Everyone has heard the common saying to "Never Give Up." Though some call it a cliche and can often ignore it from a companion, a number of NHL players have proven that those three words can be life changing.
The common NHL team, coach, general manager and fan will get much more excited about a first-overall selection than an undrafted player. But another key piece of life? Remember that things aren't always what they appear to be.
Some of the greatest NHL players ever weren't even drafted. In fact, there's a good chance when you scroll through the 15 players on this list, you'll be surprised to find out some of them were never drafted. Meanwhile, we see major draft busts every single season. Many guys that were supposed to be the next great one ended up being major disappointments.
Here, we take a look at the 15 greatest undrafted NHL players, and when and where they should have been drafted.
15 Pascal Dupuis: Boston Bruins
IN THE YEAR TWO THOUSAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND (you Conan O'Brien fans know what I mean)...
The Boston Bruins draft Pascal Dupuis -- at least, that's what should have happened. He signed with the newly-formed Minnesota Wild in 2000, despite a 105-point season in his final QMJHL season. Dupuis had a solid career in Minnesota, but infamously became one of Sidney Crosby's favorite linemates.
He finished with 190 career goals and 409 points, winning the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. Dupuis could have had far better totals, but a near-fatal blood clot and other injuries limited him to 73 games over the final three seasons of his career.
But when healthy, Dupuis was a reliable top-line forward. Boston wasted their seventh-overall pick in 2000 on defenceman Lars Jonsson, who played just eight NHL games.
14 Sergei Bobrovsky: Phoenix Coyotes
Sergei Bobrovsky came out of almost nowhere to become one of the most dominant goalies over the last few years. He spent four seasons in the KHL but didn't accumulate much success. Nonetheless, the Philadelphia Flyers signed him in 2010, and Bobrovsky returned the favour handsomely.
In his rookie year (2010-11), he went 28-13-8 with a 2.72 goals against average and .919 save percentage. After another year in Philadelphia, he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he's emerged as a top netminder. He nearly single-handedly carried Columbus to the playoffs in 2012-13, going 21-11-6 with a .932 save percentage. He won 32 games the following year and got the Jackets to the postseason.
The Phoenix Coyotes missed out on Bobrovsky in his draft-eligible year in 2006. They instead took Peter Mueller, who played three seasons with the team before being traded to the Colorado Avalanche.
13 Mark Giordano: Chicago Blackhawks
Mark Giordano had a pair of productive seasons with Owen Sound, and the Calgary Flames signed him to a contract in 2004 to play for their minor league team. Giordano didn't lock up a full-time roster spot until the 2008-09 season, but he's become one of the most underrated blueliners over the years.
He was in the midst of a Norris Trophy-winning season in 2014-15, scoring 11 goals and 48 points before a torn biceps tendon ended his season early. But his early efforts helped the Flames make the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Could you imagine Giordano on a Blackhawks team with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson? The Blackhawks instead took Cam Barker with the third-overall pick in 2004, and he's one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory.
12 Chris Kunitz: Columbus Blue Jackets
When his career ends, Chris Kunitz better be remembered as one of the most underrated players ever. His 25 goals and 60 points in the Anaheim Ducks Stanley Cup-winning 2007 season was overshadowed by what Teemu Selanne, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger and J.S. Giguere did.
And in Pittsburgh? Hard to get more exposure than Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Kunitz has won three Stanley Cups (two with Pittsburgh) and scored 140 goals between the 2010-11 and 2015-16 seasons. Oh, and he was on Team Canada's 2014 gold medal Olympic team.
In the stacked 2003 NHL Draft Class, the Blue Jackets just happened to strike out. They took Nikolay Zherdev with the fourth-overall pick. 16 guys in the first round became NHL All-Stars. Kunitz and Rick Nash on the same team? That would have been something to watch.
11 Dan Boyle: Vancouver Canucks
Dan Boyle had a long journey to the NHL. He played four years at Miami University and spent one season in the IHL before landing a contract with the Florida Panthers for the 1998-99 season. Boyle didn't discover his talents until he moved to the Tampa Bay Lightning. He broke out in 2002-03 with 13 goals and 53 points.
