Making the postseason of any major sport at least once in a player's career is not especially difficult, given the amount of ways it's possible to qualify. Heck, even some players that aren't very good make it every year just based on their team's consistently high performance. And although some players might be drafted to a team that’s in the midst of a lengthy playoff drought, they can either get traded to a contender at some point (often right before the postseason begins), or last long enough to see the draft process improve their team and once again return the club to the playoffs.
On the flip side, bad luck can also strike, and sometimes it is especially cruel. Occasionally, players will join a team just after its peak golden years, inadvertently entering prior to a deep and extended valley in the team's history. For instance, the Edmonton Oilers haven’t qualified since 2005-06, the Carolina Hurricanes since 2008-09, and the Buffalo Sabres since 2010-11. Even worse, an athlete will sometimes stick it out with a struggling squad for a decent chunk of their career, but get traded away just before the club rediscovers some success.
Sometimes a more chronic issue - such as inconsistent playing time based on injury or poor performance - will keep a player out of the playoffs when their team makes it, but this list attempted to control for these factors. Especially since, in the case of injury, the team technically made it to the playoffs, even if the individual didn’t appear. As for poor-performing players or second- or third-stringers who are left off the postseason roster, they at least had/have a bit of control over their fate, and thus get less sympathy.
What we are really looking for are the still-active NHL veterans (not retired players or newbies with a lot of time in the league left) who have played at a competitive level in a majority of their respective team's games each season, year after year, and still never took that first real step toward the Stanley Cup. These are the top (unlucky?) 13 NHL players who have yet to make the playoffs. Really the fact that these players have never made the playoffs does a disservice to the fans, as we would love to see what they have when the Stanley Cup is on the line.
7 13. Ron Hainsey - Carolina Hurricanes
While his role has only been as a serviceable second pairing defenceman most of his career, his longevity gets him a spot on this list. Defenseman Ron Hainsey was drafted in 2000, made his NHL debut in 2002, has played in almost 800 games for four different teams, and still has never appeared in the postseason. His first team, the Montreal Canadiens, failed to make the playoffs his first year, but made it his second year. However, prior to the postseason, Hainsey was picked up by the Columbus Blue Jackets, who didn’t qualify then, or in any of the four years he played for them.
6 11. Ladislav Šmíd, Calgary Flames
5 9. Leon Draisaitl - Edmonton Oilers
4 8. Aaron Ekblad - Florida Panthers
Although there are a lot of players with similar track records to young left winger Jonathan Huberdeau, not many are as deserving of a playoff appearance as the 22-year-old former Calder Trophy winner. After joining the Florida Panthers in 2011, the season of their last postseason, Huberdeau played well in a handful of preseason games, but spent the year in the QMJHL.
Defenseman Justin Faulk is only 23 years old, but he already has parts of five NHL seasons under his belt, has appeared in an All-Star Game, and currently serves as an alternate captain. All five of his seasons have been with the Carolina Hurricanes though, so Faulk has yet to make a playoff appearance.
3 4. Evander Kane - Buffalo Sabres
2 2. Taylor Hall - Edmonton Oilers
1 1. Jordan Eberle - Edmonton Oilers
When right winger Jordan Eberle signed a six year, $36 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers in 2012, it was the second biggest on the team. However, he did lead in one category: the number of games played for the Oilers. Now in his sixth season, Eberle still has the most experience with the team, and also the most experience without a playoff appearance. Earlier this year, the 25-year-old won the gold medal as part of Team Canada in the 2015 World Championship, but in regard to being a NHL Champion, Eberle hasn’t even come close.
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