Continuing my updates of undrafted success stories, here’s a look at players who plied their trade in the ECHL and other tier-2 minor leagues to get a taste of 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 excluded Rich Peverley, whose only full season in the ECHL was during the lockout (04-05), as well as Alexandre Burrows who began his NHL immediately after the lockout.
David Desharnais (C, 178 NHL games) Undrafted player from the QMJHL, he spent one season (07-08) in the ECHL before becoming an AHL regular; he’s spent two full seasons with Montreal and is signed through 2016-17.
Steve MacIntyre (LW, 91 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). Currently a UFA.
Ryan Garbutt (LW, 56 NHL games) Undrafted out of Brown University, he had to spend a season in the CHL before cracking the AHL and subsequently the NHL. He’s on a one-way deal with Dallas.
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 spent last season in Italy and is currently a UFA.
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’s entering his second season in the DEL (Germany).
Jordie Benn (D, 29 NHL games) Undrafted BCHLer spent time in both the ECHL and CHL before establishing himself in the AHL; signed a deal that becomes one-way after this season (with Dallas).
Steve Oleksy (D, 28 NHL games) Undrafted out of Lake Superior State, he spent time in the IHL and ECHL before establishing himself. His cups of coffee have come with Washington and he remains with their organisation.
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). After three seasons in Switzerland he’s back in the AHL.
Greg Rallo (C, 11 NHL games) Undrafted out of Ferris State, he spent parts of two seasons in the ECHL before establishing himself. His cup of coffee came with Florida; he remains in the AHL.
Cedrick Desjardins (G, 5 NHL games) Undrafted out of the QMJHL, he spent one and a half seasons in the ECHL before becoming an AHL regular; his NHL cups of coffee have come with Tampa. He remains with the Lightning on a two-way.
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). He’s entering his fifth year in Europe (the KHL this season).
That’s 11 players who have made their way into the NHL, 3 of which have become (or will become) NHL regulars. Six of the players came from the CHL, while five are NCAA grads. It’s not surprising that so few who go this route make the NHL, 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.
This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)