No Expansion Team Player Appeared in the Top 10
The 1967-68 National Hockey League season saw the number of teams double. Expansion brought hockey to six new cities to go along with the ‘Original 6’. Suddenly, players that were over the hill in the NHL or had spent their entire pro career in the minors were thrust into leadership roles in the watered down league.
The six new teams were all packed into the newly formed West Division, while the six established clubs were grouped into the East Division. Of course, this meant that the Philadelphia Flyers located some 750 miles east of Chicago were in the West Division while the Chicago Black Hawks were in the East.
None of the team leaders from the new teams were placed in the top ten in the race for the Art Ross Trophy. Andy Bathgate, a long time NHL veteran and now with the Pittsburgh Penguins, was tops in the West with 59 points, ten points behind Ken Wharram of Chicago and John Bucyk of the Boston Bruins, who tied for tenth spot.
Andy Bathgate played his first NHL hockey back in 1952-53 and had starred with the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings before signing with Pittsburgh. Ironically, after leading the team in points in 1967-68, Andy was down in the minors the following two seasons. He spent one more season with the Penguins in 1970-71 before retiring.
Eddie Joyal of the Los Angeles Kings led his club with just two less points than Bathgate. Joyal totalled 57 points and was eleven ahead of his next teammate. Eddie had played sparingly in the NHL since 1962-63 with the Red Wings and Maple Leafs. Expansion provided him with the opportunity to become a regular in the league. He spent four more years in the NHL with the Kings and Flyers before ending his career with four years in the World Hockey Association with the Edmonton Oilers.
Wayne Connelly was another veteran that finally got his chance to escape the minors. Connelly saw sporadic action in the National Hockey League starting in 1960-61 with the Montreal Canadiens. In the time before expansion, Connelly had played just two full seasons in the NHL, both with Boston. Despite leading the team, Minnesota shipped him off to Detroit the following season. Wayne played six more seasons in the NHL before jumping ship to the WHA.
The St. Louis Blues placed third in the West with 70 points and would have been in sixth, had they been in the East. Yet, the Blues stomped through their expansion brothers to meet up with the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup final. Of course, the Habs swept the Blues in four. Leading the way for the Blues was a player that started his NHL career with Montreal in 1961-62, Red Berenson.
Red Berenson totalled 51 points in 55 games with the Blues after spending 19 games with the New York Rangers. Teammate Gerry Melnyk finished with 50 points but played 73 of the team’s 74 regular season games. Berenson played nearly 1,000 games in an NHL career that spanned from 1961-62 to 1977-78. Along with the Canadiens, Blues and Rangers, Red also played for the Detroit Red Wings.
The Philadelphia Flyers finished first in the West, one point below .500. Leading the way for the Flyers was Lou Angotti with 49 points. It was Angotti’s only season with Philadelphia, moving across the state of Pennsylvania to play for Pittsburgh the following season. Lou played in the NHL from 1964-65 to 1973-74 with the Rangers, Flyers, Penguins, Black Hawks and Blues. His 49 points in 1967-68 were a career high.
The Oakland Seals finished last in the NHL, 20 points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins in the West and 19 points behind the Detroit Red Wings in the overall standings. Gerry Ehman led the club with just 44 points while missing just one regular season game. Ehman played his first NHL hockey in 1957-58 with the Boston Bruins but had spent much of his time in the AHL until expansion. In total, he played 429 NHL games with the Bruins, Maple Leafs and Seals, retiring after the 1970-71 season.