Judging Player Production in Europe

In my last post I made fun of efforts at translating production from other leagues to the NHL–it’s not that I don’t laud the effort, but I have yet to see a formula that can be applied to basic stats that makes sense.  To illustrate the point, I decided to highlight top North American performers in European leagues using this season to provide some insight (I’ve given their stats from this past season and then their best NA results and career totals; their current age is also in brackets).

Brandon Bochenski (32) 54-28-30-58 (NHL 41-13-11-24 06-07; NHL 156-28-10-68)
Nigel Dawes (29) 54-26-23-49 (NHL 66-14-18-32 09-10; NHL 212-39-45-84)
Kyle Wilson (29) 49-17-27-44 (NHL 32-4-7-11 10-11; AHL 427-149-170-319)
Dustin Boyd (27) 49-18-20-38 (NHL 71-11-11-22 08-09; NHL 220-32-31-63)

None of the players here truly established themselves as NHL regulars (although Dawes and Boyd did get to 200 games); that marginal existence (or in Wilson’s case, strong AHL career) has carried over to being excellent KHL players.  Does Bochenski’s domination of the KHL mean other players who dominate the league are Bochenski’s?  He out produced Ilya Kovalchuk, who was nearly a point-per-game in his last NHL season (12-13), but clearly isn’t anywhere near as talented as the Russian, so how much do their numbers matter?

Brett McLean (35) 50-18-26-44 (NHL 82-9-31-40 05-06; NHL 385-56-106-162)
Robbie Earl (28) 46-20-18-38 (NHL 32-6-0-6 09-10; AHL 313-66-103-169)
Alexandre Giroux (32) 46-20-18-38 (AHL 69-50-53-103 09-10; AHL 771-368-336-704)
Ahren Spylo (30) 47-16-22-38 (AHL 50-25-11-36 04-05; AHL 137-43-25-68)

These players have a less distinctive background in North America, being primarily AHL stars.  Joe Thornton was slightly better than a point-per-game player in the NLA (04-05), but this doesn’t mean Brett McLean is just a notch below him.  Not to beat my point to death, but clearly raw numbers from the league aren’t particularly useful in translating their production at the highest level

Chad Kolarik (28) 53-30-18-48 (AHL 76-31-37-68 12-13; AHL 277-98-111-209)
Ryan Gunderson (28) 54-8-33-41 (AHL 74-5-20-25 09-10; ECHL 156-9-98-107)
Rhett Rakshani (26) 55-13-25-38 (AHL 66-24-38-62 10-11; AHL 120-44-69-113)
Ryan Lasch (27) 54-20-16-36 (AHL 30-6-4-10 12-13; NCAA 161-79-104-183)

These players are quite similar to those above and I won’t bother making the point I’ve already made twice above.

Ben Maxwell (26) 49-16-26-42 (AHL 73-22-36-58 08-09; AHL 296-68-140-208)
Corey Elkins (29) 54-15-25-40 (AHL 76-18-26-44 10-11; AHL 173-43-48-91)
Dan Sexton (27) 39-16-21-37 (NHL 41-9-10-19 09-10; AHL 144-36-64-100)
Aaron Gagnon (28) 48-17-19-36 (AHL 78-27-31-58; AHL 328-74-98-172)

The caliber here is quite Similar to the SHL.

Adam Courchaine (30) 51-29-45-74 (ECHL 42-21-28-49 05-06; ECHL 45-21-30-51)
Kevin Clark (26) 60-32-40-72 (AHL 72-12-19-31 11-12; AHL 160-26-60-56)
Blaine Down (31) 48-26-25-51 (AHL 54-8-13-21 02-03; AHL 134-18-28-46)
Derek Hahn (36) 52-12-34-46 (CHL 64-35-79-114 05-06; CHL 238-124-201-325)

This is a significant fall-off compared to the leagues above, as middling AHL and top ECHL players can make a big impact in the league.

The point of this isn’t to suggest we should give up the effort of understanding how a player’s performance in Europe translates at the next level, but as it stands all we can say with certainty is that big numbers in the top leagues (KHL, NLA, SHL, and Liiga) do translate at the AHL level (as they do in reverse).  Whatever limitations various players from either side of the Atlantic have, it seems like success in those leagues (or the AHL) easily moves back and forth, but that production does not have an obvious ratio at the next level.  I’m not sure what the solution to the conundrum is, but the problem shouldn’t come as a big surprise: massive point totals from junior players rarely translate to the NHL, but sometimes they do–the only certainty is that an absence of production at a lower level guarantees it will continue at the next.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

European Free Agents of Interest

I’ve cast my eye on Europe the previous two years (2012 and 2013), and with the recent signing of DEL star David Wolf (Calgary) I thought I’d look again across the Atlantic and see what free agents might be worth pursuing.  The focus here isn’t aging veterans or former NHL players–I’m looking at lesser known, undrafted players who might make the jump.

