When you think of some of the best players in jockey, it can be natural to think that the cream of the crop only comes from the top rounds. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this McDavid kid, but Lord knows his name was uttered more then any other name in hockey this past offseason.
Not to mention that some of the best players of all time, like Ovechkin, Crosby, Gretzky and so forth, were all selected in some of the first few picks off the board. There is no doubt that these players are deserving of the spots, but sometimes it’s the players that may still be a few years away from their potential that can really make a long term impact on your franchise.
The draft is a long process and when hundreds of new faces attempt to make their mark in the NHL every year, it can only be natural to see some of the best players fall through the cracks.
There are names out there right now that have just been drafted late, perhaps to your favorite team, that you might not even know about but who might have a monumental impact. You think the Red Wings fan base was hooping and hollering after selecting Zetterberg late in the draft? Well, they definitely were after he helped win them the cup.
Here’s a look at the 15 best players that went way too late in the draft. Actually, Some didn’t even get drafted at all.
15. Luc Robitaille
Luc Robataille is one of the most dynamic players to ever play the game of hockey. His offensive skills were unmatched by many and it did not take long to start dominating on the score sheet. Robitaille was the recipient of the Calder trophy in his rookie year, as he put up 45 goals and 84 points in his rookie campaign. Clearly Luc was something special and he went onto have a successful 19 year career, with a career high of 63 goals during the 1992-1993 season. Despite his immediate impact on the game of hockey, Luc wasn’t drafted until the 171st pick of the 9th round. At least he made quick work of proving his doubters wrong.
14. Henrik Lundqvist
Henrik Lundqvist is one of the best goalies in hockey today and helped lead the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals a couple of seasons ago. He’s an extremely accomplished keeper who had his best season in 2011/12, where he was a finalist for the Hart Trophy and captured the Vezina Trophy. Despite these accolades, Lundqvist found himself being selected 205th overall in the 2000 draft. Ironically the same draft was the one that saw Rick DiPietro go first overall to the New York Islanders. While Lundqvist has yet to win the cup, he’s still a premier goalie and one whose career has already defied expectations.
13. Peter Bondra
Want to know the best fact about the draft class that Peter Bondra was in? Jaromir Jagr was the fifth overall selection. Yet Bondra, unlike Jagr, is not a cyborg and has since stopped playing hockey. That is not to discredit his outstanding career, which saw Bondra play 1,081 games and score 503 goals. Bondra was an amazing player for the Washington Capitals and played there for 14 seasons before he was traded away to help relieve their salary cap issues. When talking about his trade, Bondra talked about how he “grew up here. I grew up as a player. I grew up as a person,” which clearly represents the impact that a team can have on a player. Bondra was selected 156th overall in the 1990 draft.
12. Doug Gilmour
What else could Doug Gilmour have done in his last campaign before the NHL draft? He put together 177 points in 68 games and clearly had a natural offensive flair for the game. Yet like others who came before him, Gilmour was deemed too small to play the game of hockey. Gilmour has the luxury of being able to laugh at his critics as he sits in the hockey Hall of Fame. He quickly defied the odds, as in his first 3 campaigns, he had respectable seasons of 53, 57 and 53 points. When ’87 rolled around, Gilmour really got it together and put up 42 goals and 105 points. Gilmour never really looked back and put together a fantastic career that spanned 1,474 games. Not bad from the 134th pick in the 1982 draft.
11. Henrik Zetterberg
Henrik Zetterberg is one of the best talents to ever come out of the later rounds in the draft. A relative unknown who wasn’t heavily scouted, the Red Wings took a flier on the future superstar with the 210th pick in the draft. Three years after being drafted, Zetterberg had his first campaign in the NHL and recorded 22 goals. AS his career has progressed, Zetterberg has shown consistency where it matters the most: the post-season. When the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 2008, Zetterberg amassed 27 points over 22 playoff games, which earned the Conn Smythe trophy.
10. Dustin Byfuglien
The 2003 NHL hockey draft was really outstanding. In the first round alone, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Brent Seabrook, Ryan Kesler and Marc-Andre Fleury all made their way into the NHL. It’s only natural that, with a draft class that stacked, players like Dustin Byfuglien would drop to the 245th pick in the draft. While Dustin had shown he could shoot the lights out, scouts expressed concern over his poor conditioning. While he’s had an up and down career, including stints as both a forward and defensemen, Byfuglien seems to have found a home in Winnipeg. A true game changer when he’s on his game, Byfuglien was clearly a project that was worth taking a chance on.
