The Philadelphia Flyers finished the 1997-98 regular season as the second-best team in the Atlantic Divison with 95 points. Under head coach Wayne Cashman and team captain Eric Lindros, the franchise made the postseason but fell to the Buffalo Sabres in the Quarter-Finals in five games. The team would look to take the necessary steps to keep things moving in the right direction over the offseason. One of their most significant acquisitions came in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.
With the 22nd-overall pick, the Flyers took Simon Gagne of the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts. Gagne began his QMJHL career at the age of 16 with the Beauport Harfangs, recording 31 points in 51 games. He then spent the next two seasons with Remparts where he took off. Gagne posted 189 points in 114 games, including 120 points in the 1998-1999 season. When he moved onto the greener pastures of the National Hockey League, Quebec retired Gagne’s number-12 jersey.
How Did it Work Out?
Gagne made the Flyers roster for the 1999-2000 season right out of training camp. In his rookie year, he played mostly the center position and recorded 20 goals and 28 assists in 80 games. Additionally, made his mark on the postseason, scoring five goals and adding five assists in 17 games.
The next season, Gagne was moved to the wing and place on a line with Mark Recchi and Keith Primeau. He quickly demonstrated that the wing position was where he belonged, scoring 27 goals that year and 33 the following season.
Throughout his first stint with the Flyers, Gagne proved to be one of the best and most admired members of the Orange & Black. He posted over 40 goals two times and added two more seasons off surpassing the 30-goal mark. All-in-all, Gagne played 691 games with the Flyers, scoring 264 goals and dishing out 271 assists.
It is hard to find a player that Philadelphia should have selected with the 22nd-overall pick over Simon Gagne. What is the reason for that you might ask? Well to put it simply, it’s because there is absolutely nobody in this draft who would have been a better pick. Now, you might be thinking “didn’t Pavel Datsyuk get drafted in 2008?” Yes, he did. However, he was not taken until the sixth round, which means that a lot of teams missed out on him more than once. There were certainly some notable players taken closer to Gagne, such as Scott Gomez, Mike Fisher, Mike Ribeiro, and Brad Richards. Still, I would not have taken any of these gentlemen over him.
Draft Grade: A
I will go ahead and state for the record that this grade may come with a little personal bias attached to it. Gagne is hands-down my favorite Flyers of all-time and was making an impact on the team around the time I was just getting into hockey. Still, it is hard to ignore what Simon Gagne meant to the franchise, providing the team with consistent productive play for many years.