What’s he common misconception that comes along with the NHL Entry Draft? That the game’s future stars are only selected in the early rounds. Many players have turned their late-round selections into successful NHL careers. Turning a thumbs-down around and perhaps flipping a bird with the other hand.
Being drafted late does not necessarily lead to failure or a perpetual spot on the farm team. Being drafted late can motivate a man to reach depths of his game that he didn’t even know were there. All right, so you’re not Sidney Crosby and you’re not all over the sports shows and talk radio. You’re not being pampered or offered endorsement deals, but who really cares about all that stuff? The only thing that really matters, or at least should really matter, to any young player is the game.
Crosby is undoubtedly the face of that game, so let him be the face. Allow yourself to see that face everywhere you look: commercials, billboards, magazines. What’s it to you? He deserves all of that attention, sure, but you don’t need it. All you need to do is get back on that ice and work harder than you ever have before because you’re making the roster, man!
Throughout this countdown, we will take a look at some of the more miraculous late-round success stories . The boys who broke barriers not by skating around them but by skating straight through them. Full throttle. Nothing was getting in the way of their NHL dream.
So, without further adieu, let’s embark on the journey of late-round succession and take a look at some of the NHL’s most overlooked gems. The little rain-drops who became full-blown storms. The following list is an example of underestimated hockey players who defied the odds and left a permanent impression on the league.
15. Brooks Laich (6th Round: 193rd Overall)
Let’s be honest; playing hockey in Washington as a member of the Capitals entails one thing; playing in the shadow of Alexander Ovechkin, as like it or not it is his team. However, the Russian right-winger is not a team on his own. That’s where Brooks Laich enters the picture. A gritty hard-working center with an insurmountable dedication to his team and his craft. He’s constantly striving to improve his game and locker room leadership. Take the “C” away from the great number eight and it has a home on the chest of Brooks Laich.
14. Mark Streit (9th Round: 262nd Overall)
Overlooked for many years by the NHL, Mark Streit was eventually drafted 262nd overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft at the age of twenty-six. Considered an “old-rookie,” this would not deter Streit who over the next few seasons would become a prominent part of the Canadiens blueline. This would eventually lead to a large contract with the New York Islanders following his departure from Montreal and history bring made when Streit was named the first Swiss-born team captain in NHL history.
13. Pekka Rinne (8th Round: 258th Overall)
The stereotypical thoughts associated with the city of Nashville? Honky-tonks, cowboy hats, drunken rednecks, and God-fearing guitar-pickers. But what about a six-foot-five, two-hundred-pound, Finnish goaltender? Pekka Rinne is an intimidating figure while standing between those goal posts. With his large stature taking away much of the net, it is no wonder putting a puck past him proves to be so difficult. While love for hockey continues to flourish down in Tennessee so does admiration for The Volunteer State’s goaltender.
12. Joe Pavelski (7th Round: 205th Overall)
Coming off the best season of his NHL career, Joe Pavelski is in his prime. A fixture of the San Jose Sharks lineup, Joe was meant to be a star from day one, scoring a goal in his very first game as a member of the team. While greatly overshadowed by another Joe … Joe Thornton, Pavelski certainly holds his own on the ice in San Jose and will surely be a part of the Sharks success when the habitual playoff chokers finally break on through and attain the ultimate prize: Lord Stanley.
11. Henrik Zetterberg (7th Round: 210th Overall)
The heartbeat of the Joe Louis Arena is felt throughout the entire NHL. Not only beating for the team that calls the arena home, the Detroit Red Wings but beating for an entire city that is hard-on-their-luck. And the blood that pumps from that heart is the blood of Henrik Zetterberg. The Swedish superstar and Most Valuable Player of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals. The man chosen to lead this storied franchise into the future. In a city of sleeping beauties, Henrik Zetterberg is the man who can awake them from their slumber.
10. Gary Suter (9th Round: 180th Overall)
Compared to some of the great NHL defensemen of all time, Gary Suter’s career stats are modest but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t belong in the same sentence as the likes of Paul Coffey and Al Macinnis. Suter more than proved his worth as a member of the Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, and San Jose Sharks. He even earned the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 1986. He was a consistent player who is often overlooked on lists and countdowns but a player who deserves proper recognition nonetheless.
