Saturday, July 28, 2012

Randy Velischek

When you break down Randy's game, you kind of wonder how he managed to play in the NHL for more than 500 games He was at best average at such things as skating skills, shooting and offensive creativity. He wasn't the strongest or most physical d-man though he could hold his own. 

If you look at the sum of his parts, you could call him an overachiever. But what Randy lacked in natural skill, he made up for in great hockey sense and intelligence.  When you combined his average skills with his above average mental understanding of his own game and his desire to be a good hockey player, you had a pretty dependable defenseman in Randy Velischek

Velischek was almost always positionally perfect. He understood what his job was and what the opposing forward was going to do. He was a master of using defensive angles to thwart oncoming forwards. He understood his own limitations at the NHL level and learned to play within them, thus allowing him to succeed and become a nice NHLer for parts of 10 seasons..

Born in Montreal, Randy was drafted by the Minnesota North Stars in 1980 (53rd overall). At the time the Montreal native had just completed his first year at Providence College where he played solidly. But 3 years later Velischek blossomed into a standout prospect as he had an amazing year in his final ECAC season. He had 52 points in 41 games, including 18 goals. He was a All Star and All American and finished 2nd in Hobey Baker Award balloting (behind Harvard's Mark Fusco). He was also a great student as he graduated magna cum laude

Velischek finished his strong year by playing his first 3 NHL games at the end of the season. He also played in 9 playoff games. The rookie didn't pick up a point and was used sparingly, but the experience was great as Randy learned a lot just by practicing with the professionals, and by being a part of the North Stars "Cinderella Run" to the Stanley Cup finals.

Many great things were expected from him after that incredible final season of college hockey, and his promising debut in the NHL. However things did not go according to plan. The North Stars went from a promising young team to a floundering one, due largely to the fact that they didn't develop their players properly.

Randy himself never got a great chance in Minnesota. He lacked the skills to be an offensive d-men that people had perhaps expected him to become. He spent the next two seasons developing solidly defensively but not putting up any significant offensive numbers. As a result the Stars sent him to the minors for a total of 69 games and became disenchanted with him.

The Stars exposed Velischek in the pre-season waiver draft in October 1985 where he was eagerly snatched up by the New Jersey Devils. Lou Lamoriello was the Devil's general manager who picked up Velischek in one of his earliest pickups. Lamoriello, now universally hailed as a hockey genius, was well aware of what Randy could do. The two were together at Providence College  several years earlier.
After one season split between NJ and the minors, Randy become a steady and unheralded defenseman. 

Often paired with Joe Cirella, Velischek was finally being utilized properly and given a chance to thrive. He would develop into what many would call the perfect 5th or 6th defenseman.

Randy spent a total of 5 seasons in NJ before he was shipped to Quebec on August 13, 1990. He was dealt to complete the big Peter Stastny deal earlier in the year. The Nords wanted a veteran d-man to help out their youngsters.

Randy spent a year and a half with the Nords before being sent to the minors. He remained in the minors for 3 years to complete his pro hockey career. He briefly made a 3 game appearance with the Durham Wasps of the British Hockey League in 1995-96 before he was released from his contract so that he could join the New Jersey Devil's media department.


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