Wednesday

Ian Kidd

Despite being passed over in the NHL entry drafts, Ian Kidd signed as a free agent with the Vancouver Canucks in 1987 with much fanfare. The 23 year old had done very little in his whole hockey career up until the 1986-87 season when he blossomed with the  University of North Dakota. Playing as a defenseman he was named as a First Team All American and NCAA All Championship Team after compiling 13 goals and 60 points in 47 games. Kidd was a classic latebloomer.

Kidd had played as a forward all his life, and despite his small size was actually an enforcer when he played in Penticton of the BCJHL. He discovered he could play defense almost by accident.

"For most of my career I was pretty well a mucker forward," admitted Kidd. "I'd just go in the corners and try and get the puck to someone else. I got to play defense by accident when the team ran into some injuries and my coach put me back there. Suddenly I could see and read the game much better. I realized this is where I should have been all along."

Kidd finished the year on defense and then reported to the University of North Dakota. He had a so-so freshman year as he was still adjusting to his new position, but when he exploded in year two, he was quick to jump at NHL offers and drop out of school.

Kidd was originally a supplemental draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings, though he was later ruled ineligible  because of a maze of rules. Kidd signed with Vancouver, a team he followed as a child as he grew up in the Pacific Northwest.

Since the Canucks were very short on right shooting defensemen, Kidd had a roster spot pencilled in in his first NHL training camp. He performed well enough for the Canucks to give him a look at the start of the year. He played in 19 games and had 4 goals and 11 points. 3 of his goals came on the power play. He appeared to be making decent strides.

"He is extremely promising. His shot is low, hard and accurate. And he moves the puck out of our zone pretty well." advised GM Pat Quinn. But Quinn decided Kidd needed more time to develop, and sent him to the minor leagues for the rest of the year.

"Remember, this kid just started playing defense 3 years ago. He's got some natural talent but we need to bring him along slowly. He's making an awfully big jump and we feel it is in his best future interests to apprentice on the farm some." added Quinn, a former defenseman himself.

Kidd reported to Fredericton of the AHL and concentrated on learning the defensive game. In the process he added 1 goal and 21 assists in 53 games. The Canucks were disappointed that he didn't put up better numbers, but didn't want to give up on their free agent investment just yet.

In the offseason the Canucks went about improving their blueline corps. The biggest addition was Robert Nordmark, who had played the previous season in St. Louis. Nordmark too played the right side, and he put up good numbers in Vancouver - 6 goals and 35 assists. It was a good move for the Canucks, but not for Kidd. If Kidd was going to make the team he would have to be one of the top two offensive rearguards as his defensive game was not yet at a NHL level. As a result, with the exception of one NHL game, he was demoted to the minors. He had his strongest year as a pro - scoring 13 goals and 53 points. But that lone NHL game he played  in 1988-89 proved to be his last.

Kidd remained in the minor leagues for several years, enjoying his best years in Milwaukee of the IHL. He also spent time in Cinicinnati and Chicago, but never came close to getting back to the NHL.

Kidd is a good example of one season wonder who cashed in at the right time. There was a reason why he was never drafted by the NHL - he wasn't a good enough prospect. He had a big year at age 22 in US College hockey, and caught the eyes of NHL teams desperate for a young defenseman. Kidd cashed in on the resulting bidding war. Kidd was assured of at least a handful of NHL games because of the fanfare, but ultimately like most undrafted free agents, Kidd did not amount to much in the National Hockey League.

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