A recent post discussed the opinion that recent re-signee Ryan Kesler was the steal of the 2003 draft. I found it a bit difficult to call anyone from the first round an actual "steal", given that those players were assumed to have the strongest change of making an impact in the NHL. More accurately, anyone who was selected far below their expected draft position, then made an impact more in tune with previous expectations would be considered "steals"...
But looking that up would take way, WAY too much work for my lazy ass.
So who, among current players, are the lucky strikes? I've looked through all the drafts from 2009 back to see who is currently the best players grabbed using the "Here's the remainders, where are my darts?" technique, trying to make a full team of them (13 forwards, 7 defence, 3 goalies), limiting myself to the sixth round and later.Before I started, I was expecting to see goalies and defencemen heavily weighted in my choices: they generally take longer to develop, and more teams seem to be comfortable taking a flutter on someone that thy might not see for another five years. Also, each time the league expands, the later the draft goes. A seventh round pick in 1990, for instance, could be the 127th player picked; whereas in 2009 that player's at position 182. So I expected the majority of players on this list would be from earlier years.
I also made a half team (6 forwards, 3 defence 1 goalie) of undrafted players, just because I haven't wasted enough time on this yet. The NHL limited themselves to seven rounds of drafting as of 2005, and only went 9 deep from 1995, so I expected the number of undrafted players making the team to have started their careers fairly recently.
Let's see if my suspicions were borne out:
Team Late Bloomers:
Centre: Craig Conroy
Drafted 6th round (123rd over all) in 1990 by Montreal. Playing mostly as a penalty killer in Calgary today, has had a bunch of injury trouble this year. Flames were hoping for 40 points, but he won't hit twenty.
Centre: Antti Miettinen
Drafted 7th round (224th over all) in 2000 by Dallas. Good two-way forward; not overly physical, but will get 40 points as a checker. Has 37 points in 68 games with Dallas.
Forward (anywhere): Pavol Demitra
Drafted 9th round (227th over all) in 1993 by Ottawa. Still expected to be a scoring forward, got 53 points in 69 games last season, and massive injury time this one. Not what Vancouver wanted, but there you are.
Right Wing: Mike Grier
Drafted 9th round (219th over all) in 1993 by St. Louis. Used mostly as a defencive forward, plays balls-out every shift. Has 19 points in 60 games this season for Buffalo.
Forward (anywhere): Henrik Zetterberg
Drafted 7th round (210th over all) in 1999 by Detroit. Well, duh.
Winger (either side): Tom Kostopoulos
Drafted 7th round (204th over all) in 1999 by Pittsburgh. A solid defender who can chip in once in a while and is looked to for leadership. Has 19 points in 70 games with Carolina.
Winger (either side): Andrew Brunette
Drafted 7th round (174th over all) in 1993 by Washington. Consistent, healthy 20-goal man, Only average speed, but he's got good finish. Has 53 points in 70 games with Minnesota so far.
Winger (either side): Tomas Holmstrom
Drafted 10th round (257th over all) in 1994 by Detroit. Garbage goal specialist, has 20 goals with Detroit this season, and none for them from more than ten feet away (probably).
Left Wing: Steve Sullivan
Drafted 9th round (233rd over all) in 1994 by New Jersey. Classic "water bug" style player: quick and small. Occasionally squished like one, too, leading to a history of injuries. Has 43 points in 71 games with Nashville so far.
Left Wing: Matt Cooke
Drafted 6th round (144th over all) in 1997 by Vancouver. Plays on, across, through and all around "the line". Good speed, and manages to draw as many penalties as he takes. Good for around 30 points and enraged opponents.
Right Wing: Daniel Alfredsson
Drafted 6th round (133rd over all) in 1994 by Ottawa. Point-per-game career isn't letting up with 56 points in 59 games so far this season; he never lets up either, leading to niggling injuries since his second season.
Centre: Sammy Pahlsson
Drafted 7th round (176th over all) in 1996 by Colorado. Shut down forward and solid face-off man. The only problem being he can't score, and the opponent's top line is on the ice a lot. Eleven points in 68 games with Columbus this season.
Winger (either side): Martin Erat
Drafted 7th round (191th over all) in 1999 by Nashville. Not so much a fast skater as a very quick one: quick moves, tough to hit, wicked shot. Has 46 points in 64 games with Nashville.
