NY Islanders architect Bill Torrey had a historic NHL draft 50 years ago

Denis Potvin's Tribute to Bill Torrey, Part 1: The Architect's Legacy | New York Islanders
Denis Potvin's Tribute to Bill Torrey, Part 1: The Architect's Legacy | New York Islanders / MSG Networks

50 years ago, on May 28, 1974, New York Islanders GM Bill Torrey had one of the best draft days in NHL history, selecting not one but two future Hall-of-Famers and adding other integral pieces that would become part of the organization's Stanley Cup dynasty.

The Islanders had already selected goaltender Billy Smith in the 1972 expansion draft and Bob Nystrom with the top pick of the third round that same year. After their inaugural season, defenseman Denis Potvin was taken first overall in the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft. Torrey was building a future playoff team and contender, but what he pulled off in 1974 accelerated the timetable for the Islanders and put them on the road to become perennial Stanley Cup contenders.

Torrey and the Isles were selected fourth overall and took rugged power forward Clark Gillies from the Regina Pats (WCHL). The Moose Jaw native, had scored 46 goals and registered 66 assists in 65 games with the Regina during the 1973-74 campaign.

Gillies went straight to the NHL and scored 25 goals in his rookie year and quickly emerged as a premier power forward and one of the toughest fighters in the NHL. He went on to score 304 goals in 872 games for the Isles and became team captain in 1977 at just 22 years old. His No. 9 was retired by the team, and he was inducted into the Hockey HOF in 2002.

With the team's next selection, Torrey took underaged centerman Bryan Trottier 22nd overall (second round) from the Swift Current Broncos (WCHL). Trots set an NHL rookie record of 95 points during the 1976-77 season and captured the Calder Trophy. Known as the 'center of attention,' the talented two-way center scored 500 goals with the Isles and remains the franchise leader in games played (1,123) and points (1,353). The only Islander to win the Hart Trophy (1978-79), Trottier also was named the winner of the Conn Smythe in 1980 as playoff MVP.

If drafting two future Hall-of-Famers wasn't enough, Torrey selected future All-Star Dave Langevin with the 112th overall pick (7th round). Later, defenseman Stefan Persson was selected in the 15th round (214th overall). He played his entire nine year career with the team and won four Stanley Cups.

Torrey was already building a winner, but what he accomplished at the 1974 NHL Draft changed the future of the Islanders forever and led to them becoming one of the greatest dynasties in the history of professional sports.