Undrafted Success Stories in the Post-Lockout NHL

This is my final look at players who slipped through the cracks (the NHL draft), but made their way to the league through other means.  I’ve previously explored European, college, and the ECHL routes, and I’ve included those players here to create a master list of players who came to the NHL by routes other than the draft.  At the end of the article I’ll illustrate the best players missed via the NHL’s normal processes.

CHL (7)
2005
Chad Larose
(W) 473 NHL games
An undersized forward who went undrafted out of the OHL, he played 125 games in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL in 05-06; he remains with Carolina
Mark Giordano (D) 338 NHL games
Undrafted out of the OHL, he played 144 AHL games before making the permanent jump to the NHL in 06-07; he remains with Calgary
2006
Dan Girardi (D) 442 NHL games
Inexplicably not drafted out of the OHL, he played 111 AHL games before making the permanent jump into the NHL in 06-07; he remains with the Rangers
Mike Wall (G) 4 NHL games
A WHL graduate, he spent most of his career bouncing around the minor leagues, but played 4 games with Anaheim in 06-07; he’s now retired
2007
David Clarkson (RW) 378 NHL games
Undrafted out of the OHL, he played 123 games in the AHL before making a permanent jump to the NHL in 07-08; he remains with the Devils
2009
Ryan Wilson (D) 187 NHL games
Undrafted out of the OHL, he only played 71 AHL games before making the jump to the NHL in 09-10; he remains with Colorado
2011
Matt Fraser (LW) 1 NHL game
Undrafted WHLer was signed by Dallas and got a call-up in his rookie season

CHL conclusions: the bulk of the players missed here are all regular NHLers (in some cases very good ones), with only Wall (and potentially Fraser) getting the cup of coffee treatment.  It’s only seven players over seven years and only three in the last five, so it’s very rare for an undrafted player to make the jump from the CHL to the NHL without a lengthy apprenticeship in the minors.  It’s interesting that five of these success stories are from the OHL and that nearly half are blueliners.

CIS (2)
The least likely route to the NHL, here’s the two success stories I could find post-lockout (Mathieu Darche would be one that predates this, or Bracken Kearns if I was categorizing things differently).
Joel Ward (RW) 314 NHL games
Played 209 AHL games before establishing himself as an NHLer in 08-09.
Darryl Boyce (C/LW) 84 NHL games
Debuted with Toronto in his rookie season (07-08), but didn’t start getting regular call-ups until 10-11.  Currently an UFA.

