Leaf of the Day - Feb 23, 2009 - 1978-79 - Walt McKechnie

Feb 23, 2009 - 1978-79 - Walt McKechnie

(Note: Mondays, we'll have players from the 1978-79 team, 30 years ago this year. They'll appear in alphabetical order.)


One of my favourite Leaf trivia questions is this: of all the first-round picks the Leafs have ever made, which player took the longest to make his leaf debut?  The answer is Walt McKechnie, drafted 6th overall (the last pick of the first round, times change) in 1963.  He made his Leaf debut 15 years later, in 1978.

Along the way, Walt became the most traded player in NHL history, though Brent Ashton, Michel Petit and now Mike Sillinger played for more teams.  Walt also played for some real beauties, including the Seals of the early seventies and the Captials and Barons (remember them?) of 1977-78.

For 1978-79, Walt joined the Leafs and gave them a very good presence on the second line.  Aside from a short stint with the Bruins in which he didn't play a whole lot, the Leafs under Roger Neilson were the best team he got to play for and 1978-79 was one of only two seasons where he saw post-season action.  Walt was very good against Atlanta and scored seven points in the six games he played that year.  The Leafs would run into Montreal in the second round and that was all she wrote.

In 1979-80, he was one of the many players sent elsewhere by Punch Imlach, going to the Rockies for the pick used to choose Fred Boimistruck.

He has a bar now somewhere or other.  Seems like a pretty nice guy.

Walt pots a pair against the Flames - keep an eye out for #14, Ron Wilson.  He makes a save around the one minute mark that they mistakenly say is Paul Gardner.

Walt's stats:

1964-65  London Diamonds   OHA-B                      
1965-66  London Nationals  OHA-Jr.  46 13 28 41 68
1966-67  London Nationals  OHA-Jr.  48 13 46 59 125 6 7 10 17 2
1967-68  London Nationals  OHA-Jr.  1 0 0 0 2
1967-68  Phoenix Roadrunners  WHL  67 24 30 54 24 4 1 1 2 2
1967-68  Minnesota North Stars  NHL  4 0 0 0 0 -3 9 3 2 5 0
1968-69  Minnesota North Stars  NHL  58 5 9 14 22 -10
1968-69  Phoenix Roadrunners  WHL  10 3 11 14 6
1969-70  Minnesota North Stars  NHL  20 1 3 4 21 -5
1969-70  Iowa Stars  CHL  42 17 24 41 82 11 1 9 10 18
1970-71  Minnesota North Stars  NHL  30 3 1 4 34 -7
1970-71  Cleveland Barons  AHL  35 16 31 47 28 8 2 4 6 10
1971-72  California Golden Seals  NHL  56 11 20 31 40 +2
1972-73  California Golden Seals  NHL  78 16 38 54 58 -26
1973-74  California Golden Seals  NHL  63 23 29 52 14 -14
1974-75  Boston Bruins  NHL  53 3 3 6 8 -6
1974-75  Detroit Red Wings  NHL  23 6 11 17 6 -3
1975-76  Detroit Red Wings  NHL  80 26 56 82 85 +9
1976-77  Detroit Red Wings  NHL  80 25 34 59 50 -24
1976-77  Canada  WEC-A  10 1 6 7 28
1977-78  Washington Capitals  NHL  16 4 1 5 0 -14
1977-78  Cleveland Barons  NHL  53 12 22 34 12 -8
1978-79  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  79 25 36 61 18 +21 6 4 3 7 7
1979-80  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  54 7 36 43 4 -6          
1979-80  Colorado Rockies  NHL  17 0 4 4 2 -14
1980-81  Colorado Rockies  NHL  53 15 23 38 18 -7
1981-82  Detroit Red Wings  NHL  74 18 37 55 35 -1
1982-83  Detroit Red Wings  NHL  64 14 29 43 42 1
1983-84  Salt Lake Golden Eagles  CHL  69 9 32 41 36
Leaf Totals    133 32 72 104 22 +15 6 4 3 7 7
NHL Totals  955 214 392 606 469 -115 15 7 5 12 7

Rookie of the Year Award - WHL (1968)

- Traded to Phoenix (WHL) by Toronto for Steve Witiuk, October 15, 1967.
- Traded to Minnesota by Phoenix (WHL) for future considerations (Leo Thiffault and Bob Charlebois, June, 1968), February 17, 1968.
- Traded to California by Minnesota with Joey Johnson for Dennis Hextall, May 20, 1971.
- Claimed by NY Rangers from California in Intra-League Draft, June 10, 1974.
- Traded to Boston by NY Rangers for Derek Sanderson, June 12, 1974.
- Traded to Detroit by Boston with Boston's 3rd round choice (Clarke Hamilton) in 1975 Amateur Draft for Hank Nowak and Earl Anderson, February 18, 1975.
- Traded to Washington by Detroit with Detroit's 3rd round choice (Jay Johnston) in 1978 Amateur Draft and 2nd round choice (Errol Rausse) in 1979 Amateur Draft for the rights to Ron Low and Washington's 3rd round choice (Boris Fistric) in 1979 Amateur Draft, August 17, 1977.
- Traded to Cleveland by Washington for Bob Girard and Cleveland's 2nd round choice (Paul MacKinnon) in 1978 Amateur Draft, December 9, 1977.
- Placed on Minnesota Reserve List after Cleveland-Minnesota Dispersal Draft, June 15, 1978.
- Traded to Toronto by Minnesota for Toronto's 3rd round choice (Randy Velischek) in 1980 Entry Draft, October 5, 1978.
- Traded to Colorado by Toronto for Colorado's 3rd round choice (Fred Boimistruck) in 1980 Entry Draft, March 3, 1980.
- Signed as a free agent by Detroit, October 1, 1981.

the HHOF take on Walt:

During the early sixties, Walt McKechnie played four years of Junior B in Sarnia, Ontario where he skated with a teenage prospect named Phil Esposito.

From there, McKechnie played two years of Junior A with the Leafs' OHA affiliate, the London Nationals. But despite his solid showing with the club, he never clicked with the Leafs' organization. As such, he was traded to Phoenix of the WHL where he took rookie-of-the-year honours in 1968.

He finally made the NHL later that year in a playoff showing with the Minnesota North Stars. His arrival marked the beginning of a lengthy big-league career that became one of the most nomadic in NHL history. In total, he changed major-league teams 12 times with stops in the minors coming on four occasions. In fact, he was once on the rosters of five different clubs over a 12-month period, although one was only on paper.

But perhaps the most defining characteristic of McKechnie's career was that he played for nine teams that finished in last place or were destined to be tail enders before he was traded. But through it all, he consistently brought his strong playmaking skills and effective ability to dig puck from the corners to all of the teams he represented.

McKechnie himself sights his stay with the Toronto Maple Leafs, particularly in 1978-79 as the best gig of his career. He finally got to shine in the playoffs while skating for a club that looked at least like it had a chance to win. The honeymoon was brief, however. The second coming of Punch Imlach brought on the dissolution of the club's chemistry and a one-way ticket for McKechnie to Colorado.

All told, at the NHL level, he skated for the North Stars, Golden Seals, Bruins, Wings, Capitals, Barons, Leafs and Rockies before he finally hung up his blades for good in 1984.


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