Jan Kovar (LW/C), 24, 5’11 KHL Metellurg 54-23-45-68 (signed KHL; a player I highlighted in 2012)
The Czech player was second in league scoring, playing on a line with Sergei Mozyakin and Denis Zarpiov; he makes a lot of money in Russia and may not want to take the pay cut to get his shot in the NHL, but at some point he’ll pull a Roman Cervenka and take a year off to try it out

Sakari Salminen (RW/LW), 25, 5’11 KHL Torpedo 54-18-29-47 (signed KHL; player I identified in 2012)
Like most players who dominate in their domestic leagues, Salminen has made the transition to the KHL and enjoyed a great deal of success; leading Torpedo in scoring by nearly ten points (ahead of former NHLer Wojtek Wolski); I think there’s a good chance he’ll give the NHL a shot at some point

Dennis Rasmussen (C/LW), 23, 6’3, SHL Vaxjo 52-16-24-40 (signed SHL)
Enjoyed a career year leading Vaxjo in scoring; has good size which always makes GM’s happy; may not have an opt-out clause, but unless he goes for the money in the KHL he should land a deal with someone across the Atlantic [June 10th: Chicago signed him]

Michael Keranen (C/RW), 24, 6’1, Liiga Ilves 52-17-35-52 (signed, Liiga)
Nearly doubled his previous career high as he finished tied for the scoring lead in the Liiga; was nearly 20 points ahead of his nearest teammate–like Rasmussen above he’ll have to make the choice between the KHL and NHL, but undoubtedly he’s received calls from both [June 5th: Minnesota signed him]

Tommi Huhtala (LW), 26, 6’0, Liiga Blues 60-23-20-43 (signed KHL)
Locked into a KHL deal for the upcoming season; he lead the Blues in scoring while enjoying a career year; if he has a good season with Jokerit he might make the jump to the NHL, although at his age he may be beyond the point of wanting to play in the AHL

Julius Junttila (LW/RW), 22, 5’10, Liiga Karpat 56-19-15-34 (signed Liiga; a player I identified in 2012)
Set career highs with Karpat, where he finished fifth in team scoring; his numbers aren’t overwhelming, but he’s trending upwards and still very young

Borna Rendulic (RW), 22, 6’1, Liiga HPK 57-11-21-32 (FA)
Croatian national worked his way up through the Finnish junior system to establish himself as a Liiga-regular; he lead HPK in scoring

Ville Kolppanen (G), 21, 6’1, Liiga Ilves 2.18 .927
I believe he’s still eligible for the draft as an overage European, but I’ll include him here anyway; put up good numbers as Ilves’ starting goaltender

Players Signed from Previous Lists

Just a quick look back on those mentioned that appeared in previous versions of this list.  It’s worth noting the majority of players identified have not been signed.  There are far fewer European players who come over as compared to college, even though the dividends can be much higher (as you can see here).

Damien Brunner (RW) – signed with Detroit two years ago and after a strong rookie campaign struggled with New Jersey
Simon Moser (LW/RW) – signed an ELC with Nashville last season and spent most of the year in the AHL (48-8-18-26); he’s an RFA (I highlighted him in 2012)
Ronalds Kenins (LW) – signed by Vancouver last season to an ELC (I identified him in 2012), but was loaned back to Switzerland and enjoyed a career year (39-8-17-25); he should be in the AHL next season
Joel Vermin (C/W) – signed an ELC with Tampa last season (I highlighted him in 2013), but was loaned back to Switzerland where he struggled (49-6-12-18); his fate the following season is up in the air
David Wolf (LW) – signed by Calgary this week to an ELC (I identified him in 2012); DEL players tend not to translate well at the next level, although Marcel Muller was a decent AHL player

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Undrafted Success Stories in the Post-Lockout NHL

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 ArcobellaConacher 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)

AHL Success Stories

Continuing my updates of undrafted success stories (post the 04/05 lockout), here are the players who made their way from being AHL professionals into the NHL.  The way I’ve separated out minor league pros from other undrafted players is the time they spent in the minors; logging either 200+ minor league games or at least spending three full seasons before seeing action at the NHL level (this is by necessity arbitrary, but seems like a reasonable way of making the macro decision on players en route to the highest level).

