Fifty years. Today was the day, 50 years ago, that the New York Islanders became a team. Not the date the franchise was awarded, that was on November 8, 1971. But today, June 6, was when the New York Islanders became a team.
Today in 1972, was the day the Islanders (and the Atlanta Flames) selected 21 players to form their first squad through the 1972 expansion draft.
New York Islanders become a team 50 years ago today
The Islanders lost the coin flip for the '72 expansion draft (but subsequently won the right to pick first at the '72 amateur draft). They picked second but still pulled some incredible players from the rest of the NHL. Here's who they picked by position (in case you forgot):
The team was obviously bad in 1972-73. The NHL wasn't setting expansion teams up to succeed. So these new teams weren't supposed to draft anything of quality.
Of course, that wasn't the case with bow-tie Bill at the helm. With the fourth pick in the '72 expansion draft, the Isles selected goalie Billy Smith from the LA Kings. As you know, he'd become a Hall of Fame player capturing four Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe in '83, and a Vezina in '82. An absolute diamond in the rough.
Classy Ed Westfall, taken with the ninth pick would become the first captain in franchise history and play seven seasons with the Islanders from the inaugural 72-73 season till his retirement after the 78-79 season.
The Islanders approach to the expansion draft wasn't to use it as a way to build the future of their franchise. That's what the entry draft was going to be used for. But they still saw the expansion draft as a way to pull some quality from teams that weren't able to protect it.