NCAA (56)
2006
Andy Greene (D, 39-9-22-31, NJ) – 347 NHL games through six seasons; going into the second season of a four-year deal
Rod Pelley (39-7-7-14, NJ) – 256 NHL games through six seasons; currently a UFA
Ryan Carter (39-19-16-35, Ana) – 254 NHL games through six seasons; signed a two-year, one-way deal with the Devils
Bill Thomas (41-27-23-50, Phx) – 87 NHL games through six seasons; signed a one-year, two-way deal with Colorado
Tim Wallace (36-11-12-23, Pit) – 73 NHL games through six seasons; currently on a two-way deal with Carolina
Junior Lessard (45-32-31-63, Dal) – 2y NHL games through six seasons; currently playing in the LNAH
Jamie Hunt (D, 33-12-33-45, Wsh) – 1 NHL game through six seasons; he’s now retired
2007
Ryan Shannon (38-14-31-45, Ana) – 305 NHL games through six seasons; now in Switzerland
Darroll Powe
(34-13-15-28, Phi) – 286 NHL games through five seasons; two years left on a three-year deal (now with Minnesota)
Teddy Purcell (40-16-27-43, TB) – 272 NHL games through five seasons; is signed through the next four years with Tampa
Chris Connor (38-17-12-29, Dal) – 147 NHL games through six seasons; he has a two-way deal with Phoenix
Mark Letestu (37-24-22-46, Pit) – 136 NHL games through five seasons; on the final year of a one-way deal with Columbus
Kevin Westgarth (33-8-16-24, LA) – 90 NHL games through five seasons; signed to a new two-year, one-way deal with LA
Derek Smith (D, 43-10-20-30, Ott) – 58 NHL games through five seasons; signed his first one-way deal (two years) with Calgary
Trevor Smith (38-21-22-43, NYI) – 23 NHL games through five seasons; signed a one-year, two-way deal with Pittsburgh
Sean Collins (D, 37-9-19-28, Wsh) – 21 NHL games through five seasons; signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Rangers
Gabe Gauthier (38-15-24-39, LA) – 8 NHL games through five seasons; signed with Colorado in the ECHL
Kyle Greentree (39-21-21-42, Phi) – 4 NHL games through five seasons; currently a UFA
John Curry (G, 2.01, .928, Pit) – 4 NHL games through five seasons; currently a UFA
Sean Bentivoglio (37-16-30-46, NYI) – 1 NHL game through five seasons; current a UFA
Darcy Campbell (D, 39-4-20-24, Clb) – 1 NHL game through five seasons; now playing tier-2 hockey in Germany
2008
Jesse Winchester (40-8-29-37, Ott) – 233 NHL games through four seasons; currently a UFA
Jack Hillen (D, 41-6-31-37, NYI) – 230 NHL games through four seasons; signed a one-year, one-way deal with Washington
Davis Drewiske (D, 40-5-16-21, LA) – 106 NHL games through four seasons; in the final year of his one-way contract with the Kings
Mike Moore (D, 34-7-17-24, SJ) – 6 NHL games through four seasons; signed a one-year, two-way contract with Nashville
Peter Mannino (G, 2.26, .917, NYI) – 6 NHL games through four seasons; currently a UFA
Matt Climie (G, 2.15, .913, Dal) – 5 NHL games through four seasons; currently a UFA
Brock Trotter (24-13-18-31, Mtl) – 2 NHL games through four seasons; currently a UFA
Jeff Penner (35-5-7-12, Bos) – 2 NHL games through four seasons; currently a UFA
2009
Matt Gilroy (D, 45-8-29-37, NYR) – 194 NHL games through three seasons; currently a UFA
Tyler Bozak (19-8-15-23, Tor) – 192 NHL games through three seasons; entering the final year of his contract
Dan Sexton (38-17-22-39, Ana) – 88 NHL games through three seasons; entering the final year of his contract (which is one-way)
Christian Hanson (37-16-15-31, Tor) – 42 NHL games through three seasons; signed a two-way deal with Boston
MacGregor Sharp (43-26-24-50, Ana) – 8 NHL games through three seasons; played in Italy last season
Evan Oberg (D, 43-7-20-27, Van) – 7 NHL games through three seasons; signed a one-year, two-way deal with Tampa
Brad Thiessen (G, 2.11, .931, Pit) – 5 NHL games through three seasons; signed a one-year, two-way contract with Pittsburgh
Corey Elkins (42-18-23-41, LA) – 3 NHL games through three seasons; signed a one-year, two-way deal with Anaheim
2010
Bobby Butler (39-29-24-53, Ott) – 92 NHL games through two seasons; signed a one-year, two-way deal with New Jersey
Nate Prosser (D, 39-4-24-28, Min) – 56 NHL games through two seasons; signed a new two-year, one-way contract with the Wild
Chris Tanev (D, 41-10-18-28, Van) – 54 NHL games through two seasons; in the final year of his ELC
Casey Wellman (36-23-22-45, Min) – 41 NHL games through two seasons; signed a two-way deal with Florida
Tommy Wingels (44-17-25-42, SJ) – 38 NHL games through two seasons, signed a two-year, one-way contract with the Sharks
Aaron Volpatti (37-15-17-32, Van) – 38 NHL games through two seasons; signed a two-way deal to stay with the Canucks
Erik Gustafsson (D, 39-3-29-32, Phi) – 33 NHL games through two seasons, completing the third year of his ELC
Ben Scrivens (G, 1.87, 0.934, Tor) – 12 NHL games through two seasons, not yet re-signed by the Leafs
Ben Holmstrom (39-9-14-23, Phi) – 7 NHL games through two seasons; on a one-year, two-way deal with the Flyers
Jarod Palmer (44-18-27-45, Min) – 6 NHL games through two seasons; remains with the Wild organisation (two-way deal)
Brayden Irwin (39-15-19-34, Tor) – 2 NHL games through two seasons; currently a free agent
2011
Matt Read (37-22-13-35, Phi) – 79 NHL games; he remains with the Flyers
Harry Zolnierczyk (30-16-15-31, Phi) – 37 NHL games; he remains with the Flyers on a two-way deal
Stephane Da Costa (33-14-31-45, Ott) – 22 NHL games through one season; remains with Ottawa on a two-way deal
Andy Miele (39-24-47-71, Phx) – 7 NHL games; he remains with the Phoenix organisation
Carter Camper (39-19-38-57, Bos) – 3 NHL games; remains with the Bruins organisation (two-way deal)
Mike Connolly (42-28-26-54, Col) – 2 NHL games; remains with Colorado on a two-way
Torey Krug (D, 38-12-22-34, Bos) – 2 NHL games; two more years remain of his ELC remain
Chay Genoway (D, 36-6-31-37, Min) – 1 NHL game; he remains with the Wild organisation (two-way)

