18. Eric Vail
Eric Vail was a 6’1", 220 lb. left winger from Timmins, Ontario. He was born on September 16th, 1953, and was chosen in the second round of the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft with the 21st overall selection.
Vail earned his chops with the Niagra Falls Flyers in the OHA starting in 1970-71. In two seasons with the club, he scored 43 goals and 78 assists with 198 penalty minutes in 119 games. He switched teams for 1972-73, playing 63 games with the Sudbury Wolves and scoring 48 goals with 57 assists.
In 1973-74, Vail made his professional debut with the CHL’s Omaha Knights, scoring 10 goals and 18 assists in 37 games. In his first action later in the season at the NHL level, he scored twice with nine assists for the Flames in 23 games, with a plus-2 rating and 30 penalty minutes. The team went 30-34-14 on the season and finished fourth in the NHL’s West Division. They lost in four games to the Philadelphia Flyers to open the postseason. Vail appeared once, earning zero points.
1974-75 would see Vail win the Calder Memorial Trophy, annually presented to the NHL’s most outstanding rookie. He scored 39 goal on 177 shots for a 22% shot percentage, along with a plus-1 rating and 46 penalty minutes in 72 contests. The Flames finished the season at 34-31-15, missing the playoffs.
Vail played 60 games for Atlanta in 1975-76, and scored 16 goals on 127 shots with a team second 31 assists. He earned a team-fourth plus-7 rating and spent 34 minutes in the penalty box. The team went 35-33-12 and finished in third place in the Patrick Division. They lost in the first round to the Los Angeles Kings, two-games-to-zero.
In 1976-77, Vail would earn an invitation to the all-star game. He played in 78 games and scored a team second 32 goals with 39 assists, his 71 points also represented the second best total on the team. He earned a plus-9 rating and 22 penalty minutes. Atlanta closed the season treading water at 34-34-12, then lost in the opening round of the postseason to the Kings, two-games-to-one. Vail led the team with four points, scoring once with three assists.
1977-78 would see Vail tie for second on the club with 58 points. He scored 22 times on 12.4% shooting, taking 178 shots on net. He added 36 assists, a plus-3 rating and 16 penalty minutes. He led the team with six game winning markers. The Flames finished with their best record to date, at 34-27-19, finishing third in the Patrick Division. The first round of the playoffs would end as all the rest, with a short series loss to the Red Wings in two games. Vail led the team with a goal and an assist.
Vail averaged over a point per game for the only time in his career in 1978-79, placing third on the club with 83 points in 80 games. He scored 35 times on 203 shots with 48 assists, a team-second plus-25 rating, and 53 penalty minutes. His 7.3 point shares would be a career best, and was the third best mark amongst the club’s skaters. The team improved on their previous mark by posting a 41-31-8 record, earning a fourth place finish in the Patrick Division before losing in two games to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Vail earned one assist.
In 1979-80, Vail played in 77 games for Atlanta. He scored 28 times on 193 chances, adding 25 assists, a plus-5 rating and 22 penalty minutes. The Flames went 35-32-13 for their last campaign in Atlanta, then lost in the first round to the New York Rangers, three-games-to-one. Vail scored three times with one assist to lead the Flames with four points.
1980-81 would be Vail’s last season with the Flames, who had moved to Calgary during the offseason. He had a team-fifth 64 points in 64 games, with 28 goals and 36 assists. He took 164 shots on goal with a plus-8 rating and 23 penalty minutes. Calgary posted a 39-27-14 record, then earned their first playoff series win in three straight games to the Chicago Blackhawks. They followed that with their second, defeating the Flyers in seven games before losing to the Minnesota North Stars in six. Vail appeared in six games, but did not register a single point.
Vail played in six games for the Flames to start the 1981-82 season, scoring four goals with one assist. Calgary traded him to the Detroit Red Wings for Gary McAdam and a fourth round pick (John Bekkers) on November 10th. He scored 10 goals with 14 helpers for the Red Wings over the rest of the season. He played with Detroit’s AHL team in Adirondack in 1982-83, scoring 20 goals with 29 assists to close out his professional career.
All-Time Statline: 539 games, 206 goals, 246 assists, plus-59 rating, 246 penalty minutes, 37.28 point shares.