Pat LaFontaine is truly an ice-hockey icon and legend. The Missouri born hockey veteran played for New York teams during his illustrious and storied career. This included the New York Islanders, along with the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Rangers. LaFontaine retired from active play in 1998 and went on to become an agent and manager. He was also supposed to be the first US hockey player selected first in the NHL Draft in 1983. However, that honor went to fellow American, Brian Lawton – while LaFontaine was drafted third overall.
The 1983 NHL Entry Draft took place at the Montreal Forum on June 8, 1983. The NHL Entry Draft, of course, is still the main way for drafting players into the National Hockey League. The only team- in NHL history – that did not participate in the Draft that year was the St. Louis Blues. This was due to the League blocking the franchise’s relocation to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan that year.
Brian Lawton was the first overall draft pick by the Minnesota North Stars in the Draft. He is also credited for being the first American hockey player drafted first in the 1983 Draft. He is even the first – and as of 2017 – the only high-school player to be drafted first-overall. So why was the predicted first-round Draftee Pat LaFontaine overlooked? According to the NHL Central Scouting Bureau, the New Jersey born Lawton was the top Center prospect for the 1983 Draft. This remains the only true reason why Lawton was touted by the League’s clubs before LaFontaine. There was also a competitive rivalry between both Center players – but no real heat to speak about.
Brian Lawton had extensive ice hockey experience before being drafted to the NHL in 1983. In fact, he played for the Junior Hockey Team USA at the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships earlier in 1983. He would go on to play over 400 regular season games in the NHL during the 1983-84 and 1992-93 seasons. During his spectacular career in the NHL, Lawtown played for the North Stars, Rangers, Nordiques, Whalers, San Jose Sharks and Bruins.
He also managed the Tampa Bay Lightning post-retirement. Lawton, of course, retired in 1993 after being traded by the Sharks to the New Jersey Devils. Lawton never played with the Devils – and while he was still considered one of the League’s veteran centers – opted for an agent role then a managerial position with Tampa Bay.
LaFontaine averaged 1 point per game during his iconic career. In fact, he scored over 1,000 points in over 850 games in the NHL. This is still considered one of the best achievements among American born ice hockey players – whether active or retired. Pat LaFontaine is part of the 100 Greatest Players in the NHL. He even served in an executive position with the Buffalo Sabres until early 2014.