The following paragraph comes from Hockey Draft Central: Sobchuk is famous in hockey history for being the first underage player to sign with a professional team before leaving major junior hockey. After the end of NHL player sponsorship and prior to April 1973, no junior player had ever signed an advance contract with an NHL or WHA team. Sobchuk, drafted by the WHA’s expansion Cincinnati team set a new precedent when he chose to sign at age 19 despite his intention of returning to the WCHL to complete his major junior eligibility. This was no inconvenience to Cincinnati, since the Stingers were not scheduled to begin WHA play for another two years. Sobchuk’s final year in major junior was a success, as he led Regina to the Memorial Cup.
Sobchuk’s unusual career continued through pro, as he quickly established himself as a quality offensive player in the WHA, scoring 32, 32, 44 and 26 goals in different seasons in the outlaw league. In the 1978-79 season, he played for the WHA Edmonton Oilers and scored 74gp, 26-37-63. He was claimed by Philadelphia Flyers in that ridiculous draft that basically stripped WHA teams of their players and then dealt to Detroit for a 5th round draft pick.
Sobchuk didn’t fare well with the Red Wings. They were a poor team, but had Dale McCourt as their big star and his skill set closely matched that of Sobchuk and he never did catch on with them. Or the Nordiques. In fact, although Sobchuk arrived at the NHL gates summer 1979 with a nice resume from the WHA and was quite young (24), he would play a total of 35 games in the show.
Sobchuk is a cautionary tale for fans like me who get ahead of ourselves when watching fine young players walk into the pro ranks and have early success. You never know.
Why did Sobchuk fail? Why did Dale McCourt fail? There are answers but the bottom line is among the group that emerged last season (Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson, Brodziak and Stortini) odds are at least one of them is going to end up with a disappointing career from here on out.