2. Gary Roberts – 12th Overall in 1984
Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving announces Samuel Bennett (not pictured) as the number four overall pick to the Calgary Flames in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
The Flames couldn’t have known it at the time, but the player they took in the middle of the first round in 1984 would still be in the NHL 25 year later. Roberts had a tremendous NHL career, not just in length but also with his impressive statistics as well.
After being drafted in 1984, Roberts played two more seasons in the OHL before splitting the next season between the AHL and NHL, and then finally became a full time NHL player with the Calgary Flames in 1987-88. He scored 28 points that year, but chipped in 22 goals in the 1988-89 season and also scored 12 points in 22 playoff games, helping the Flames win their only Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Roberts wasn’t a central figure in the Flames Cup win, but he played a physical role in what was a very punishing league at the time, which is shown in Roberts astounding 282 penalty minutes in 1987-88 and 250 PIMs in the Stanley Cup season.
Roberts really broke out offensively for the Flames after they won the Cup, as he scored 39 goals and 72 points in 78 games in 1989-90 and followed that up with seasons of 53, 90, 79 (in 58 games) and 84 points. Included in those impressive point totals were four seasons with at least 38 goals and a career high of 53 in 1991-92.
A severe neck injury derailed Roberts career with the Flames, as he played just eight games during the lockout shortened 1994-95 season, then 35 games the following year. His health deteriorated again and he actually announced his retirement in 1996 at the age of 30.
It didn’t look like it at the time, but Roberts would play an incredible 11 more seasons in the NHL after his first retirement. After sitting out a year he returned to hockey but the Flames agreed to trade him to an Eastern Conference team so he would have a reduced travel schedule which would help with his neck troubles.
Roberts was dealt along with Trevor Kidd to the Carolina Hurricanes for Andrew Cassels and Jean Sebastien Giguere. He scored 49, 42 and 53 points in three seasons with Carolina before signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs where he became a fan favourite thanks to his scoring ability and physical play.
Roberts wrapped up his career with stops in Florida, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay before finally retiring for good in 2009. He played an incredible 1224 games scored 438 goals and 909 points even though he sat in the penalty box for more than 2500 minutes.
Roberts had the fifth most points of anyone taken in the 1984 draft, falling in line behind Mario Lemieux and Kirk Muller who were the first two choices and Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille who went in the ninth round. His 1224 games also ranked fifth among players taken in that draft, which is proof the Flames not only made the right choice, but got a steal of a pick when they took Roberts 12th overall in 1984.