In continuing with the “Top five” in Regina Pats history, it does not get any easier when we get to the defencemen. Going through the forwards was a tough task, but it was made easier as all five forwards are already recognized with their sweater numbers retired. As of 2020, there is no Pats defenceman with their number in the rafters.
The thing with selecting the top five defencemen is that as a defenceman there are no criteria to go by. It could have been made easier to select the top five offensive, defensive, or toughest defencemen. You may notice a trend with the selections as they follow closely to the top forwards. These five guys are who we feel are the top five defensemen in Pats history (WHL version).
With that said, here we go.
John Miner (1981-85)
At number five we find John Miner. The tough offensive-minded defenceman from Moose Jaw was the first Pats defenceman to score 30 goals in a season. Known for his hard shot, he is the only defenceman to score 20 or more goals in two different seasons (27 in 1983-84 and 30 in 1984-85). He holds the WHL record for most points by a defenceman in a single playoff with 34 (9G, 25A) in the 1984 playoffs. The Edmonton Oilers drafted him in the 11th round, 220th overall in the 1983 NHL draft.
Miner played for team Canada at the 1985 World Juniors winning a gold medal. He made his NHL debut in 1987-88 with the Oilers where he skated in 14 games. He collected five points (2G, 3A) with 16 penalty minutes in his NHL career.
Statistically Speaking: In 217 regular-season games with the Pats, Miner scored 68 goals, 120 assists, and 188 points, which place him first, ninth, and fourth, respectively. In 53 playoff games, he collected 50 points (14G, 36A) along with 139 penalty minutes. The 50 points are tops all-time amongst Pats defencemen.
Barret Jackman (1997-2001)
In fourth place, we have Barret Jackman. The Trail, British Columbia native came to the Pats via the 1996 WHL bantam draft when the Pats selected him 12th overall. He made a huge impression with the club and the fan base with his grit and toughness. He was named the Pats captain after the team traded Gerad Adams, he was just 17 years old and remained captain for two more seasons until he turned pro, after the 2001 Memorial Cup.
Although Jackman’s stats do not stand out, he did lead the Pats defencemen in scoring for two of his seasons. He represented Team Canada at the 2000 and 2001 World Juniors (winning bronze both times).
The St. Louis Blues saw something in him and selected him 17th overall in the 1999 NHL Draft. After a year in the minors, Jackman became a full-time NHL defenceman (2002-03) and won the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. After 12 seasons with the Blues, he played one final season (2015-16) with the Nashville Predators before retiring.
Statistically Speaking: Jackman played 234 regular-season games with the Pats scoring 28 goals, assisting on 111 others for 139 points. His 796 penalty minutes are second all-time in Pats history.
Darren Veitch (1976-80)
Darren Veitch is third on this list. The Saskatoon born defenceman was just the second Pats defenceman to collect 90 points in a season. He is the first and only Pats defenceman to collect 100 points in a season when he notched 122 points in 1979-80. He picked up 31 points (13G, 18A) in 18 playoff games as the Pats won the WHL Championship and a spot in the 1980 Memorial Cup. Veitch was a Memorial Cup all-star picking up eight points (3G, 5A) in just four games. In the Summer of 1980, the Washington Capitals selected Veitch fifth overall in the NHL draft.
Veitch’s game never translated into NHL success. Although he played in 10 seasons, he never reached the success he had in his last season with the Pats. He suited up for the Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, and Toronto Maple Leafs playing in 511 games picking up 257 points (48G, 209A). His last professional season was in 1998-99.
Statistically Speaking: In 194 regular-season games, Veitch scored 53 goals and assists on 161 others for 214 points. Those totals place him second in goals, third in assists, and most points all-time amongst Pats defencemen. He had 33 points (13G, 20A) in 27 career playoff games.
Garth Butcher (1979-82)
The only Regina born defenceman to make the list is Garth Butcher who comes in at number two. Known for his fists as well as his hands, in his two full seasons with the Pats he topped 85 points and 200 penalty minutes in each season. He is the only defenceman with two 60 or more assists seasons in Pats history and just the third defenceman to reach 90 points in a season.
Butcher was a WHL all-star in 1980-81 and 1981-82 (his only two full seasons with the Pats). He was team captain in 1981-82 as well as a gold medalist in the 1982 World Juniors. His play was highly regarded, and the Vancouver Canucks selected him tenth overall in the 1981 NHL Draft.
His NHL career spanned from 1981-82 to 1994-95 where he was more known for his toughness and not his scoring ability. He suited up for 897 NHL regular-season games playing for the Canucks, St. Louis Blues, Quebec Nordiques, and Toronto Maple Leafs picking up 206 points (48G, 158A). He had 2,302 career penalty minutes and topped 200 penalty minutes in six NHL seasons.
Statistically Speaking: In just 147 games, Butcher scored 33 goals and assisted on 149 others which add up to 182 points. He also added 568 penalty minutes in those games. Those are some incredible numbers that translate out to 1.238 points per game and 3.86 penalty minutes per game. He also played 39 playoff games putting up 42 points (8G, 34A) and 200 penalty minutes.
Greg Joly (1971-74)
Rocky Mountain House, Alberta native Greg Joly comes in at number one on our list of top all-time defencemen. He is the first Pats defenceman to score 90 points in a season, with 92 in 1973-74. Was a Pats co-captain in their run through the 1973-74 playoffs and run to the 1974 Memorial Cup. He won the Stafford Smyth Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player of the Memorial Cup after he collected 5 points (2G, 3A) in three games.
Joly was the first Pats player to be drafted first overall in the NHL draft as the expansion Washington Capitals chose him with their first-ever pick. The World Hockey Association’s Phoenix Roadrunners also selected him first in their amateur draft. He turned pro for the 1974-75 season and played for the eight-win Capitals. Unfortunately, his play never translated fully into the NHL collecting just 27 points in his highest-scoring season at that level. He played 365 NHL games for the Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings with his last games in the 1982-83 season, picking up just 97 points (21G, 76A).
Statistically Speaking: Joly played 201 regular-season games with the Pats during his career scoring 204 points (41G, 163A). He is second in assists and third in points all-time amongst Pats defencemen.
As this list was being compiled, it changed three times. There are so many other defencemen that could easily be on here. Haller, Stuart, Odelein, Morris, Smith, Novak, Dirk, Meyer, Hobbs, Dempsey, Adams, Mathieson, Leeman, Pyett, Teubert, Miller, Johnson, Mahura, Zukiwsky, etc. could easily be on this list. You could pick five of the players that were just mentioned, and they would be a decent crew. There are no wrong answers.