Arizona Coyotes Throwback Thursday: Oleg Tverdovsky

Oleg Tverdovsky was a star on the early Phoenix Coyotes. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Laforet /Allsport
Oleg Tverdovsky was a star on the early Phoenix Coyotes. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Laforet /Allsport /

It’s throwback Thursday and this week we take a look at former Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky. The former number two overall pick from Donetsk, Ukraine spent three and a half seasons playing for the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes organization.

Originally taken number two overall in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, he is mostly remembered as the key player in the trade that brought Teemu Selänne to Southern California.

In the middle of the1995-96 season, the Jets traded Teemu Selänne, Marc Chouinard and a fourth-round pick to the Mighty Ducks for Chad Kilger, Tverdovsky, and a third-round pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. Selänne, who was three years removed from his historic 76-goal rookie season, was still a great player, averaging over a point per game.

At the time of the trade Selänne had 24 goals, 48 assists, and 72 points in 51 games, and looked like he had re-established his elite status. Tverdovsky had 7 goals, 15 assists, and 22 points in 51 games.

Looking at those numbers alone you can’t help but think “what were you thinking?”

The Jets had at-the-time, logical reasons for making this trade. The team needed a younger offensive minded defenseman, and it did not make sense to play three forwards over $3 million per season (Keith Tkachuk and Alexei Zhamnov). On top of these two issues, Selänne’s contract was worded that if he hit certain milestones, additional years would be added on, and salary.

So the trade was completed and the next season the team relocated to Phoenix. Tverdovsky was solid during his time with the Coyotes. The team was able to more or less, replace Selänne when they traded for Jeremy Roenick and they had a new team, new face, and a polarizing personality with JR. JR was already a superstar.

Selänne did end up with the last laugh. Check out the playoff series against the Might Ducks.

In his first season as a Phoenix Coyote (1996-97) Tverdovsky was a star and fan favorite. He scored 10 goals, 45 assists, and 55 points in 82 games. He made his only All-Star Game appearance of his career and was a sensational.

The next two seasons he came back down to Earth and eventually made his way back to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. He had short stints with the New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, and L.A. Kings before making his way to the KHL.

What makes his resume the most special is that he was one the Stanley Cup winning teams in New Jersey and Carolina.

Tverdovsky’s best personal performance years were with the Coyotes, including the only season that justified him being drafted number two overall. His time with the Coyotes was brief but memorable. His play in the ice was inspiring and he helped to excite and build the fanbase from day one.

Every once in awhile you can find old school Coyotes fans rocking the Tverdovsky jersey at games. A fun look back at the early roster in Coyotes history, Tverdovsky will always be remembered for the first season in Coyotes history.

Happy Howlin’!


Thank you Melissa! I appreciate the fan feedback and wanted to provide some updates and what Tverdovsky is up to these days.

Tverdovsky and former NHLer Alexander Frolov do indeed have an elite youth-hockey development program, based in the Los Angeles area, called Tverdovsky & Frolov Pro Hockey. They have instructional camps for U18, U16, U14, and U12, as well as skill development courses for all ages.

This is common with former players. I recently saw in Colorado Eric Lacroix, John Mitchell and David Clarkson opened a hockey training academy, called Drillhouse. You love to see former professionals helping build our sport.

Tverdovsky resides in the Los Angeles area, and also recently (as in 2021) was selling his gorgeous home. Check out his Instagram for a peek into what he’s up to.