Europe (22)
2006
Niklas Backstrom (G, SM-Liiga) 32-9-10, 1.68, .940 – has played 327 NHL games and is arguably the best goaltender on this list
Patrick Thoresen (SEL) 50-17-19-36 – played 106 NHL games; he’s entering his fourth season in the KHL
Patrick Fischer (NLA) 44-21-32-53 – played 27 NHL games in his only season; now retired
2007
Jonas Hiller (G, NLA) 28-16, 2.60, n/a – has played 250 NHL games and remains Anaheim’s starting goaltender
Erik Ersberg (G, SEL) 41GP, 2.39, .908 – played 69 NHL games over three seasons with LA; entering his third season in the KHL
Cory Murphy (D, SM-Liiga) 45-13-37-50 – played 91 NHL games over three seasons; entering his first season in the KHL
Jaroslav Hlinka (Cze) 46-19-38-57 (1.23) – played 63 NHL games in his only season; currently signed in the Czech Elite League
2008
Ville Leino (C, SM-Liiga) 55-28-49-77 – has played 220 NHL games over four seasons; signed long-term by Buffalo
Antti Niemi (G, SM-Liiga) 26-14-6, 2.35, .926 – he won a Stanley Cup with Chicago (2010) and has 170 NHL games to his credit; he is San Jose’s starting goaltender
Tim Stapleton (C/RW) 55-29-33-62 – undersized NCAA grad played two years in Finland before coming back to North America; he played 118 NHL games; he’s playing in the KHL this season
Anssi Salmela (D, SM-Liiga) 56-16-16-32 (0.57) – played 112 NHL games over three seasons; entering his second season in the KHL
Fabian Brunnstrom (SEL) 54-9-28-37 – played 104 NHL games over four seasons; signed with Frolunda
Per Ledin (SEL) – played 3 NHL games in his only season; continues to play for HV71
2009
Jonas Gustavsson (G, SEL) 42GP, 1.96, .932 – “The Monster” has played 107 NHL games over three seasons; signed on a one-way with Detroit
Mika Pyorala (SM-Liiga) 55-21-22-43 – played 36 NHL games in his only season; entering his first season in the KHL
Henrik Karlsson (G, SEL) 34GP, 2.45, .914 – has played 26 NHL games; he remains with Calgary
Alexander Salak (G, SM-Liiga) 20-20-9, 2.40, .923 – played 2 NHL games in his only season with the Florida organisation; signed by Farjestad
Johan Backlund (G, SEL) 49GP, 2.56, .907 – played 1 NHL game over three seasons in the Flyer organisation; entering his second season with Karpat
2010
Mats Zuccarello (SEL) 55-23-41-64 (1.16) – pint-sized Norwegian played 52 NHL games over two seasons; entering his first season in the KHL
Jussi Rynnas (G, SM-Liiga) 14-13-1, 2.71, .911 – has played 2 NHL games over two seasons with Toronto’s organisation; he has one more year left in his ELC
2011
Raphael Diaz (D, NLA) 45-12-27-39 (0.86) – has played 59 NHL games in his rookie season; he remains with Montreal
Iiro Tarkki (G, SM-Liiga) 20-20-14, 2.09, .924 – played 1 game with Anaheim’s organisation last season; entering his first season in the KHL

ECHL (9)
Alexandre Burrows (W, 522 NHL games)
Undrafted player from the QMJHL, he played 134 games in the ECHL before becoming an AHL regular in 04-05; he’s been an NHL regular since the the lockout
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.

