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Where the 15 Minutes of Fame Never End
By Ben Ricker and Josh Wilson
In 1983 Brian Lawton became the first US-born player to be drafted first overall in the history of the NHL. This was sure to go down as a great moment for the doomed North Stars and, in a larger sense, for United States hockey. He was selected before Hall of Famers Pat LaFontaine (3rd overall, NY Islanders) and Steve Yzerman (4th overall, Detroit Red Wings). Naturally the Whalers blew it too at second overall, but Sylvain Turgeon did amass almost 500 points in his career. Some believe that Brian Lawton failed because he flew too close to the sun by wearing number 98 (he was the only player ballsy enough to do it), some believe he sealed his sub-par career when he was drafted by the lowly North Stars. I, however, maintain that he failed just because he is from New Jersey.
In Lawton’s illustrious career, he found himself playing 483 games over the course of seven NHL seasons. His highest NHL point total came in his sophomore season, which is never a very good time to “peak”, with 44 points. Lawton played for five teams after leaving Minnesota in 1988 until retiring in 1993 in Minnesota to go back where his shortcomings began.
Lawton has since gone on to become an agent but more notably the Tampa Bay Lightning’s GM until he was succeeded by, you can’t make this up, Steve Yzerman. Tampa Bay was one of the league’s worth teams under Lawton’s rule, sinking to 66 points in 2008-2009, but under Yzerman’s guidance they’re on pace for 104 points. Maybe it has something to do with all that talent they stacked up from the high draft picks. Or better yet, maybe Yzerman has spent his entire existence trying to one-up Lawton for getting drafted before him. Either way, Stevie Y has owned Lawton as both a player and a GM.
Scary Fact: Lawton is considered a huge draft bust, but he had more points in his rookie season (35) than Tyler Seguin is on pace for (29). Wuh oh!
Ben Ricker and Josh Wilson are weekly columnists for Obscure Athletes and our resident hockey experts. They can be reached at Ben@obscureathletes.com or Josh@obscureathletes.com