Scott Thornton

One player I watched come from junior hockey and into the NHL was Scott Thornton. The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted the Belleville Bulls hulking center 3rd overall in 1989.

The reason? At about that time I had a huge man-crush on Calgary's Joel Otto. A physically dominant, extraordinary defensive center with incredible size and great faceoff ability. Every team wanted Otto. And, I believed, Toronto had drafted the next one when the draft Thornton ahead Stu Barnes and Bill Guerin.

Thornton went on to become a bit of a poor-man's Otto rather than the next dominant defender. He was outstanding on faceoffs. He played with a different variety of toughness - he was never chippy or cheap. He was a real solid player, though prone to both injuries and bad penalties.

Though he had decent skating ability - strong and balanced - he was not fast. He was smart positionally on the defensive side. Offensively he never really was a threat, except for one season in San Jose where he played a lot of left wing alongside his superstar cousin, Joe Thornton. Many people would expect more offensive production from a 3rd overall draft pick - one who was traded as a key part of the trade to Edmonton for Grant Fuhr. But I certainly would not consider him a disappointment.

In fact, even though he was a favorite of mine, even I was actually quite surprised to realize he survived parts of 17 NHL season, totalling nearly 1000 regular season games. He spent a long time in obscurity on 4th lines in Toronto, Edmonton, Montreal, Dallas, San Jose and Los Angeles. It all added up to a very decent National Hockey League career.


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