2005 (6)
Matt Carkner
(D) 184 NHL games
Spent an eternity in the AHL (246 games) before getting his shot; now a regular in the midst of a three-year deal with the Islanders
Keith Aucoin (C/RW) 143 NHL games
Played 310 minor league games (including the UHL and ECHL) before getting his shot with Carolina; he signed a one year, one-way deal with St. Louis
Jeff Hoggan
(W) 107 NHL games
Played 189 games (three seasons) in the AHL before getting his shot; he’s now retired
Mike Glumac (RW) 40 NHL
NCAA grad played 196 minor league games (ECHL included) over three seasons before seeing spot duty with St. Louis; after three years in Germany he’s playing in the KHL
Mark Cullen (C/LW) 38 NHL games
College grad played 189 AHL games through three seasons before getting the call; entering his second season in Austria
Rob Collins (C/RW) 8 NHL games
Played 231 AHL games before getting his shot with the Islanders; spent seven years in Germany before joining Brampton in the CHL
2006 (1)
Jesse Schultz (RW) 2 NHL games
Undrafted WHLer played 204 games in the minors before Vancouver gave him a shot; he’s begun his fourth season in the CHL
2008 (1)
Jared Ross (C/LW) 13 NHL games
208 games in the minors (including the UHL and ECHL) before getting a cup of coffee with Philadelphia; in his third season in Germany
2009 (2)
Maxim Noreau (D) 6 NHL games
QMJHLer played 205 games in the minors before getting the call; in his third season in Switzerland
Charles Linglet (LW) 5 NHL games
Undrafted QMJHLer played 331 AHL games before getting his cup of coffee with Edmonton.  He’s entering his fourth season in the KHL
2010 (2)
Andrew Desjardins (C/LW) 135 NHL games
Played 223 games in the minors before establishing himself with San Jose; signed a two-year, one-way deal with the Sharks
Stephen Gionta (C/W) 13 NHL games
Played 258 AHL games before seeing action; in the second year of a deal with Jersey which is two-way this season
2011 (4)
Pierre-Cedric Labrie (LW) 33 NHL games
QMJHLer played 255 minor league games before Tampa called him up; on a one-year, one-way deal with the Lightning
Mike Angelidis (C/LW) 7 NHL games
Played 339 games in the minors before getting his cup of coffee with Tampa; on a one-year, two-way with the Lightning
Bracken Kearns (C) 5 NHL games
CIS grad played over 400 minor league games before getting a call-up from Florida; he’s in the last year of a two-way deal with San Jose
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 on a two-way deal
2012 (3)
Mike Kostka (D) 35 NHL games
College grad played 307 AHL games before seeing action with Toronto; on a two-way contract with Chicago
Steve Pinizzotto (RW) 12 NHL games
NCAA grad played over 260 games in the minors before the Canucks gave him a shot; now on a two-way deal with Florida
Matt Anderson (RW/C) 2 games
Played 312 minor league games before getting a call-up from Jersey; now in the KHL

That’s only 19 players over eight years (nearly a third of whom appeared in the aftermath of the lockout), which is the smallest group of undrafted players to reach the NHL outside the CIS.  Among these players only four are regular NHLers and all of them are of the depth, support variety.  While the road through the AHL to the NHL exists there are no diamonds in the rough above, just hard-working support players who eek out their existence on the margins of the league.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

CHL and CIS NHL Success Stories

Continuing my updates of undrafted success stories, here’s a look at players who developed in the CHL (Canadian junior) and the CIS (Canadian Universities) who eventually made their way to the NHL.  As in my other articles I’ve focussed on the post-lockout NHL because of the different parameters in which players are viewed (particularly undersized players).  Any CHL or CIS player who logged 200 or more games in the minors I consider a graduate of those leagues rather than their junior/university background.

