This is Dave Hrechkosy. Wrecker. Herc. He had size and decent footspeed coming out of junior but didn’t score enough to get drafted (16-21-37 in 57gp in the WHL in his draft year) so he played in the low minors before getting noticed by the New York Rangers.
Hrechkosy was shipped to the Seals (with Gary Coalter) in exchange for a very good NHL defenseman (Bert Marshall) in March of 1973. The following season he scored 36 goals in the high minors (the pro WHL) and then made his way to Oakland, where he scored 29 goals on a line with Warren Williams and Dave Gardner.
The Seals coach that season was Marshall Johnston. Until January. Bill McCreary took over. In the summer, the Seals named Jack (Tex) Evans head coach, coming off an impressive season with the Seals minor league team in Salt Lake City. McCreary was bumped up to GM.
That summer McCreary said “we developed some good rookies last season. Larry Patey, Dave Hrechkosy, Rick Hampton, Ron Huston, and we expect them to improve.”
For Hrechkosy, Evans represented his third NHL coach in a little over one season. Predictably, he and the other rookies from the previous year struggled:
- Patey fell from 25 goals to 12, getting traded to St. Louis during the season.
- Hrechkosy fell from 29 goals to 12 goals, getting traded to St. Louis during the season.
- Rick Hampton double his point total under Evans.
- Ron Huston fled to the WHA.
The funny thing was California had a bunch of shiny new rookies to replace them:
- C Dennis Maruk popped 30 goals
- RW Bob Murdoch scored 22 goals
- LW Bob Girard surprised with 42 points
- C Ralph Klassen scored 21 points straight out of junior.
The Seals always had lots of talent. Hell Charlie Simmer played for both teams mentioned above. The problem with the Seals wasn’t procurement (the Central Scouting Bureau was created for teams like the Seals and Caps because the prevailing wisdom stated they couldn’t find talent. Balderdash. Garry Young is one of the great forgotten names in NHL lore, his scouting and management resume a lost gem in the game’s long history).
The problem with the Seals is they could never stand still, create an environment where rookies could succeed and then build on their success. They were so busy plugging holes and moving bodies (and firing coaches) there was never a chance for anyone to find their way. I have little doubt a player like Rick Hampton would have had a much better career if he’d been drafted by another organization. Others, like Simmer, did find their way when given a second chance by another team.
For the Edmonton Oilers, creating a situation in which a young player can succeed and then build on it is vital. Since he became head coach, MacTavish has dressed over 40 rookies. The important ones pre-lockout (00-01: Comrie, Horcoff; 01-02: Markkanen; 02-03: Hemsky, Chimera, Pisani, Semenov; 03-04: Torres, Bergeron, Stoll) are all gone save Horcoff, Hemsky and Pisani.
MacTavish has shown an ability to take what the procurement department gives him and suss out the winners without regard to pedigree. The three keepers from the rookie crop pre-lockout feature one first rounder and a couple of guys from the outside the top 50.
So when we look at the important ones since the lockout ended (Kyle Brodziak, Ladislav Smid, Tom Gilbert, Zack Stortini, Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner, Marc Pouliot, Matt Greene) I think it’s important to remember that draft position means nothing and that MacTavish has been able to give rookies enought at-bats to see what they can do and then have them build on that the following season.
What hasn’t happened is a “Charlie Simmer”: a player flushed from the system only to have tremendous success elsewhere. Just as impressive to me is the fact that there have been very few “Larry Patey” and “Dave Hrechkosy” types: guys who showed well in their first year and had no sustain.
The “oops” players from the NW division this decade (Umberger, Kobasew, Tom Gilbert) come from other cities, and the last “one that got away” from this organization (Matthew Lombardi) never had a chance to play for Craig MacTavish.
One final note: I think we can agree that this fall/winter will be the final shot for Marc Pouliot. I’m at a point where it’s time to cheer, but if the Oilers trade him or send him down and lose Pouliot on waivers none of us can make the argument he didn’t get his 500 at-bats.