9. Theoren Fleury
No one ever doubted Theo Fleury’s skill or determination. Yet at only 5’6″, many scouts thought that he was just physically too small to play the game of hockey at the highest level. Fleury clearly took this personally as he made his name with 31 goals in his first full season in the big leagues. He followed it up with 51 goals the next year, clearly proving that he was here to stay. Never afraid to get involved with much larger players, Fleury managed to have an impressive 16 year career in the NHL which included one Stanley cup and 1,088 points. Fleury was picked by the Calgary Flames in the 8th round.
8. Brett Hull
Brett Hull clearly always had the ability to find the net, as he scored 105 goals in 57 games with the Penticton Knights, but that didn’t stop teams from avoiding Hull in the earlier rounds. While he never hit 105 in the NHL, he did hit 86, 72, 70 and 57 goals in separate campaigns and was a dominant force for 19 seasons. On top of that, Hull was able to win three Stanley Cups as a member of three different teams. Hull was selected by the Calgary Flames, but truly made his mark on the NHL as a member of the St. Louis Blues. Hull was selected 117th overall in the 1984 draft.
7. Uwe Krupp
The deck was stacked against Krupp in his pursuit to make it to the NHL, as in 1983 it was not exactly common to see a dominant German hockey player. As a result, nobody can blame the league for letting him fall to the 214th pick in the 1983 draft. Krupp ended up being an integral part of the Colorado Avalanche team that won the Stanley Cup in 1996, while also winning another cup with the Red Wings later in his career. Krupp had a playing career that lasted from 1986-2002 and he helped pave the way for many German players, such as Christian Erhoff, to follow in his footsteps.
6. Martin St. Louis
Martin St. Louis might be the most talented undrafted player to ever play in the NHL. After failing to catch on during a tryout for the Ottawa Senators, St. Louis found himself playing hockey in the IHL for the Cleveland Lumberjacks. This didn’t last long however, as he got noticed by someone affiliated with the Calgary Flames. While he only played a few seasons with Calgary, it was enough to get him noticed by the Tampa Bay Lightning where St.Louis excelled. From there, St.Louis played in 1,134 games including winning the Stanley Cup in 2004.
5. Alexandre Burrows
Alexandre Burrows is not the most talented player on this list, but you need to give him credit for making a mark in the NHL after going undrafted. After battling around in the ECHL and the AHL, Burrows finally found a permanent spot with the Vancouver Canucks in 2005. While his play has dropped off as of late, he was still instrumental in the Canucks’ 2011 Stanley Cup run and has been monumental in helping both of the Sedin’s develop as players (though they also had a huge impact on him).
4. Marty Turco
Marty Turco was one of the most intelligent players to ever play goaltender in the NHL. As a result, it shouldn’t be any surprise that he learned well behind Eddie Belfour for a few years before stepping into the starting role in Dallas. Turco had a sizzling 1.72 GAA in his first full stint as the goalie after Eddie left for Toronto. Turco didn’t let go of the reigns for the next few years in Dallas before finishing his career with a small stint in Chicago and Boston. Turco was clearly overlooked as he went 124th overall in the 1994 draft.
3. Pavel Datsyuk
Pavel Datsyuk is well deserving of his nickname, “The Magic Man.” With the ability to make any defender look silly and enough vision to always find the open man, he’s a nightmare to go up against. Not to mention the fact that he’s one of the best two-way players in the game, who has won the Selke award for top defensive forward on three different occasions. With what appears to be such a natural talent for the game, it’s astonishing to think that he fell to the 171st pick in the 1998 draft.
2. Daniel Alfredsson
It’s always great when you see an unheralded player become one of the faces of a franchise. For 18 years, Alfredsson was one of the premier players for the Ottawa Senators. Their eventual captain, Alfredsson had an outstanding career that saw him play 1,246 games and amass 1,157 points. While he was unable to win the Stanley Cup despite getting to the finals in the 2007 season, his leadership on the ice helped along countless Senators throughout the duration of his career there. Alfredsson clearly showed loyalty to the franchise who took a shot on him, when he was selected 133rd in the 1994 draft.
1. Dominik Hasek
Dominik Hasek was one of the most entertaining goalies to ever play the game. Yet, in 1983 being a European player definitely hurt his draft stock as teams were unsure if the player would ever be able to ever get over to the NHL to contribute. As a result, Hasek was selected in the 10th round by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1983 draft. Hasek spent several years in the Czechoslovak Extraliga league before debuting in the NHL in 1990. When on the ice, Hasek was seemingly always able to be flexible enough to make the most unorthodox of saves. The league clearly recognized his excellence, as he took home six Vezina trophies throughout his illustrious career. Hasek appeared in 735 career games and won the Stanley Cup in 2002 and 2008. During the 2002 run for the cup, Hasek had an astonishing 6 shutouts in the 23 games.
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