Although expansion happened several times in the NHL before 1991, I’m not touching them at all on this site. This isn’t to say that they’re not important or influential, or that they’re not worth looking into.
My reasons are pretty simple
First, others have done better research on it. I’ll give a huge amount of credit to the fine folks at Historical Hockey Stats & Trivia for doing a tremendous amount of work to compile nearly every non-entry draft selection in NHL history into one spot. Expansion drafts, waiver drafts, interleague drafts, you name it. That site is absolutely worth killing the better part of a day on.
However, my own personal scope is much more limited. For the guys who played in the NHL and those who were picked in the post-1991 expansion drafts, I remember the vast majority of them. I can tell you about Russ Courtnall’s speed, or Al Iafrate’s personality, or that weird gliding half-turn that Ulf Dahlen used to do when he’d carry the puck into the offensive zone. I can tell you what the reaction was when San Jose unveiled their logo and teal jerseys, or what happened in the aftermath of New Jersey’s 1995 Stanley Cup that fueled a massive controversy, or what it was like to be in a possible expansion city when that process began in 1996 and 1997. I can tell you this because I was there, and by being able to share a bit, I can bring new life into what is otherwise simply words on a page.
With the earlier expansion drafts, it’s from a time period that I don’t remember and this can’t conceptualize in the same way. Sharing my thoughts on anything that was taking place in the league during this time period would be simply me regurgitating the words of others. It would do a disservice to these people and these events to be completely unable to bring them to life and really dive into what the people were like, what went into the events that happened, and why it was important.
With all of this in mind, it wouldn’t be right to attempt to provide any type of analysis of the pre-1991 drafts.