Monday, November 18, 2019

Craig Wolanin: Three Autographed Cards

NHL scouts were adamant: "Craig Wolanin is a blue chip prospect. He may need a bit more time than a Craig Simpson (2nd pick of the 1985 draft) or a Wendel Clark (1st overall) but he'll be worth the wait." The thought at the time was that the 6'3", 215-pound defenseman would carve out a career that at worst would look like Dave Manson's (11th ion the same draft) and at best be a positionally-strong, elite hard-hitting defenseman who makes the best use of a relatively limited offensive skill-set, like Scott Stevens (5th overall pick of the 1982 draft).

Ironically, the 1985 draft produced a single 1000-point producer, second-rounder (27th overall) Joe Nieuwendyk and four defensemne who hit the 1000-game mark (Manson, 14th pick Calle Johansson, 32nd pick Eric Weinrich and 81st pick Fredrik Olausson).

Obviously, Wolanin was none of those. He showed glimpses of a Stevens-like path in his third season, when he scored six goals with 25 assists for 31 points - the only time he would hit that mark - and a whopping 170 penalty minutes, 61 more than his second-highest total, the 109 from his previous season, and more than double his usual career fare, which usually hovered around the 80-mark.

Part of the deal that sent Hall Of Famer Peter Stastny from the Québec Nordiques to the New Jersey Devils, Wolanin was a second-unit, 15-point defenseman in his time in Québec and won the Stanley Cup when the franchise became the Colorado Avalanche for the 1995-96 season, although he was scratched for the final 13 games of the playoffs after losing a puck that led to a goal against.

He was then sent to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a second-round pick, and they eventually flipped him to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a third-rounder. After injuries started taking their toll, the Michigan native moved back to Detroit to work in construction. His son Christian Wolanin is now an Ottawa Senators prospect.

Here he is wearing the Nordiques' classic blue uniform:
The card on the left is #40 from Topps' 1990-91 Topps set while the one on the right is from Pro Set's inaugural 1990-91 Series 2 collection. They are considered his "rookie" cards, because even though he'd been in the league for six years at the time, these were the first time he was included in official card sets.

He was also shown wearing Québec's home (white) uniform on card #217 from Score's 1991-92 Pinnacle (French Canadian Edition) set:
He signed all three in black sharpie a couple of years ago. They fit in nicely as the entry for #6 in my Nordiques Numbers Project.

Internationally, he's suited up for Team USA four times, finishing fourth at the 1987 World Juniors and 1991 and 1994 World Championships and second at the 1991 Canada Cup. Ironically, his point production playing for the American team (4 goals, 5 assists and 9 points in 25 games, for 0.36 points per game) are even better than his NHL average (0.2489), even his average during his prime, at ages 23-28 (0.25).

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