Newfies in hockey: John Slaney

Welcome to a new feature here at the Ryan Coke Experience: Newfies in hockey. Periodically, I will be profiling different players that made it to the NHL (keep in mind, the number is less than 25, so I might start eventually stretching that to non-NHL players as well).

Do you remember: John Slaney?

John Slaney could have been a great NHL player if he was drafted by another team.

John Slaney could have been a great NHL player if he was drafted by another team.

While John Slaney took advantage of opportunities he was given, bad luck is probably the biggest factor on why he never made it stick in the NHL.

Slaney is best remembered for his game-winning goal against Russia in the 1991 world junior championships to give Canada the gold medal, and made Slaney one of the most famous Newfoundland athletes of all-time.

In juniors, Slaney was a scoring machine, scoring on average once every two games. Playing for the Cornwall Royals, Slaney won the Canadian Major Junior Defenceman of the Year award.

Because of his goal-scoring abilities, Slaney was drafted by the Washington Capitals ninth overall in the 1990 draft.

It was a great moment of pride for a Newfie to be taken so high. In what turned out to be a very deep draft, Slaney was chosen ahead of players such as Keith Tkachuk, Martin Brodeur, Chris Simon and Felix Potvin. Amongst defenceman, he was chosen just after Darryl Sydor and Derian Hatcher, but before Karl Dykhuis, Sergei Zubov and Jason York.

Unfortunately, Slaney was chosen by the Capitals. In a five-year time period from 1990 to 1995, the Capitals had tons of talent on the blue line. The year Slaney was drafted, the Capitals already had defencemen playing such as Kevin Hatcher, Scott Stevens, Calle Johansson and Rod Langway. That’s a tough lineup to crack.

John Slaney (bottom of the pile) scored the game winning goal at the 1991 world junior championships.

John Slaney (bottom of the pile) scored the game winning goal at the 1991 world junior championships.

Over the next few years, the Capitals defensive corps also included Al Iafrate, Mike Lalor, Joel Quenneville, Sylvain Cote, Sergei Gonchar and goons such as Enrico Ciccone and Brian Curran. While Slaney did get some games, there’s no way he was going to get enough playing time with that lineup to justify such a high pick.

Eventually, Slaney started making the rounds on the NHL circuit. He ended up playing with seven different teams (Caps, Pens, Flyers, Avalanche, Preds, Coyotes and Kings).

He also spent a lot of time playing in the AHL, where he had much of his hockey success. He won the Calder Cup with the Flyers’ farm team, the Phantoms, in 2005. Later that year, he became the all-time leading scorer among defenceman in the AHL. He is one of only four players to ever win the AHL defenceman of the year award two years in a row.

In 2007, he started playing overseas, and is now with the Frankfurt Lions in Germany.

If Slaney was drafted by a team not so deep in the defence position, Slaney could have had more of an opportunity to play at an NHL level. As it was, he had a lot of success, and should be a shoo-in for the AHL Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible.

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