The New York Islanders became an NHL franchise in 1972, but on May 15, 1973, they drafted the player they would build a team and eventually a Stanley Cup dynasty around when General Manager Bill Torrey selected Denis Potvin with the No.1 overall pick in the NHL Amateur Draft.
The consensus was that Potvin was going to be a future superstar and was dubbed "the next Bobby Orr" by the press, leading to the draft. During the 1972-73 season, Torrey had deployed scout Jim Devellano to confirm that the hype surrounding the junior hockey start for the Ottawa 67s was warranted. "I told Bill that this kid was a guy we just had to get, no matter what we had to do," Devellano recalled to Stan Fischler in NHL.com.
To entice Potvin to play on Long Island, the team traded center Terry Crisp to the Philadelphia Flyers for defenseman Jean Potvin, Denis' other brother. This was important because although the Isles owned the No. 1 pick after finishing 12-60-6 in their inaugural season, there was outside competition from the World Hockey Association (WHA), which was entering its second season and was aggressively looking to spend money to attract top hockey talent.
Then there was the Montreal Canadiens. The team's general manager Sam Pollock shared the view of the Islanders and the rest of the hockey league that Potvin was a generational talent. He tried gallantly to offer a package of players to Torrey for the top pick in hopes the Isles GM was looking for a way to instantly improve his talent-deficient roster. Potvin was aware of Montreal's intentions, but despite the team's winning history and heritage, he preferred Long Island as his destination.
""My agent told me that the Canadiens were offering four good players for me, but I didn't want to play in Montreal. I felt that I'd be under too much pressure to be an instant superstar.""- Denis Potvin
Torrey held firm and even after one last ditched effort by Pollack, stood firm and drafted Potvin with the No. 1 overall pick, giving the Islanders their foundational piece of what would become their Stanley Cup dynasty puzzle.
Potvin won the Calder Trophy his rookie season and would become the team's third captain after the 1978-79 season. He collected three Norris Trophies, awarded to league's top defenseman in 1976, 1978 and 1979. When he retired in 1988, he had registered 1,052 career points in 1,060 games, making him the highest-scoring defenseman in NHL history.
He was also the first defenseman to score 300 goals and 1,000 points. In 1991, Potvin was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame and was the first player in team history to have his number retired by the team when his No. 5 was raised to the rafters of the Nassau Coliseum the following year.