To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first NHL Draft, NHL.com assembled a 13-member panel to select the best first-round picks of all time, based on selection number. NHL.com will feature one of the top first-round picks each day, beginning with the best No. 30 pick on June 1 and culminating with the all-time No. 1 pick on June 30, the day of the 2013 NHL Draft.
Today: The best No. 7 pick: Bill Barber, Philadelphia Flyers, 1972
In the 1970s, line combinations stuck together for a lot longer than the game or two it seems some last in today's NHL.
One of the best of that era was the Philadelphia Flyers' LCB Line, which helped the team reach the Stanley Cup Final twice, including a Cup win in 1975. The line consisted of sharpshooting Reggie Leach, three-time Hart Trophy winner Bobby Clarke and Bill Barber. For his play with and without his talented linemates, Barber was the choice as the best No. 7 first-round pick by NHL.com's Dream Draft panel.
Barber was chosen in the 1972 NHL Draft after back-to-back 40-goal, 100-point seasons with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey Association. He started the 1972-73 season with the Richmond Robins, the Flyers' American Hockey League affiliate, but after scoring nine goals in 11 games he was promoted to the NHL. The high-scoring center was moved to left wing, but that didn't affect his offensive touch; he had 30 goals and 64 points in 69 games and finished second in voting for the Calder Trophy. He then had five points in 11 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help Philadelphia win a postseason series for the first time.
The 1973-74 season would start a magical three-season run for Barber and the Flyers, one that saw Philadelphia reach the Stanley Cup Final each year -- winning twice -- while Barber averaged 39 goals and 84 points.
In 1973-74, Barber was second to Clarke with 34 goals and the Flyers finished second in the League with 50 wins and 112 points. In the playoffs, Barber had nine points in 17 playoff games, including the winning goal in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins.
Leach arrived in time for the 1974-75 season and joined Barber's line with Clarke as the Flyers prepared to defend their title. Barber had another strong season, scoring 34 goals with 71 points and a plus-46 rating, and Philadelphia won a League-best 51 games. He added 15 points in 17 playoff games, including two goals and four assists in a six-game Final against the Buffalo Sabres, with Philadelphia winning a second straight Stanley Cup.
His outstanding play was rewarded with a spot on Canada's team for the 1976 Canada Cup, and he scored one of the biggest goals in the best-of-3 championship series, late in regulation of Game 2 to force overtime en route to Canada winning the title.
His strong play carried right into the 1975-76 NHL season, which proved to be Barber's best from an offensive standpoint. He finished fifth in the League with 50 goals and fourth with 112 points; the LCB Line combined for 141 goals and 322 points, at the time League records for goals and points by one line. Barber was second in the League with a plus-74 rating, then added 13 points in 16 playoff games; the Flyers lost in the Cup Final to the Montreal Canadiens.
After a dip to 20 goals in 1976-77, Barber scored at least 40 in four of the next five seasons, including 40 in 1979-80 when Philadelphia rode its NHL-record 35-game unbeaten streak to the best record in the League. He tied for the lead among playoff scorers with 12 goals, and Philadelphia again advanced to the Cup Final, where it lost to the New York Islanders.
Barber was named captain of the Flyers at the start of the 1981-82 season and wore the "C" through the start of 1982-83, but by then he was losing a battle to persistent knee problems. He surrendered the captaincy to Clarke, and after playing at least 75 games in eight of the previous nine seasons, Barber was limited to 66 games in 1982-83 and 63 games in 1983-84. He sat out the 1984-85 season recovering from reconstructive knee surgery and announced his retirement in the summer of 1985.
He played in six NHL All-Star Games, remains the Flyers' all-time leader in goals scored (420), and is second to Clarke in games played (903) and points (883). His No. 7 has been retired by the Flyers, and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990.
"Barber had his own abrasive style on the ice," NHL.com staff writer Mike G. Morreale said. "Old-school hockey fans always knew it was Bill crashing down the left side of the ice when he played at the Spectrum. He challenged defensemen and goalies with a lot of grit and determination, and would always find the open ice, or else make room for himself. He took pride in playing a consistent game, and the six-time All-Star never wanted to let his teammates down. He wouldn't, and played a big part in Philadelphia celebrating back-to-back Stanley Cups."
Voting: Bill Barber, Philadelphia (1972) 7; Ryan Suter, Nashville (2003) 3; Bernie Federko, St. Louis (1976) 2; Shane Doan, Winnipeg (1995) 1
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor
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