Drafted 8th round (199th over all) in 1996 by New Jersey. Loves playing the shut-down guy to the opponents best forwards. Can't pass, mediocre shot which he tries any way. History of injury trouble, concussed right now, has 12 points and is a +13 in 48 games so far in Vancouver.
Drafted 6th round (162nd over all) in 1998 by Montreal. As 28 points in 34 games might tell you, a very good offensive defenseman. Good point shot and can carry the puck well.
Drafted 8th round (241st over all) in 1999 by San Jose. Huge, bruising play who loves his job. Such a solid defenseman that he doesn't like goals at either end of the ice (maybe it's the colour red?). Has 13 points in 68 games.
Drafted 7th round (179th over all) in 1996 by Tampa Bay. Great size, good shot, lousy wheels. Has 37 points in 69 games with Atlanta.
Drafted 8th round (204th over all) in 1996 by Toronto. Good awareness of the play, makes great passes, is sad the "rover" position is no longer in hockey. Has 47 points in 71 games with Toronto.
Drafted 7th round (164th over all) in 1995 by Montreal. Solid all around player, discovered an offensive touch late in his career. Has 10 goals and 38 points with Dallas this year.
Drafted 9th round (262nd over all) in 2004 by Montreal. Huge shot and can carry the attack very well. Not the best protecting the puck, but gets it on net hard and fast. Has 39 points in 71 games with Long Island.
Drafted 7th round (205th over all) in 2000 by Manhattan. Having his worst season in the NHL; of course, in his case that's a .918 save percentage and a 2.47 goals against in 62 games.
Goaltender: Tomas Vokoun
Drafted 9th round (226 over all) by Montreal. Unpredictable to friends and foes alike, that usually works in his favour. Has a .928 save percentage in 58 games for Florida this year.
Goaltender: Evgeni Nabokov
Drafted 9th round (219th over all) in 1994 by San Jose. Has played for San Jose his NHL entire career, and has yet to be blamed for their early playoff exits (for good reason). Has 37 wins in 61 games so far.
There's obviously going to be a lot of players missing from the list - it was especially deep at defence - so go ahead and sing out if you think there's someone that should be on but isn't. Just don't forget to mention who they replace!
So, what's Team Undrafted look like? It starts out strong, I must say:
Winger (either side): Martin St. Louis
Signed by Calgary in 1998. Has 82 points in 70 games so far in Tampa Bay. Six of his 24 goals are game winners. So much for "too small".
Winger (either side): Dustin Penner
Signed by Anaheim in 2004. Has 26 goals in 71 games on a desperate Edmon team. Definitely NOT "too small" in any way that matters to fans.
Winger (either side): Alexandre Burrows
Signed by Vancouver in 2003. Having his third year of declining penalty minutes and increasing point production. A frequent linemate of the Sedin twins, but an excellent skater and shorthanded defender. Has 59 points (with 5 short handed goals) in 72 games.
Forward (anywhere): Steven Reinprecht
Signed by Los Angeles in 2000. A fast skater who's good defensively, he has 37 points in 69 games (and a +7) in Florida this season.
Winger (either side): Jed Ortmeyer
Signed by Manhattan in 2003. Defencive specialist with 17 points in 68 games with San Jose this year. But could someone please trade him back to Nashville? LOOK AT THAT NAME!
Left Wing: Chris Kunitz
Signed by Anaheim in 2003. He gives Pittsburgh a hard grinding forechecker with a pretty good scoring touch. Has 29 points in 43 games this year - a bad one with a surgery and injuries. The exception, rather than the rule.
Signed by New Jersey in 1999. Has 37 points in 66 games this year. Whip smart player who runs a power play with deadly accuracy - just what Detroit needs, yeah? Sheesh.
Signed by Florida in 1998. Smooth skater and skilled offensive defenceman, has 49 points in 65 games with San Jose this year.
Signed by Edmonton in 2001. Exclusively a power play specialist, he's got 28 points in 51 games with Montreal before being injured this year. He can also, in a pinch, play wing.
Signed by Calgary in 1994. Has 22 wins in 44 games with a young Islanders team. Bringing in more reliable goaltending than Rick "Cap'n Snappy" DiPietro.
Again, I'm sure I've missed someone's favourite (Hey! Where's Vernon Fiddler, damn it?") so go ahead and let me know I'm wrong!