Back in September I re-visited my look at undrafted players who made their way into the NHL. There remains a wide variety of roads fr those not selected in the draft, from college, Europe, the CHL, the CIS, AHL, and ECHL. Given the way I defined the various categories there remain a few players missed above: Cory Conacher, Ben Street, and Mark Arcobella. Conacher is an NCAA grad, but was not signed to an NHL contract coming out of college, instead playing a season in the AHL before Tampa signed him. The story is the same for Arcobella and Street, although each split their rookie seasons between the ECHL and AHL. These three players earned their minor league contracts from NCAA play and their NHL contracts from AHL play, but don’t fit neatly into the usual patterns of either route (if pressed I’d call them minor league grads, so I’ve added them as such in the numbers below).
College remains the most common route for undrafted players, with 66 reaching the NHL that way since 2006. Europe clocks in at a distant second place with 29, followed by the CHL (24), AHL (22), ECHL (11), and finally the CIS (3). Including the outriders above that’s 154 players who had played at least one NHL game without the benefit of being drafted. This a large tally, although it’s worth keeping in mind the NHL consists has well over 600 players playing each year, so this represents a small percentage (the average is about 20 players a season, so less than 3% were untouched by the draft).
The quality of these players is all over the map, but most are not (or were not) NHL regulars. By my count (and current players on ELC’s are hard to judge), 45 of the 155 (29%) have been everyday NHLers (NCAA: 22, Europe 9, CHL: 6, AHL: 4, ECHL: 3, CIS: 1). The only truly elite players in this group are goaltenders (all from Europe); the other “best” players in other categories fall along the lines of top-six or top-four players–nothing to sneeze at, but not the same weight as a starting netminder.
What 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 are undersized or simply not exposed enough (ie, in Europe).
This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)