This Week in Flyers History: Week ending November 1

Flyers history

October 27, 1971

On this day in 1971, Mike Ricci, the first-round pick of the Flyers in the 1990 NHL Draft –fourth overall — was born. The 1990 NHL Draft was considered to be one of the deepest in years and some 25 years later and those predictions rang true. Ricci was one of the many great talents from that draft.

Mike Ricci was a highly touted center coming out of the Peterborough Petes’ (OHL) program and possessed scoring skills along with attention to his defensive responsibility. Averaging over a point and a half per game in his Peterborough three-year junior career, the future looked bright for him in the NHL.

With the Flyers selection at number four, the three players taken ahead of Ricci, were Owen Nolan (Quebec), Petr Nedved (Vancouver) — and a Flyer for 49 games 2005-through 2007 — and Keith Primeau (Detroit). Primeau was also a Flyer for 312 games over six seasons.

Ricci’s first season as a Flyer came with a lot of pressure for the highly touted centerman and it did not get off to the best of starts. After not recording a point in his first NHL game, he missed the next 11 due to a broken finger.

Returning to the lineup on November 1, Ricci scored his first NHL goal in a 6-3 win over the Minnesota North Stars. He would go on to post solid numbers in his rookie season, with 21 goals and 20 assists in 68 games. Four of those 21 were game-winners and nine came on the power play.

In his sophomore campaign, Ricci again hit the 20 goal plateau, adding 36 assists and playing in 78 games. His gritty two way play made him valuable in all three zones of the ice and his 11 power play goals led the team. Things were looking up for Ricci, but in his first two seasons as a Flyer, they failed to make the playoffs. Changes were going to need to be made heading into the 1992-93 season to improve the club.

Changes? That was an understatement.

On June 20, 1992, seemingly everything but the kitchen sink, okay, maybe not everything, was headed north to the province of Quebec to acquire Eric Lindros, their number one pick who refused to sign and play there. In this colossal package, it included Ricci along with defenseman Steve Duchesne, prospect Peter Forsberg, defenseman Kerry Huffman, goalie Ron Hextall, winger Chris Simon, $15 million dollars and the Flyers’ 1994 and 1995 first-round selections.

Good thing for Ricci, he would at least know a few guys on his new team.

With the roster Quebec had now built, Ricci’s role would change as stars Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin were the focal point for the Nordiques. In his third season, at just 20 years old, Ricci could relax more and just play his game. He averaged a point per game in his first year in Quebec — 78 points in 77 games — and settled in, away from a lot of the spotlight that was upon him in Philadelphia.

After three seasons in Quebec, the team moved to Colorado in 1995 and became the Avalanche. In that first season in Colorado, they put the last piece of the winning puzzle together, acquiring All-Star goalie Patrick Roy from Montreal in a December trade.

With a stacked squad including Ricci, you had Joe Sakic, Valeri Kamensky, Peter Forsberg, Adam Deadmarsh, playoff sniper Claude Lemieux, and now Roy. The Avalanche were just that to the rest of the NHL for the next six months. A four-game sweep of the Florida Panthers that summer made Ricci a Stanley Cup Champion at age 24.

After a slow start to the season in 1997, Ricci was included in a package of players swapped between Colorado and the San Jose Sharks. He spent that and another six seasons in southern California before finishing up his career in Phoenix with the Coyotes for parts of two other seasons. Ricci officially announced his retirement on August 13, 2007.

Mike Ricci finished his NHL career after 17 seasons with 1099 regular season games, 243 goals and 362 assists for 605 points. He finished in the top 5 in Selke Award votes twice as a member of the Sharks and played in 110 playoff games in his career. In those playoff games, he was commonly tasked to shut down the opponents’best offensive players and did so with tenacity.

As for the first round of that 1990 NHL draft, Ricci is just one of nine players from that first round, a total of 21 selections, to play in 1000 NHL regular season games. The leader of that group had 1,559 coming into this season and is still going strong, the great Jaromir Jagr. He was the fifth pick that year, taken right after Mike Ricci, by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Do you think the Flyers ever considered….oh, never mind. We’ll save that for another article down the line.

Happy 44th birthday to Mike Ricci.

Mike Watson is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on twitter @Mwats_99.

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