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On this day in 1979, the Vancouver Canucks drafted Rick Vaive and Brent Ashton

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Aleena Aksenchuk
5 months ago
On this day in 1979, the Vancouver Canucks drafted two soon-to-be future NHL veterans, forwards Brent Ashton and Rick Vaive.
Everyone has loved the excitement of the annual NHL draft since the event began in 1963. Finally, in 1970 the Canucks got to join in on the fun and took place in their first-ever draft. Year by year, NHL franchises pick the top prospects and watch them grace the stage one by one, and for Vaive and Ashton, it was finally their turn nine years after the Canucks joined the league.
It wouldn’t take too long for Ottawa, Ontario native Vaive to hear his name get called, only four picks had to go by before the Canucks took the podium, and as their fifth overall pick, Vaive was slipping on a Vancouver sweater.
The Canucks weren’t the first professional team Vaive suited up for. The year before the draft, he played for the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA, scoring 26 goals and 59 points while sitting in the sin bin for 248 minutes throughout 75 games. Canucks general manager, the late Jake Milford, saw a player who had already proved himself in the professional hockey landscape.
Nonetheless, Vaive lived out his NHL dreams that same year for a short and sweet 47 games, scoring 13 goals and 21 points. Unfortunately, he didn’t meet the expectations the organization and market had hoped for him. In February of 1980, he received the call that he and teammate Bill Derlango had been traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Jerry Butler and Tiger Williams.
Vaive went on to play eight years with the Maple Leafs, scoring 299 goals and 537 points through 534 games. In 1981-82, Vaive made history, becoming the first Maple Leafs player to achieve 50 goals in a single season (54); he did it again a year later, scoring 51 goals, and again in 1983-83, scoring 52 goals. He was traded just before the start of the season in 1987 to the Chicago Blackhawks, and one year later, he became the late Christmas present to the Buffalo Sabres after being traded on Boxing Day. He returned to where it all started in 1992, signing with the Canucks, but never played a game that year or any years after.
On the other hand, Ashton had to be more patient during the draft, waiting until the second round for his name to be called. As their 26th pick, Vancouver took the stand and called Ashton’s name.
Similarly to Vaive, Ashton didn’t last long in Vancouver. He joined the team in his first year for 47 games, scoring five goals and 19 points, and spent the following year appearing in 10 games short of 81.
On July 15th, 1981, he was traded twice in one day. First to the Winnipeg Jets with a fourth-round pick in 1982 (Tom Martin) in exchange for Ivan Hlinka. Later in the day, he was moved to the Colorado Rockies with a third-round selection in 1982 (Dave Kasper) in exchange for Lucien DeBlois. The remainder of his career was riddled with trades, becoming known as possibly one of the most traded players in the NHL.
In 1992-93, he would play his final year in the NHL, appearing in only 32 games with the Calgary Flames, scoring his final eight NHL goals and 19 points.
Over his 14-year career, he played in 998 games, scoring 284 goals and 629 points. He spread his time between nine NHL teams, including the Jets, the Quebec Nordiques, the Rockies, and the Boston Bruins.
Both players started their dreams with the Canucks, all thanks to the draft in 1979, and wrote their stories on the ice with numerous teams throughout their careers.
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