 13, 1979
Expansion teamsEdmonton Oilers
Hartford Whalers
Quebec Nordiques
Winnipeg Jets
← 1978
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The 1979 NHL Expansion Draft was held on June 13, 1979. The draft took place to fill the rosters of the National Hockey League's new teams for the 1979-80 season: the Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets. These four teams had joined the NHL after a merger agreement was reached with the World Hockey Association (WHA).

As many WHA players also had their rights held by NHL teams, those NHL teams were allowed to reclaim their players. In order to keep the NHL teams from plundering all the talent from the WHA-turned-NHL teams, each incoming franchise was allowed to protect up to two goaltenders and two skaters. These were designated as "priority selections" in the Expansion Draft.

WHA Dispersal Draft

Following the 1978-79 WHA season, and prior to the NHL reclaiming players, the WHA dispersed players whose rights were held by teams not accepted into the NHL: the Birmingham Bulls and Cincinnati Stingers, and the Indianapolis Racers, who had folded during the previous season. Players that were twenty years old or younger were available to all 21 NHL teams in the entry draft, and the remaining players were made available to the four merging teams from the WHA.[1][2] Before their final season the WHA opted not to have an amateur draft and instead encouraged their teams to sign underage players.[3] Seven Birmingham Bulls were drafted in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft: Rob Ramage (1st), Rick Vaive (5th), Craig Hartsburg (6th), Michel Goulet (20th), Gaston Gingras (27th), Pat Riggin (33rd), and Keith Crowder (57th). Crowder began the season as a Bull but returned to the Peterborough Petes after just five games. The Cincinnati Stingers used two who were drafted: Mike Gartner (4th) and Mark Messier (48th). Messier was underage but was eligible for the 1979 draft due to his WHA service time.[4] The Winnipeg Jets used John Gibson (71st), but only on a ten game tryout contract in March 1979 but was returned to the Niagara Falls Flyers before the end of the season.[5]

Expansion draft rules

Reclaiming of players: The 17 existing NHL teams were allowed to reclaim any rights to former WHA players they held. The four incoming franchises, however, were allowed to protect up to two goaltenders and two skaters, voiding their NHL rights. These players were considered "priority selections" in the expansion draft. Numerous deals were cut by the incoming teams to retain some of their players. For instance, Quebec retained star forward Real Cloutier by trading a first-round draft choice to the Chicago Black Hawks, which held Cloutier's rights; that pick was used to select perennial superstar Denis Savard.

Wayne Gretzky was a special case - although no team held his NHL rights, under existing rules he would have been removed from the Oilers and placed into the NHL Entry Draft. However, Gretzky had been signed by Oilers owner Peter Pocklington to a personal services contract instead of a standard player contract. Confronted with the probability of being drafted first overall by the last place Colorado Rockies, Gretzky refused to void his contract with Pocklington. After deliberation, the Oilers were allowed to keep Gretzky as one of their priority selections, and agreed to choose last in each round of the 1979 NHL Entry Draft as further compensation.

Gordie Howe was a second special case - as a gentlemen's agreement between the Hartford Whalers and the Detroit Red Wings, which held his NHL rights, the Red Wings declined to reclaim the 51-year-old Howe.

Expansion draft: Each of the 17 existing NHL teams were allowed to protect 15 skaters and two veteran goalies.

Compensation: The 17 existing NHL teams received $125,000 for each player drafted, these payments being funded by the $6 million in franchise fees each of the former WHA teams paid to join the NHL.

Reclaimed players

These are players whose NHL rights were reclaimed when the WHA merged with the NHL.[6]

NO. Player Reclaimed from Reclaimed by
1. Kent Nilsson (LW) Winnipeg Jets Atlanta Flames
2. Bobby Hull (LW) Chicago Black Hawks
3. Terry Ruskowski (RW)
4. Doug Berry (C) Edmonton Oilers Colorado Rockies
5. Wes George (LW) Detroit Red Wings
6. Glenn Hicks (LW) Winnipeg Jets
7. Barry Long (D)
8. George Lyle (LW) Hartford Whalers
9. Steve Carlson (RW) Edmonton Oilers Los Angeles Kings
10. Cal Sandbeck (D) Minnesota North Stars
11. Dave Semenko (LW)
12. Paul Shmyr (D)
13. Greg Tebbutt (D) Quebec Nordiques
14. Alain Cote (LW) Montreal Canadiens
15. Dan Geoffrion (RW)
16. Alan Hangsleben (D) Hartford Whalers
17. Peter Marsh (RW) Winnipeg Jets
18. Kelly Davis (D) Edmonton Oilers New York Islanders
19. Dave Langevin (D)
20. Warren Miller (RW) Hartford Whalers New York Rangers
21. Jim Mayer (C) Edmonton Oilers
22. Dennis Sobchuk (LW) Philadelphia Flyers
23. Kim Clackson (D) Winnipeg Jets Pittsburgh Penguins
24. Mike Liut (G) Edmonton Oilers St. Louis Blues
25. Christian Bordeleau (C) Quebec Nordiques
26. Risto Siltanen (D) Edmonton Oilers
27. Rick Ley (D) Hartford Whalers Toronto Maple Leafs
28. Stan Weir (D) Edmonton Oilers
29. John Hughes (D) Vancouver Canucks
30. Paul MacKinnon (D) Winnipeg Jets Washington Capitals
  • Twelve additional players were reclaimed, but were chosen as 'Priority Selections' by the four merging franchises

Expansion draft results

Priority selections

These players were "priority selections" in the 1979 NHL Expansion Draft.

1 The NHL denied the Oilers' claim of Bengt-Ake Gustafsson. League president John Ziegler ruled that the Oilers violated WHA rules when they attempted to add Gustafsson to their team during the 1979 playoffs, so they voided any claim on him.[7]

These are players selected in the 1979 NHL Expansion Draft.

Edmonton Oilers selections

  • Both Reg Thomas and Dave Hunter are described as being taken in this draft,[8] however in Greig's detailed lists they are both part of the "Pre-draft Roster."


Hartford Whalers selections

# Player Drafted from
1. Alan Hangsleben (D) Montreal Canadiens
2. Nick Fotiu (LW) New York Rangers
3. Rick Ley (D) Toronto Maple Leafs
4. Al Sims (D) Boston Bruins
5. Jean Savard (C) Chicago Black Hawks
6. Ralph Klassen (F) Colorado Rockies
7. Rick Hodgson (D) Atlanta Flames
8. Kevin Kemp (D) Toronto Maple Leafs
9. Bill Bennett (LW) Boston Bruins
10. Bernie Johnston (C/LW) Philadelphia Flyers
11. Brian Hill (RW) Atlanta Flames
12. Dave Given (F) Buffalo Sabres
13. M. F. Schurman (LW) Philadelphia Flyers
14. Nick Beverley (D) Colorado Rockies
15. Norm Lapointe (G) Vancouver Canucks
16. Don Kozak (LW)


Quebec Nordiques selections


Winnipeg Jets selections


See also


  1. ^ Greig p. 213
  2. ^ "N.H.L. Players' Group Consents to Merger". New York Times. June 7, 1979. Retrieved 2020.
  3. ^ Greig p. 215
  4. ^ "1979 Draft Quick Facts". Retrieved 2020.
  5. ^ "1979 NHL Draft Pick John Gibson". Retrieved 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e Greig p.217
  7. ^ Capitals claim on Gustafsson
  8. ^ Duplacey pp. 1130-1, 1529-30.


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