CHL (24)
Chad Larose
(W) 508 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; currently a UFA
Mark Giordano (D) 385 NHL games
OHLer played 144 AHL games before making the permanent jump to the NHL in 06-07; he remains with Calgary
Martin St. Pierre (C/LW) 38 NHL games
OHL grad spent a season in the minors before getting a two-way deal from Chicago and getting his cup of coffee; on a two-way with Montreal this season
Dan Girardi (D) 488 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
The WHL graduate spent most of his career bouncing around the minor leagues, but played 4 games with Anaheim in 06-07; he’s now retired
David Clarkson (RW) 426 NHL games
OHLer played 123 games in the AHL before making a permanent jump to the NHL in 07-08; signed with Toronto in the off-season
Jerome Samson (C/RW) 46 NHL games
QMJHLer played 135 games in the AHL before getting a chance with Carolina; is on a two-way deal with Winnipeg
Brian Lashoff (D) 31 NHL games
OHLer was signed as a free agent by Detroit and after serving time in the AHL earned himself a three-year, one-way deal
Ryan Wilson (D) 199 NHL games
OHL graduate only played 71 AHL games before making the jump to the NHL in 09-10; he remains with Colorado
Michael Haley (C/LW) 52 NHL games
OHLer played 116 minor league games before suiting up for the Islanders; in the final (a one-way) year of his deal with New York
Nick Holden (D) 7 NHL games
WHL grad played 130 AHL games before getting his first taste with Columbus; signed a two-year, two-way deal with Colorado
Brenden Dillon (D) 49 NHL games
WHLer signed an ELC as a FA with Dallas and saw a game in his rookie season; he’s entering the final year of his rookie deal
Brandon Mashinter (LW) 17 NHL games
Signed directly out of the OHL, he played 79 AHL games before getting a look in the NHL; re-signed to a one year, two-way deal with the Rangers
Matt Fraser (LW) 13 NHL games
WHLer was signed by Dallas and got a call-up in his rookie season; traded to Boston and is on a two-way deal
Brandon Manning (D) 10 NHL games
WHLer was signed by Philadelphia and was called-up in his rookie season; signed a one year, two-way deal with the Flyers
Jason Akeson (RW) 1 NHL game
Signed an ELC right out of the OHL, playing 76 AHL games before getting his cup of coffee with Philadelphia; in the final year of his rookie deal
Antoine Roussel (LW/RW) 39 NHL games
Frenchman out of the QMJHL made his way into the Dallas lineup after 146 AHL games; in the second season of his ELC
Tyler Johnson (C/RW) 14 NHL games
WHLer signed an ELC out of junior and played 75 AHL games before hitting the NHL; remains with Tampa in the final year of his rookie deal
Michael Sgarbossa (C) 6 NHL games
OHLer suited up for Colorado in his rookie season
Mark Cundari (D) 4 NHL games
Signed out of junior to an ELC the OHLer played 175 AHL games before getting his audition with Calgary; on a one year, two-way contract with the Flames
Jonathan Audy-Marchessault (RW/LW) 2 NHL games
QMJHLer played 76 AHL games before getting a cup of coffee with Columbus; he’s entering his second year of his ELC
Matt Konan (D) 2 NHL games
Signed an ELC out of the WHL; 50 minor league games before getting his games in his rookie season; two more years left on his rookie deal
Carter Bancks (LW) 2 NHL games
WHL grad played 93 AHL games before getting a cup of coffee with Calgary; he’s on a tryout with the Flames this season
Ryan Stanton (D) 1 NHL game
WHLer played 151 AHL games before a call-up from Chicago; signed a two-year deal with Chicago with the second a one-way deal

There’s been a considerable increase in players getting signed out of junior and then suiting up for an NHL team, but with (thus far) only five NHL regulars it doesn’t stand out as any more (or less) than other undrafted routes to the league.  None of the high-profile players here are stars, but the ceiling seems to be pretty high (a surprising fact given how well-scouted the CHL is)–it’s worth noting that the best of these players were picked up very early on (post-lockout) and that may indicate scouting has improved since.

CIS (3)
The least likely route to the NHL (Mathieu Darche would be one that predates this and Bracken Kearns would be included if I was categorizing things differently).
Joel Ward (RW) 353 NHL games
Played 66 AHL games before getting his NHL call-up; became a regular 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; split last season between Hamilton and Finland; currently a UFA
Kevin Henderson (LW) 4 NHL games
Played 167 AHL games before making his debut with the Predators; signed a new two-year, two-way contract with Nashville

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

European Undrafted Success Stories Revisited

Continuing my updates of undrafted success stories, here’s a look at players who developed in the European pro leagues without being drafted, who eventually made their way to the NHL.  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’ve set the “European pro” bar at age 23 (anything earlier and I consider the player is still a prospect).  For goaltenders the comparisons are slightly less apt (in terms of numbers), but it’s interesting to look at the relative success enjoyed by them.  The numbers next to the player’s name are their stats prior to being signed by an NHL team.