AHL (20)
Most players graduate from the AHL after a few years, but there are exceptions (and yes, I didn’t do this list chronologically as above because…er, just enjoy it).
Matt Carkner (D) 162 NHL games
Spent an eternity in the AHL before getting one game with San Jose (05-06), not joining the big leagues permanently until 09-10; he signed a three-year deal with the Islanders
Jeff Hoggan (W) 107 NHL games
College grad spent the better part of two years in the big league (05-06 and 06-07) before settling back into the AHL; he’s now retired
Keith Aucoin (C/RW) 102 NHL games
An undersized college grad who has yet to spend an entire season in the NHL; his first taste was with Carolina in 05-06; he’s signed on a two-way with Toronto
Grant Stevenson (C/RW) 47 NHL games
NCAA grad spent half a season with San Jose (05-06) before falling off the map; he’s a UFA
Jerome Samson (RW) 46 NHL games
QMJHLer spent three years in the AHL before becoming a regular call-up for Carolina; he remains with the Hurricanes
Geoff Platt (C/LW) 46 NHL games
Undersized OHLer spent time with Columbus and Anaheim over three seasons before leaving for Europe; he’s entering his fourth full season in the KHL
Mike Glumac (RW) 40 NHL
NCAA grad spent time in the ECHL and AHL before getting a chance with St. Louis (05-06 to 07-08); he’s beginning his third season in Germany
Martin St. Pierre (C/LW) 38 NHL games
Undersized OHL grad was able to work himself into a limited number of NHL games (beginning in 05-06); currently signed on a two-way with Chicago
Mark Cullen (C/LW) 38 NHL games
College grad has played nearly 600 games in the AHL, getting most of his limited NHL action with Chicago; he’s playing in the KHL this season
Ryan Vesce (C/RW) 18 NHL games
Undersized college grad bounced between the AHL and Europe before getting his games with San Jose; he’s playing Sweden this year
Stephen Gionta (C/W) 13 NHL games
The undersized forward was signed out of college he spent four full seasons in the AHL before getting his NHL cup of coffee and has 363 AHL games to his credit.  Signed his first one-way deal with New Jersey at age 28
Jared Ross (C/LW) 13 NHL games
Undersized NCAA went through all the minor leagues before getting time with Philadelphia; he begins his second season in Germany
Mike Iggulden (C/W) 12 NHL games
NCAA grad saw action with San Jose and Edmonton before going to Europe; he begins his second season in Sweden this year
Rob Collins (C/RW) 8 NHL games
Undrafted undersized college grad four years in the Islanders system before getting his moment in the league; has spent the last six seasons in Germany
Maxim Noreau (D) 6 NHL games
QMJHLer spent four years in Minnesota’s organisation before leaving for Switzerland
Charles Linglet (LW) 5 NHL games
Undrafted QMJHLer played 331 AHL games before getting his cup of coffee with Edmonton (09-10).  He’s entering his third season in the KHL
Bracken Kearns (C) 5 NHL games
CIS grad played over 400 games before getting a call-up from Florida last season; he’s signed a two-way with San Jose
Carsen Germyn (C/RW) 4 NHL games
Undersized WHLer had his cup of coffee with Calgary; he now plies his trade in Germany
Jesse Schultz (RW) 2 NHL games
Undrafted WHLer got his cup of coffee with Vancouver in 06-07; unable to land an AHL job last season, he’s playing in Italy this year
Greg Rallo (C) 1 NHL game
Played over 300 AHL games before getting his one call-up with Florida; he remains with the Panthers organisation

The Best of the Undrafted
The simplest way of defining the best boils down to games played and how established a player has become (given that, I’ve only included one player whose career started within the last two years).  With that in mind, here are the best along with what league brought them to the NHL.
Nicklas Backstrom (Europe) 327 NHL games
Jonas Hiller (Europe) 250 NHL games
Alexandre Burrows (ECHL) 522 NHL games
Dan Girardi (CHL) 442 NHL games
David Clarkson (CHL) 378 NHL games
Antti Niemi (Europe) 170 NHL games
Mark Giordano (CHL) 338 NHL games
Teddy Purcell (NCAA) 272 NHL games
Ville Leino (Europe) 220 NHL games
Chad Larose (CHL) 473 NHL games
Andy Greene (NCAA) 347 NHL games
Tyler Bozak (NCAA) 192 NHL games
Matt Read (NCAA) 79 NHL games

Conclusions
NCAA: 56
Europe: 22
AHL: 20
ECHL: 9
CHL: 7
CIS: 2
What’s clear is that the best players who slip through the cracks come from Europe or the CHL, although no one comes close to the deluge of NCAA players who filter into the league.  Some of the perceptible changes (fewer players from Europe and the CHL) represent better scouting in the NHL, but nothing can stem the tide from college.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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6 Comments

  1. […] Undrafted Success Stories in the Post-Lockout NHL […]

  2. For CIS I’d say Darryl Boyce is a success story.

    http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=62217

  3. […] me, in terms of the blog, the most fun I had was researching my NHL success story articles (like this).  It’s the kind of information that has always interested me, but been hard to […]

  4. […] times before he did so; may his vowels grow like the mighty oak -Periodically someone will find my undrafted success stories article and a slew of non-Sens fans will flood the site to check it out, which is gratifying -The […]

  5. […] can we conclude?  It’s the same story from last year, where scouts properly identify the vast majority of players in the NHL only missing those who […]


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