9. Henrik Lundqvist (7th Round: 205th Overall)
The big Swedish keeper had thirty wins in each of his first seven seasons and is the only goaltender in NHL history to complete such a daunting task. Throw a Vezina trophy, an Olympic gold medal, and a recent Stanley Cup appearance on that and you have quite an impressive resume. Henrik Lundqvist was selected 205th overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Who would have thought when his name was called that he would become one of the best goalies of the new millennium? The keeper of Madison Square Garden. Protector of its legacy and the ghosts of past greats.
8. Dave Taylor (15th Round: 210th Overall)
The king of the Kings, Dave Taylor spent his entire NHL career, all of seventeen seasons, playing in Los Angeles and several more serving as General Manager of the team. Having played more games as a King than any other player in franchise history, it is no wonder Taylor and his connection to the team runs so deep. Dave Taylor is the lowest-drafted (not including undrafted players) player to ever attain one thousand career points. Not too shabby coming from a fifteenth rounder. Sure, the Kings had Gretzky for a while but Dave Taylor was important to their team as well.
7. Steve Larmer (6th Round: 120th Overall)
The 1983 Calder Memorial Trophy recipient, Steve Larmer played eleven seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks having never missed a game. However, Larmer would go East and take his two-way play to New York City where he would spend his final two seasons in the league, calling it a career at the age of thirty-four after winning a cup as a member of the 1994 Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers. While Larmer’s career can be considered short by today’s standards, one thing is for sure, it was memorable.
6. Theoren Fleury (8th Round: 166th Overall)
The iconic image and memory of Theoren Fleury? The bloody jersey incident of 1999 in which Fleury, whose jersey had been dosed in blood was sent off the ice to change his shirt prompting a fan to toss his own personal autographed jersey over the board for Theo to wear on the ice and not miss a shift. This was a testament to his life an career. The little man playing a big man’s game as a fearless competitor. A man riddled with personal problems but a man who you cannot help but cheer for.
5. Doug Gilmour (7th Round: 134th Overall)
He played for seven different NHL teams over the course of a twenty year career, scoring 1414 points in 1474 games. The physicality of Doug Gilmour earned him the nickname, “Killer.” While his best single season came as a member of the Calgary Flames, it was in Toronto as a Maple Leaf where Gilmour truly shined. Following years away from the team, Gilmour would return to Toronto from Montreal where he would play one final game, tearing his ACL on his second shift and effectively ending his career. Going out as a loved man on a hated team.
4. Daniel Alfredsson (6th Round: 133rd Overall)
The former captain of our nation’s capital, long serving Ottawa Senator, Daniel Alfredsson has proven to be one of the most beloved hockey players of his generation. In 2013, Alfredsson decided to take his talent and good graces to Detroit where he hoped to win a cup, shocking many in the process. But who could blame him? The Senators and the cup just don’t fit hand-in-hand. Now north of forty, Alfredsson has yet to decide whether or not he will play another season in the NHL but either way, much respect for number eleven.
3. Peter Bondra (8th Round: 156th Overall)
The Slovakian right-winger is a member of the prestigious five-hundred goal club having twice scored fifty goals in a single season. Long before Ovechkin was the hottest thing in town, Peter Bondra was the sniper on the ice with the Washington Capitals. A natural goal scorer who was fun to watch and always brought a new level of excitement to the game. Although his career seemed stifled following his departure from Washington, having less-than-stellar stints in Ottawa, Atlanta, and Chicago, when Peter Bondra’s fire was burning, it was burning mighty bright.
2. Luc Robitaille (9th Round: 171st Overall)
The highest scoring left-winger in NHL history, an eight time all-star, Stanley Cup champion (as a player), over six-hundred goals scored throughout an expansive and incredible hockey career. Luc Robitaille didn’t just silence the naysayers, he muzzled them by becoming one of the best to ever lace up a pair of skates. A proud member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and now two-time Stanley Cup champion as President of Operations with the Los Angeles Kings, the very team with whom he holds a number of franchise records.
1. Dominik Hasek (10th Round: 199th Overall)
Presenting a “write-up” for the great Dominik Hasek seems a little unnecessary. Hasek certainly doesn’t need anybody to sing his praises. The man was a presence in the crease having won six Veizina Trophy’s … Six! On top of that; he managed to pick up two consecutive Hart Memorial Trophies, becoming the first goaltender to win the award on multiple occasions. Oh yeah, let’s not forget about the Olympic Gold Medal and Stanley Cup Championship. All-in-all, the career of Dominik Hasek can be summed up in one word … DECISIVE! (You thought I was going to say “dominant,” didn’t ‘ya?”)
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