2006 (3)
Niklas Backstrom (G, SM-Liiga) 32-9-10, 1.68, .940 – has played 369 NHL games and remains a starting NHL goaltender
Patrick Thoresen (SEL) 50-17-19-36 – played 106 NHL games; he’s now settled in as a career KHL player
Patrick Fischer (NLA) 44-21-32-53 – played 27 NHL games in his only season; now retired

2007 (4)
Jonas Hiller (G, NLA) 28-16, 2.60 – has played 276 NHL games and remains an NHL starter
Cory Murphy (D, SM-Liiga) 45-13-37-50 – played 91 NHL games over three seasons; entering his first season in the SHL
Erik Ersberg (G, SEL) 41GP, 2.39, .908 – played 69 NHL games over three seasons with LA; a UFA after three seasons in the KHL
Jaroslav Hlinka (Cze) 46-19-38-57 – played 63 NHL games in his only season; finishing his career in the Czech Elite League

2008 (7)
Ville Leino (SM-Liiga) 55-28-49-77 – has played 228 NHL games; 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 213 NHL games to his credit; he remains a starting goaltender
Tim Stapleton (SM-Liiga) 55-29-33-62 – undersized NCAA grad played two years in Finland before coming back to North America; played 118 NHL games; beginning his second season in the KHL
Anssi Salmela (D, SM-Liiga) 56-16-16-32 (0.57) – played 112 NHL games over three seasons; entering his third season in the KHL
Fabian Brunnstrom (SEL) 54-9-28-37 – played 104 NHL games over four seasons; entering his second season in the SHL
Ryan Vesce (SM-Liiga) 56-26-18-44 – undersized NCAA grad had made the jump from the AHL to Finland to land a deal with San Jose where he saw all his limited action (19 NHL games); he’s currently in the KHL
Per Ledin (SEL) – played 3 NHL games in his only season; continues to play in Sweden

2009 (5)
Jonas Gustavsson (G, SEL) 42GP, 1.96, .932 – “The Monster” has played 114 NHL games; an NHL backup 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’s back in Sweden
Alexander Salak (G, SM-Liiga) 20-20-9, 2.40, .923 – played 2 NHL games; beginning his first season in the KHL
Johan Backlund (G, SEL) 49GP, 2.56, .907 – played 1 NHL game; beginning his first season in the KHL

2010 (3)
Mats Zuccarello (SEL) 55-23-41-64 (1.16) – pint-sized Norwegian played 67 NHL games; re-signed by the Rangers
Marcel Muller (DEL) 53-24-32-56 – played 3 NHL games; back in Germany
Jussi Rynnas (G, SM-Liiga) 14-13-1, 2.71, .911 – played 2 NHL games; back in Finland

2011 (3)
Raphael Diaz (D, NLA) 45-12-27-39 (0.86) – has played 82 NHL games; remains with Montreal
Victor Bartley (D, Allsvenskan) 52-11-23-34 – undrafted WHLer has played 24 NHL games; signed a three-year, one-way deal with Nashville
Iiro Tarkki (G, SM-Liiga) 20-20-14, 2.09, .924 – played 1 NHL game; entering his second season in the KHL

2012 (4)
Roman Cervenka (KHL) 54-23-16-39 – played 39 NHL games; returned to the KHL
Viktor Fasth (G, SHL) 2.04, .934 – played 25 NHL games; competing for the starting job in Anaheim
Daniel Bang (SHL) 50-8-10-18 – played 8 NHL games; playing in Switzerland
Harri Pesonen (SM-Liiga) 60-21-14-35 – played 4 NHL games; remains with the Devils

No players from the Slovak Elite League, Erste Bank Liga (Austria), Get Ligaen (Norway), or Al-Bank Ligaen (Denmark) have had players signed directly out of them.  The DEL (Germany), Czech Elite League, and KHL (Russia) have only had one each.

Conclusions: the vast majority of the players signed (23 of 29) come from either the Swedish or Finnish leagues and only 9 (if Zuccarello sticks) are NHL regulars.  The greatest success comes from foreign goaltenders, with up to 4 starting goaltenders arriving from the undrafted pool (and 5 of the 9 regulars are between the pipes).  It’s interesting to note how dwarfed the number of players here is by those who arrive via the NCAA route (66 players since 2006), given how large the available pool is in Europe (literally hundreds of players go undrafted).  Part of the reason for the smaller stream of players is twofold: the expense of properly scouting those players, and secondly, the fact that the KHL can pay marginal players a much better salary than they would earn playing in the AHL.  What we can say from this overview is that the scouting community doesn’t make many mistakes and there are very few diamonds in the rough overseas.  The most overlooked players remain undersized players along with the difficult-to-project goaltenders.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

ECHL Success Stories (revisited)

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)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.