The National Hockey League has existed for nearly a hundred years while opening its doors to the best players from around the globe. Generations of NHL fanatics have seen many talented and hard-working forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders. They may have watched the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby, Scott Niedermayer or Patrick Kane and may have seen the goaltending of Marty Brodeur, Dominik Hasek, Patrick Roy and Jonathan Quick. Today's NHL fans might follow the younger generation of players such as Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel and Patrik Laine in the next five years.
Over the years, a handful of NHL players who made some impact on the teams they played for could be irrelevant or forgotten about by hockey fans because of the direction their playing careers have taken. At one point, they were very good hockey players in the NHL, and dare we say bordering on stardom. Now, we can barely even remember them.
For example, they might have experienced a rough season, demoted by their respective team to the AHL or signed a contract with a European hockey team. As the league's milestone 100th season is about to begin this October, here is a rundown of 15 NHL players that you might not remember.
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15 Dan Cloutier
Unless you're a Canucks fan, you've probably forgotten all about Dan Cloutier.
Dan Cloutier was a goaltender who began his ten-year career in 1997 for the New York Rangers, where he spent two seasons until they traded him to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1999. After a couple of bad seasons in Tampa, they shipped Cloutier to the Vancouver Canucks in February 2001. Although Cloutier recorded 14 shutouts in five good seasons for the Canucks, he's remembered most for a goal that he allowed vs. the Detroit Red Wings in Game 3 of Vancouver's first-round playoff series in 2002.
With the game tied at 1, Detroit blueliner Nicklas Lidstrom took a shot from centre ice and scored a gift goal by Cloutier before the 2nd period ended. The goal led to a 3-1 Detroit win followed by three consecutive Red Wings wins to eliminate Vancouver in six games. The Canucks traded Cloutier to the L.A. Kings before the 2006-07 season, where he lasted just two years.
14 Chris Campoli
During the 2004 NHL Draft, the New York Islanders selected defenseman Chris Campoli from the OHL's Erie Otters in the 7th round. Campoli scored 20 goals and 63 assists in four seasons with the Islanders. In November 2008, Campoli scored on a bizarre overtime play against Columbus. Campoli's first shot entered the Blue Jackets net, but the referees did not signal a goal until the puck came to his stick and scored on the second shot to make sure it counted. The Isles traded Campoli to the Ottawa Senators for a 1st-round pick in February 2009.
Although Campoli spent three seasons in Ottawa, he was dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011. Campoli played 19 regular season games and seven in the playoffs with Chicago but he turned the puck over in overtime of Game 7 to Vancouver's Alex Burrows, who scored the series-winning goal. Campoli played his last NHL season in 2011-12 with the Montreal Canadiens.
13 Mike York
Mike York played nine seasons as a left winger for a handful of NHL teams. Originally a sixth-round draft pick of the New York Rangers in 1997, York scored 26 goals and 24 assists as a rookie in the 1999-00 season. Although York played three seasons with the Blueshirts, they traded him to the Edmonton Oilers just one month later. York scored 22 goals and 51 points with Edmonton in 2002-03 then recorded 42 points in 2003-04. During the 2004-05 lockout, York played with Iserlohn in Germany until Edmonton traded him to the Islanders in August 2005.
York's time in Long Island lasted two seasons, as the Philadelphia Flyers traded for him in December 2006 but recorded eight points in 34 games with Philly. York last played a full season with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2007-08 and finished his NHL career with 322 points in 579 games played.
12 Wojtek Wolski
The Colorado Avalanche selected Polish-born forward Wojtek Wolski in the first round of the 2004 draft. Although Wolski played nine regular season games as a rookie with Colorado in 2005-06, they sent him to the Brampton Battallion in October and recorded a 100-point season in junior that led to the Avs recalling him before the 2006 playoffs. Wolski recorded his 1st career playoff goal in Colorado's first-round playoff series against Dallas. Although Wolski scored 73 goals in five seasons with the Avs, they traded him to Phoenix in March 2010.
Wolski's point production slipped to 12 goals and 34 points in two seasons with the Coyotes. In January 2011, Phoenix traded the struggling Wolski to the New York Rangers for Michal Rozsival, and he played two forgettable seasons there. New York traded Wolski to the Florida Panthers in February 2012. Wolski played one season for the Washington Capitals in 2012-13 and continued his playing career in the KHL.
11 Chris Kontos
Chris Kontos played eight seasons at centre for the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning. Kontos played five seasons with the Rangers and Penguins until Pittsburgh traded him to L.A. in February 1988 just six months before the Kings traded for superstar Wayne Gretzky. Kontos broke out in the 1989 Stanley Cup Playoffs with nine goals and zero assists. Kontos did not play in the NHL after the 1989-90 season but signed with the Lightning before the 1992-93 season. In the Lightning's first ever game vs. Chicago, Kontos scored the franchise's first goal, which led to his 4-goal performance and a 7-3 Lightning win. Kontos recorded a career-high 51 points in 66 games during the 1992-93 season. That marked the first time in his career that he recorded over 20 points in one season. Kontos did not return to Tampa the following year and retired with 54 career goals in 1999.