He was a key part of the Lightning's 2004 Stanley Cup-winning team. He spent six seasons with the San Jose Sharks, putting up a trio of 50-point seasons there. Boyle finished with 605 career points in 1,093 points and was also part of Canada's 2010 Olympic gold medal team.
Instead of the Canucks taking Dan Boyle, they drafted big defenceman Bryan Allen with the fourth-overall pick. Allen provided nice depth, but wasn't a top-tier blueliner like Boyle was. If this team paired him with Mattias Ohlund, who knows how much more the Canucks could have accomplished?
10 Brian Rafalski: Ottawa Senators
If the Ottawa Senators had Brian Rafalski, things could have turned out quite different for both franchises. The talented puck-moving blueliner didn't make his NHL debut until 1999-2000 with the New Jersey Devils. He was part of their Stanley Cup-winning team, scoring 32 points with a plus-21 rating.
Rafalski's Devils beat the Senators in a thrilling seven-game Eastern Conference Finals series in 2003, en route to the franchise's third Stanley Cup. Imagine if Ottawa had Rafalski that year?
Rafalski scored 79 goals and 515 points in his NHL career. Ottawa instead drafted Bryan Berard with the first-overall pick in 1995, but the standout blueliner never played a game with them. Rafalski and Chris Phillips could have made one dynamic pairing, and it could have led to a Stanley Cup.
9 Martin St. Louis: Nashville Predators
Martin St. Louis was one of the top goal-scorers in his prime. That's not often the case for players who stand at 5-8, 182 pounds. In 1998, the Flames signed St. Louis as an undrafted free agent, but he never fit in there. After he was passed over in the 2000 Expansion Draft, the Flames bought out St. Louis, who signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2000.
All St. Louis did was win two scoring titles (2004 and 2013), while helping the Lightning win the 2004 Stanley Cup. St. Louis also won the Hart Trophy that same year, along with three Lady Byng Trophies and one Lester B. Pearson award. He won gold with Canada at the 2014 Olympics and finished with 391 goals and 1,033 points in 1,134 games.
The Nashville Predators could have used the accomplished superstar, but they selected centre David Legwand with the second-overall selection in 1998. He did not come close to superstardom nor a Hall of Fame-caliber career like St. Louis.
8 Borje Salming: St. Louis Blues
Borje Salming became one of the first European players to make it to the NHL. The Toronto Maple Leafs sent scouts to find players in Sweden, and came away with Salming in 1973. He became one of the franchise's most dominant players of all-time, and paved the way for international players to join the greatest league in the world.
Salming was one of the few standouts on a Maple Leafs squad that struggled for much of the '70s and most of the '80s. He scored 70 points four years in a row from 1976-77 to 1979-80. Salming finished with 787 points in 1,148 points, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996.
The St. Louis Blues should have drafted Salming, because they took John Davidson with the fifth-overall pick in 1973. He played in 301 NHL games, but wasn't quite a star and only played two seasons with the Blues.
7 Joe Mullen: Detroit Red Wings
Despite four incredible seasons with the Boston College Eagles, nobody drafted Joe Mullen. He signed with the St. Louis Blues for the 1979-80 season and spent some years with their CHL minor league team.
Mullen made his doubters pay, becoming one of the league's most dominant pure-goal scorers. He had six seasons of scoring at least 40 goals, and was a key piece in the Pittsburgh Penguins winning the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992. He finished with 502 career goals and 1,063 points.
The Detroit Red Wings chose Mike Foligno with the third pick in the 1979 NHL Draft. Mullen and Steve Yzerman sure has a nice ring to it, as does Sergei Fedorov with the two. Yes, Detroit won championships without Mullen. But perhaps he could have helped them become a major dynasty in the '90s.
6 Curtis Joseph: New York Islanders
Curtis Joseph was one of the premier NHL goalies of his era. For an undrafted player, he managed to win 454 games, played in three All-Star Games and was part of Team Canada's legendary 2002 gold medal-winning team.
CuJo had seven seasons of 30-plus wins in his career, helping the Toronto Maple Leafs become one of the NHL's premier teams from 1998-99 to 2001-02. But what if he had gone to the New York Islanders, who had some promising teams led by Pat LaFontaine and Pierre Turgeon?
