Following in the footsteps of my look at the success of European and college free agents in the NHL, I thought I’d take a look at undrafted players who made their way through the ECHL ranks to reach the highest level. Like the other articles I’ve focussed on the post-lockout NHL because of the different parameters in which players are viewed (particularly undersized players). I have ignored individuals who only had a cup of coffee in the ECHL–my focus is on those who played at least the bulk of a season in that league. I’ve also excluded Rich Peverley, whose only full season in the ECHL was during the lockout (04-05).
David Desharnais (C, 130 NHL games)
Undrafted player from the QMJHL, he spent one season (07-08) in the ECHL before becoming an AHL regular; he’s been an NHL regular with Montreal this past season.
Steve MacIntyre (LW, 90 NHL games)
The undrafted WHL pugilist spent 168 games in the ECHL (and another 158 in other minor leagues) before establishing himself in the AHL and then earning an NHL spot with Edmonton (he’s also played for Florida and Pittsburgh).
Chris Durno (LW, 43 NHL games)
Undrafted out of the Michigan Tech, he played 147 games in the ECHL before firmly establishing himself as an AHL player, seeing action with Colorado in parts of two seasons (08-09 and 09-10). He’s currently a UFA after spending last season with Charlotte in the AHL.
Chris Minard (C/W, 40 NHL games)
Undrafted OHLer spent 174 games in the ECHL before establishing himself in AHL; his NHL games were split over three seasons with Pittsburgh and Edmonton (07-08 to 09-10). He will play in the DEL (Germany) this season.
Pascal Pelletier (LW, 13 NHL games)
Undrafted out of the QMJHL, he spent 88 games in the ECHL before establishing himself as a regular AHLer. He had cups of coffee with Boston and Chicago (07-08 and 08-09), but will suit up for his third season in the NLA (Switzerland) this season.
Matt Climie (G, 5 NHL games)
Undrafted out of Bemidji State, he spent one season (08-09) in the ECHL before moving up to the AHL. His NHL games have been spread over three seasons (08-09 to 10-11) and split between Dallas and Phoenix. He’s remains with Chicago (AHL) for the upcoming season.
Kurtis McLean (C, 4 NHL games)
Undrafted out of Norwich University, McLean spent the bulk of 05-06 in the ECHL before establishing himself in the AHL. His cup of coffee came with the Islanders (08-09), but is now entering his fourth year in Europe (his second in the NLA).
Cedrick Desjardins (G, 2 NHL games)
Undrafted out of the QMJHL, he spent one and a half seasons in the ECHL before becoming an AHL regular; his NHL cup of coffee was with Tampa in 10-11. He’s signed with Hamilton (AHL) for the upcoming season.
That’s eight players over six seasons, only one of whom (Desharnais) has become an NHL regular. Five of the players hail from the CHL, while three are NCAA grads; interestingly, there are no defensemen on the list. It’s not surprising that such a tiny percentage of players who go this route make the NHL permanently, but being able to climb the ladder is a more common than I expected. Regardless, as with all my previous looks at undrafted players, this emphasizes how rarely NHL scouts miss NHL talent post-lockout (and when they do miss a player they are almost always undersized).
This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)