Percentage of vote: 17%
I figured Stefan Persson would be the top draw for this. Persson was drafted 214th overall in the 14th round of the 1974 draft by the New York Islanders. The Swedish defenseman had been a gold medal winner back in his home country before he joined the Islanders. Winning hardware would follow him to North America.
He made an instant impact in the NHL. In his rookie season, Persson put up 56 points in 66 games. That’s a rookie record for Islanders defensemen. Denis Potvin only put up 54 points in his Calder winning rookie season.
Within three years, he was Stanley Cup champion with the Islanders. Often paired with Dave Langevin, the two were an incredible duo on the ice. But the power play was were Persson was at his absolute best.
Of his 317 career assists, 182 came on the power play. That’s 57.4 percent of his helpers coming on the man advantage. During Persson’s time on the team, the Islanders routinely held a power-play efficiency over 20 percent and sometimes over 30 percent.
In 1977-78 the Islanders held a 31.4 percent efficiency on the power play, the second-best efficiency during Persson’s time in the NHL. Persson and the Islanders followed that up in 1978-79 with a 31.1 percent efficiency (third-best in his NHL career).
Persson didn’t put up the same numbers that Denis Potvin did on the blue line. But his presence on the second pair gave the Islanders incredible depth and allowed their stars to produce as much as they did.
Persson is one of 17 players to be on all four Islanders cup teams.
His 369 career points are the third-best for defensemen during his draft year. Only Mark Howe with 742 points (25th overall, second round), Ron Greschner with 610 points (32nd overall, second round), and Bob Murray with 514 points (52nd overall, third round) have more points that Persson.
It seems that not only was he underrated on the Isles, but underrated at the draft. (To be fair, Europeans weren’t well scouted back then.)