How good of a prospect was Sylvain Cote? In his last year of junior he was named as an all star and the top defenseman in the entire QMJHL even though he played in only 26 games!
Cote grew up playing minor hockey in the same neighborhoods as Mario Lemieux. The two were clearly the best prospects in Quebec by their draft day. Of course everyone knows all about what Mario Lemieux accomplished in the NHL. But not many people remember Sylvain Cote, which is somehow par for the course as he inexplicably flew under the radar much of his NHL career.
Though he started his career with 6 seasons with the Whalers, he blossomed in Washington where he played in two stints for over 9 seasons. The Caps were deep on the blue line back then, with the likes of Kevin Hatcher, Calle Johansson and Al Iafrate stealing much of the spotlight. Cote settled in nicely behind Hatcher as the 2nd pairing right defender, quietly providing solid play at both ends of the ice.
Offensively he was highly underrated, except in 1992-93 when he tallied 21 goals. The Capitals set a NHL record that season with three defensemen topping the 20 goal mark with Hatcher and Iafrate also reaching the mark.
Cote had a strong and accurate shot, making him a perfect candidate to take a lot of power play minutes. At regular strength he was a strong skater and carried the puck well under pressure. He was also a confident breakout passer. But after his big breakout campaign in 1992-93, Cote took more of a two-way role, allowing others to concentrate more on the offensive side of the ice.
Defensively Cote improved over the course of his career into a very solid and capable defender, although he was always best suited on the 2nd pairing. Not unlike most defensemen it took him a few years to really be able to process the offensive attack heading his way. The league's best superstars, namely Lemieux, could exploit Cote from time to time.
He was not very big (5'11" and 185lbs) but was a solid hitter who finished his checks, though with no malice.
All in all Sylvain Cote was a solid NHL citizen for 1171 NHL games. He scored 122 goals and 313 assists for 435 points. He added another 11 goals and 33 points in 102 playoff games, but he never did get a chance to sip champagne from Lord Stanley's Mug.
A passionate fisherman, Sylvain Cote later opened his own fishing charter business in Maryland.