Patrick Marleau is a legend. Nobody in NHL history has played more games than Marleau, and it was a big day when he passed Gordie Howe in his 1,768th game on April 19, 2021.
Marleau was drafted second overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. The Boston Bruins selected Joe Thornton as the first overall pick, and what a year that turned out to be. Thornton and Marleau are both icons who stayed in the league for many, many, many years.
After being selected by the San Jose Sharks, Marleau went on to play most of his career there. He’s one of five NHL players to play more than 1,400 games with one team, and he was just seven games short of becoming the youngest player in history to play 1,500 games with one team.
But it was close, really close, that things turned out way different.
San Jose Sharks had the second pick in the 1997 draft, and they had their minds set up on passing on Patrick Marleau. But everything changed when John Ferguson Sr. saw something at a hotel in Finland.
”John Ferguson Sr. is head of scouting for the San Jose Sharks, and he loved Olli Jokinen,” former NHL GM Doug MacLean said on The Bob McCown Podcast.
”Absolutely loved Olli Jokinen. He had the second pick of the draft, and all year long: Olli Jokinen, Olli Jokinen, Olli Jokinen.”
”And then at the World Championships, ’Fergie’ was downstairs at a hotel in Finland, where we used to all hang out at the World Championships in Helsinki. Fergie is down there, late in the evening or early into the morning, and he looks out at the floor and he sees Olli Jokinen shuffling around the dance floor.
”He goes up to Olli and he says, ’Hey young fellow, you should get your ass home.’ And Olli gave him a look like, ’Get lost old man, I’m having fun.’ He’s lucky he’s still alive, firstly. Secondly, Fergie goes back to the San Jose meetings, and he says, ’We are not taking Olli Jokinen. Not a chance. Instead, we’re going to drop down and take Patrick Marleau.’”
Things turned out great, however, as the Sharks got their hands on Marleau instead of Jokinen.
”How bizarre is that? That’s the science of the draft,” MacLean said.
Olli Jokinen also had a great NHL career, with 750 points in 1,231 games. He retired in 2015 after spending most of his career with the Florida Panthers.