10 Wade Dubielewicz
Goaltender Wade Dubielewicz played six seasons in the league, most notably for the New York Islanders, followed by stints in Columbus and Minnesota. Dubielewicz signed with the Islanders as a free agent before the 2003-04 season and recorded 47 saves in two games that year. But Dubielewicz is probably known for playing in a must-win game for the Islanders against the New Jersey Devils in April 2007. Dubielewicz stopped two Devils shooters in a 3-2 shootout win for the Isles who clinched the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot in the 2006-07 season. Dubielewicz played 37 games in four seasons with the Islanders, but departed for Ak-Bars Kazan during the 2008-09 season.
Although Dubielewicz re-signed with the Islanders that very season, the Columbus Blue Jackets claimed him off waivers from New York and he played three games for the Jackets. Dubielewicz played his last NHL season with the Wild in 2009-10.
9 John Druce
John Druce played 10 seasons as a forward for the Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets, L.A. Kings and Philadelphia Flyers. Druce scored 113 career goals and played 531 games in the NHL, but his breakout performance in the 1990 Stanley Cup Playoffs might stand out to the older generation of fans. Druce scored 14 goals, three assists, and four game-winning goals in 15 playoff games during the Capitals run in 1990. Druce made one appearance in the 1997 Stanley Cup Final with the Flyers but recorded no points in four finals games against Detroit, who swept Philadelphia to win the '97 Stanley Cup.
Moreover, Druce recorded only six points after his 1990 playoff run and finished with 23 career playoff points. Druce played in Germany after his 10th NHL season, then found work as a junior hockey analyst for Sportsnet and was named head coach of the OJHL's Cobourg Cougars this past June.
8 Jeff Hackett
Jeff Hackett played for two original six teams, yet he played for both of them in arguably the worst periods of those two storied franchises' histories.
Hackett began his NHL career in San Jose, after the Sharks claimed him in the 1991 Expansion Draft. Hackett was actually named team MVP during his first season in San Jose, but was eventually dealt to Chicago in the 1993-94 season to back up Ed Belfour. He emerged as the starter in 1996-97, outplaying Belfour, which caused Chicago to trade Eddie The Eagle to Dallas. He would start for Chicago in 1997-98 and in his only full season as the starter, he recorded a .917 SV% and 2.20 GAA.
He would eventually be dealt to Montreal in the 1998-99 season, as the Habs were looking for a starter a few years after the disastrous Patrick Roy trade. Hackett became a fan favorite in Montreal, as he performed admirably for a mediocre team. Unfortuantely, injuries soon got the better of Hackett and caused him to lose his starting job to Jose Theodore, who went on to have an MVP season in 2001-02.
Hackett would then be traded back to San Jose, who promptly shipped him to Boston, where he briefly started for the Bruins, then ended his career in Philadelphia.
Had Hackett played for better teams throughout his career, he likely would have been higher regarded.
7 Janne Niinimaa
Defenseman Janne Niinimaa played 10 NHL seasons for the Philadelphia Flyers, Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens. The Finnish blueliner was drafted by the Flyers in 1993. As a rookie, Niinimaa recorded 44 points in the Flyers' 1996-97 regular season and followed it up with 13 points in the '97 playoffs as they advanced to the Stanley Cup Final against Detroit. Niinimaa was on the ice for Detroit's second goal in Game 4. Darren McCarty pulled out an inside-out move on Niinimaa and went around Flyers goalie Ron Hextall to score a highlight-reel tally. McCarty's goal helped Detroit win the Stanley Cup in four games.
Niinimaa was traded four different times in his career. Philly dealt him to the Edmonton Oilers in 1998 until Edmonton traded Niinimaa to the Islanders in 2003. New York dealt Niinimaa to Dallas in 2005, and the Stars sent him to Montreal during the 2006-07 season.
6 Jeff Schultz
Defenseman Jeff Schultz entered the 2004 draft after playing four seasons with the WHL's Calgary Hitmen. The Washington Capitals selected Schultz 27th overall along with Alex Ovechkin, their number one pick in the first round. During the 2006-07 season, Schultz recorded three assists as a rookie for the Caps, then achieved positive plus-minus ratings from 2006-07 to 2010-11, with a league-high +50 in the 2009-10 season. In the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Schultz played a playoff record 119 minutes of ice time and didn't let his team allow a goal. Schultz played 399 regular season games in Washington until he signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Kings in 2013. Schultz played zero games for the Kings in 2013-14, but played 67 games with the Kings' AHL affiliate, but dressed for seven playoff games for the Kings on their road to winning the Stanley Cup in 2014. Schultz played just 10 games in three seasons with the Kings.
