Thursday

Rejean Houle

Some people would accuse the very first first overall draft pick in the modern history of the NHL draft to be a bit of a draft bust, but that would not be a fair assessment of the career of Rejean Houle.

Prior to 1969, the NHL allowed for fair access to junior players. No longer could NHL teams sign players in their teenage years and develop them through their own junior programs. Instead a draft was created and once the player turned 20 (now 18) he was eligible to join the league, with the worst club getting first option to pick him up. The draft was phased in with 1969 being the first year of complete universal access. The modern NHL draft was created.

The very first player chosen was Rouyn, Quebec's Rejean Houle, who dreamed of one day playing with the Canadiens like his idol Boom Boom Geoffrion.

In junior Houle was a great scorer, tallying 53 goals and 108 points in 54 games. He played on a line with Gilbert Perreault and the dynamic duo led the Jr. Canadiens to the Memorial Cup title. Houle was hailed as the next great Quebecois scoring star.

But he would never get the chance to fulfill his destiny.

The Canadiens of course were a deeply talented team, which forced Houle to adopt a role of a checker in order to get ice time as a youngster. In the 1971 Stanley Cup finals he forever cast himself with a masterful defensive job on Chicago's great scorer Bobby Hull.

Houle never complained about his role as a checker. But he also knew he would never be anything more in Montreal. Seeking financial security for his family, Houle jumped to the WHA where the Quebec Nordiques offered him a sizable wage increase and a better chance to be a star player. He would score 118 goals in 214 games for the Nords.

Houle found increasing success in his three years in the WHA, including becoming a 50 goal scorer and 100 point man. Yet he missed his days in the NHL and in particular in Montreal. He would return to Montreal in 1976 and for the next 6-plus years happily resumed his role as a determined forechecker and ace penalty killer.

1 comments:

Anonymous,  2:53 PM  

rejean houle was a good hockey player with a great name.

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