Until some lucky scout locates a four-legged, six-armed, eight-eyed goaltender who swallows pucks on sight, the most cherished commodity in hockey is a Bobby Orr-style defenseman. Before Orr came along as a teen-ager in 1966 and introduced them to the manly art of offense, defensemen were mainly large, immobile, toothless bashers who never strayed very far from their own goaltender and never, never handled the puck on purpose. Orr changed all that, and suddenly the hockey hinterlands were crawling with scouts prospecting for new Orrs. Montreal found Larry Robinson in Kitchener, Ontario. Toronto discovered Borje Salming in Kiruna, Sweden. And in Ottawa, Denis Potvin was heralded as the "next Orr" even before he was drafted by the New York Islanders. However, such nuggets were few and far between until last season when six—count 'em, six—rookie defensemen burst into the NHL and played with a flair reminiscent of the young Orr. Never before had the NHL struck it so rich.
Robert Picard wears Washington's red, white and blue now, but Montreal would like to dress him in rouge, blanc et bleu.
Swedish import Stefan Persson blocked as many shots as the New York Islanders' goaltenders.
Minnesota born and bred, Reed Larson set rookie scoring records and helped revive the Red Wings.
Brad Maxwell led all defensemen with 12 power-play goals and was Minnesota's real North Star.
Tutored by injured teammate Orr, Doug Wilson dazzled Chicago with his rink-long dashes and his sharp defensive skills.
Barry (Bubba) Beck's bold rushes, dynamite shots and bruising checks gave Colorado a real Rocky Mountain high.