The Islanders used the second-overall pick to land Dave Chyzowski, who had just 31 points in 126 NHL games. Joseph could have easily become the franchise building block for the Islanders, but they never had a reliable goalie once the '80s dynasty ended. Perhaps Joseph would have changed that.
5 Dino Ciccarelli: Washington Capitals
From going undrafted to reaching the Hockey Hall of Fame, it was quite a career for Dino Ciccarelli. Though lost in the shuffle when it comes to mentioning the top players of the '80s and '90s, Ciccarelli was among the top of his era. He's part of the 600-goal club,finishing with 608 tallies that put him 18th all-time. Ciccarelli spent his best years with the Minnesota North Stars, playing with them from 1980-81 to 1988-89.
Though Ciccarelli did wind up playing four seasons with the Washington Capitals, they could have used his services much earlier. Ciccarelli could have and should have been the fifth-overall pick in 1980. The Capitals instead chose Darren Veitch, who had just 257 points in 511 NHL games.
Ciccarelli, on the other hand, was one of the best pure-goal scorers of all-time. He and Mike Gartner could have formed quite the duo together in Washington.
4 Adam Oates: Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins were star-studded in the '90s, and it was completely unfair just how many future Hall of Famers they had. Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Joe Mullen, Ron Francis, Larry Murphy, Luc Robitaille and Kevin Stevens round out some of the many stars on the Pens in the '90s.
But they also could have added Adam Oates (Pictured Left), the man who is 17th all-time in points with 1,420. The five-time All-Star put up four 100-point seasons in a career that spanned nearly two full decades. He carried both the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals to new heights in the '90s, even though the supporting cast around him wasn't that great compared to others.
Pittsburgh took Craig Simpson with the second-overall pick in 1985. Though he won two Stanley Cups in Edmonton, he only played three seasons with the Penguins before moving on. As such, the Pens should have went with Oates.
3 Ed Belfour: Quebec Nordiques
Eddie the Eagle ranks third all-time in wins with 484. Because he played in the same era as Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur and Dominik Hasek, he's often forgotten when it comes to discussing the absolute best goalies ever.
Ed Belfour won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999, gold with Team Canada at the 2002 Winter Olympics, two Vezina Trophies and four William M. Jennings Trophies. He was simply on another level when it came to handling his crease. He could have done so much for the Norqidues, perhaps they wouldn't have had to move to Colorado after all.
The Nordiques made some great selections in their history, namely Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin and Owen Nolan, among others. However, they took Curtis Leschyshyn with the third-overall pick in 1988. He did play 1,033 NHL games, but he wasn't a game-changer for two decades like Belfour was.
2 Peter Stastny: Montreal Canadiens
Like the previously mentioned Borje Salming, Peter Stastny was one of the first Europeans to join the NHL. He became one of the league's greatest players during the '80s, going from undrafted to perhaps the greatest European-born NHLer ever.
Stastny joined the Quebec Nordiques in 1980, and his 1,048 points with the franchise is far-and-away the most in the team's history. He put up 100 points every year from 1980-81 to 185-86. He was one of the most consistent scorers of his era, playing in six All-Star Games and being ranked by The Hockey News as the 56th-greatest NHL player of all-time.
Could you imagine if Stastny joined the Montreal Canadiens? That'd be a passing of the torch from Guy Lafleur to Stastny. The Habs drafted Doug Wickenheiser with the top selection in 1980, but he never turned into the star that Stastny became. Make that the legend Stastny was.
1 Wayne Gretzky: Minnesota North Stars
His 894 career goals, 2,857 points and 215 points in a season are among the countless records that will not be broken. What else can we tell you about Wayne Gretzky? He's the only player ever to have his number (99), retired league-wide and he was called "The Great One" for a reason.
Gretzky signed with the Edmonton Oilers when they were part of the World Hockey Association. Once the two merged, Gretzky was kept by the Oilers and managed to win four Stanley Cups with them. But what if he was available in the 1978 NHL Draft?
The North Stars took Bobby Smith with the top pick in 1978. Now Smith was a star with 1,036 points in 1,077 games, but nobody can compare to The Great One. If Gretzky went to Minnesota, they would have won championships and not have moved to Dallas. That's how great he was. He could turn any team into a powerhouse for many years.
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