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DATE: JUNE 15, 1978

The 16th NHL Amateur Draft was the last to be called an "amateur draft" before the league created the modern "entry draft" in 1979. In addition, the drafting system that had been in place for nine seasons made its final appearance in 1978. A year later, the annual number of rounds would be predetermined, and teams would no longer be permitted to pass in rounds and then re-enter as they had in the past. In addition, teams would no longer be able to purchase late-round draft picks as they had from 1969 to 1978. Trades for draft picks after 1978 would have to involve players or future non-cash considerations. The 1978 draft also marked the last time NHL teams had to compete with the upstart WHA in signing star junior players. Signs of the rival league's demise were already evident, and for the first time since 1973, the WHA did not draft in head-to-head competition with the NHL. This enabled the NHL to take the draft out of the secrecy it had required since 1974. There was no longer a need for the conference-call format, and once again the draft became a public event at Montreal's Queen Elizabeth Hotel. Most important, the 1978 draft would mark the final time in NHL history that underage players (those who did not turn 20 in their draft year) were ineligible. In 1979, this would become the most dramatic and significant change in draft history, but in 1978 it was still unimaginable. And while the 1978 draft included many historic lasts, it also included a historic first -- the first time teams drafted players selected in a previous draft. Several 1977 draft picks, who were not offered contracts within a year, had opted to re-enter the draft in 1978.

Once again, the struggling Cleveland franchise's financial problems were a big issue as draft day neared. A year earlier, the Barons had saved themselves from folding, even though the uncertainty of their future had forced the NHL to delay its draft. In 1978, the Barons weren't so lucky. The team folded, merging its remaining players and ownership group with Minnesota just days before the draft. That left the NHL with the question of how to handle Cleveland's scheduled 1978 draft picks. The league decided to leave only the Barons' first two picks in play. The first-rounder was moved to the last pick in the round (18th overall) and then packaged in the Cleveland-Minnesota dispersal draft. The Washington Capitals, who had the dispersal draft's No. 1 pick, were given the option of selecting the first two former Cleveland players or using the No. 1 draft pick vacated by Cleveland. Washington opted to pass in the dispersal draft and take the draft pick instead. Meanwhile, the NHL allowed Cleveland's second-round pick to be used by Washington, which had obtained it from Cleveland in a trade. All of Cleveland's other draft picks were voided, and teams which had traded picks to Cleveland were also forbidden from using those picks.

It was a huge year for St. Louis, which set an individual team record with 31 picks in 1978, breaking the previous mark of 27 by Montreal in 1977. The Blues achieved this total by purchasing late-round picks from several other teams. St. Louis' record is likely to stand for all time, since the total number of rounds has been restricted ever since the 1978 draft, and it is now virtually impossible for one team to accumulate 31 selections in a single draft. On the other hand, Pittsburgh drafted only three players in 1978, the smallest total by an actively drafting team since the first true universal draft in 1969. Overall, the final total of 234 draft picks was the second-highest in NHL history to that point in time and, despite the loss of the Cleveland franchise, represented an increase of 49 players over the 1977 total.

In one particularly comic moment near the end of the draft, Montreal general manager Sam Pollock attempted to make his 16th round pick before he realized Detroit was still drafting, and had the pick ahead of his. Pollock went ahead and announced the name of St. Lawrence defenseman Brian Crawley. Detroit officials then argued that they had to pick ahead of Montreal, and as a result, they quickly chose Crawley with their 16th pick -- just to stick it to the mighty Canadiens.

Ironically, the only future Hall of Famer drafted in 1978 didn't reach the NHL for 11 years. Russian hockey legend Viacheslav Fetisov, picked in the late rounds by Montreal, finally came to North America in 1989, but never played for the first team that drafted him. While 1978 wasn't a great draft for Hall of Famers, it was a memorable year for many other groups. The biggest winners were Americans, Europeans and college players, who all were drafted in record numbers. A whopping 80 drafted collegians (73 from U.S. schools) broke the old record by 19. In addition, 17 Europeans were drafted, beating the previous high by nine, and a total of 47 Americans broke the previous record by two.

Eligible For Draft: All amateur players born before January 1, 1959.
Draft Order: Teams drafted in reverse order of their 1977-78 finish.
Irregularities:  There was no set number of rounds. Teams had the right to pass in any round, and the draft continued until all teams were done selecting. Cleveland did not draft because the team had folded a few days earlier. However, the NHL continued to recognize the first- and second-round picks that would have belonged to Cleveland. The Barons' first pick, No. 5 overall, was dropped to the end of the first round (No. 18 overall) and given to Washington, which gained it in the Cleveland-Minnesota dispersal draft. Cleveland's second pick, No. 23 overall, was used by Washington, which had obtained it in a trade. All other Cleveland picks were voided, including those obtained from other teams. As a result, the N.Y. Islanders were barred from using their fourth-round pick, which the team had swapped with Cleveland. Minnesota and Vancouver passed in Round 11. Vancouver re-entered in Round 12 and passed again in Round 13. Buffalo passed in Round 12. Chicago, Philadelphia and N.Y. Islanders passed in Round 13. Boston passed in Round 14. Washington, St. Louis, Colorado, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Toronto passed in Round 15. N.Y. Rangers passed in Round 16. Detroit passed in Round 18, leaving only Montreal to pick in Rounds 18 through 22.
Rotation: Minnesota, Washington, St. Louis, Vancouver, Colorado, Pittsburgh, N.Y. Rangers, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Toronto, Buffalo, Philadelphia, N.Y. Islanders, Boston, Montreal
Total Rounds: Twenty-two
Cost to Draft: The NHL paid a lump sum to the CMJHL to support major junior hockey as a whole. Prior to the 1978 draft, the NHL also committed to future payments that would ensure the CMJHL's continued success as the primary pipeline for NHL-caliber talent. NHL president John Ziegler estimated that by 1980, the sum of NHL payments to the CMJHL would amount to $30,000 per drafted player.
Draft Rights: Team could offer player contract at any time after draft.
No. 1 pick: Bobby Smith (by Minnesota)
Reached NHL: 95 players (40.6 percent)
Won Stanley Cup: 16 players (6.8 percent)
Most NHL Games: Brad Marsh (1,086 games)
Most Playoff Games: Craig MacTavish (193 games)
Highest Pick to Miss: No. 30 (Dale Yakiwchuk)
Lowest Pick to Reach: No. 233 (Louis Sleigher)
Players Drafted: 234 (143 forwards, 67 defense, 24 goalies)

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Total Selected: 234
Forwards: 143
Defense: 67
Goaltenders: 24
Major Junior: 127
College Players: 80
Canadian: 170
Euro-Canadian: 0
USA Citizens: 47
U.S.-Born: 47
European: 17
Reached NHL: 95
Won Stanley Cup: 16
Hall of Fame: 1
All-Star Game: 18
Year-end All-Star: 1
Olympians: 16
Picks Traded: 46
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