5 Joe Juneau
How on earth does an NHL rookie record over 100 points in his debut season and not end up becoming a hall of famer? It's a strange case with Joe Juneau, who recorded 102 points in his rookie season back in 1992-93, scoring 32 goals and chipping in 70 assists. When looking back at his linemates that season, perhaps you can see why he did that, considering he was feeding the puck to the likes of Adam Oates and Cam Neely.
Juneau would never come close to hitting those numbers again, dipping to 85 points in his sophomore year. He was surprsingly traded in the 1993-94 season to Washington, where he would continue to be a solid NHL player, but was never the star he was in Boston.
He eventually put on a memorable playoff performance for the Capitals in 1998, as he scored 17 points in 21 playoff games for Washington in their only run to a Stanley Cup Final.
After that season, he bounced around from Buffalo, to Ottawa then to Montreal, where he would end his career as a third liner.
4 Eric Daze
Eric Daze was a very solid NHL player in the late 90s and early 2000s. Unfortunately, Daze played for the Chicago Blackhawks during a very forgettable period of the team's history. Daze scored at least 20 goals in eight straight seasons and even cracked the 30-goal mark three times. He reached a career high 38 goals in 2001-02, where he played in his first and only All-Star game. In that All-Star game, he would record three points and win the game's MVP award. His season helped the Hawks reach the 2002 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which marked the club's first playoff appearance in five years, but they quickly bowed out to the Blues.
Daze only got to the playoffs three times, which is likely why not many remember him. In three playoff seasons, Daze played in 21 games, recording 11 points. He quietly retired from hockey after the 2006 season opener, following the season-long lockout.
Had he played with the Hawks in the late 2000s, he very likely would've been remembered a lot more.
3 Jason Blake
Jason Blake had four seasons of college hockey under his belt with Ferris State and the University of North Dakota, until he signed with the Los Angeles Kings as an undrafted free agent in April 1999. Blake played 82 career games for the Kings, but the New York Islanders traded for him in 2001. Blake had a solid offensive season with the Isles in 2006-07, scoring a career-high 69 points and played on the first line. In July 2007, Blake signed a five-year, $20 million contract with the Maple Leafs after his breakout '06-'07 campaign. During the '07-'08 season, Blake announced that he received a diagnosis of chronic leukemia, an uncommon but very treatable kind of cancer. Blake played all 82 games in 2007-08, tallied 52 points, and received the Bill Masterson Trophy for his determination and courage to play through cancer. Toronto traded Blake to the Anaheim Ducks in 2010 where he finished his NHL career in 2011-12 after 12 seasons.
2 Ray Sheppard
The Buffalo Sabres drafted Ray Sheppard as the 60th overall selection in the 1984 draft. Sheppard played his rookie season with the Sabres in 1987-88, scoring 38 goals and 65 points. Buffalo decided to trade Sheppard to the New York Rangers in 1990 and played one season. Sheppard signed with Detroit as a free agent a year later and played a few seasons with the Red Wings. Sheppard recorded a career-high 52 goals and 93 points for Detroit in 1993-94. Sheppard played five games for the Wings in 1995-96 until they dealt him to the San Jose Sharks for Igor Larionov in October.
The Sharks traded Sheppard to Florida later that season and made an impact on the 1995-96 Panthers playoff run to the Cup Final against Colorado. Sheppard recorded 16 points (8 G, 8 A) in 21 playoff games, but the Avalanche beat the Panthers in four games. Sheppard spent two seasons in Carolina and played his last NHL season with Florida in 1999-00.
1 Fred Brathwaite
In October 1993, an OHL goaltender named Fred Brathwaite signed with the Edmonton Oilers as an undrafted free agent. Brathwaite had the opportunity to begin his pro career for a franchise that won five Stanley Cups. Brathwaite recorded three wins, ten losses and three ties as a backup goalie in his first season with Edmonton. After Brathwaite played three seasons in the minors and helped Canada win the Spengler Cup versus Davos in December 1998, he signed with the Calgary Flames during the 1998-99 season and played 28 games. Brathwaite played two more seasons in Calgary, recording five shutouts, 25 wins and a .905 save percentage in 1999-00 and achieved a GAA of 2.32 in 2000-01.
Calgary traded Brathwaite to the St. Louis Blues, who played two seasons with that organization. Brathwaite played one last NHL season with Columbus in 2003-04 and played in Europe until 2010-11. Brathwaite served as a goaltending consultant for Hockey Canada throughout the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships.
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