Not every player shines at age 18. Some folks need a bit more time in the oven before a scout feels that they could ever be NHL ready. Even if we only look as far as the Senators' roster, both Jesse Winchester and Ryan Shannon went through their eligible NHL drafts without being picked. With the recent addition of Craig Schira to the list of undrafted players in the Senators' system, it seems appropriate to look around the league at other signings of undrafted players that ended up panning out for NHL teams.
A look back at undrafted players finds some pretty notable players: Ed Belfour, Dino Ciccarelli, Geoff Courtnall, Curtis Joseph, Joe Mullen, Adam Oates, Peter Stastny, Steve Thomas, and most importantly, "Mad" Mike Milbury. And while it is doubtful that any of the current players who were undrafted will eventually trade away Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt and Jason Spezza for Alexei Yashin, there are some very solid players currently in the NHL who were ignored on draft day:
10. Dwayne Roloson
|2008 - Dwayne Roloson||48||2688||23||17||6||3||123||2.75||1463||1340||.916||1|
Getting good goaltending is hard enough to find within drafts, but finding an undrafted goalie who can lead a team to the Stanley Cup Finals is even more rare. Sure, his stats this year are not as impressive as one would hope for, but if the Oilers manage to hold onto their playoff spot, I have to imagine that Roloson could pull out one last great playoff performance before he retires.
9. John Madden
|2008 - John Madden||6||16||22||-4||20|
John Madden has never been a player where statistics tell the story. One of the better shutdown centremen of the past decade, Madden is among the best in the league at shadowing the opposition's top scorers and keeping them off the score sheet. Though he was passed over in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, he has now played more games than all but 34 of those players drafted that year. The Devils can only hope for as bright a future
8. Rene Bourque
|2008 - Rene Bourque||21||19||40||18||70|
Bourque is having a career year, scoring over 20 goals and leading the Flames in plus/minus. He's also second only to Curtis Glencross in hits by a Calgary forward, fitting beautifully into that mold of gritty but talented players that Flames fans and management seem to love.
7. Chris Kunitz
|2008 - Chris Kunitz||19||21||40||12||55|
Kunitz was a large factor in the Anaheim Ducks team that stole the Stanley Cup from the mighty grasp of Daniel Alfredsson. To make matters worse, guess who signed him as a free agent? Bryan Murray, of course. Recently traded to Pittsburgh, Kunitz has played above a point-per-game pace with the Pens.
6. Jason Blake
|2008 - Jason Blake||22||29||51||2||30|
It's hard to judge Blake's performance the past few years. Yes, he has had over 50 points in five of his last six seasons, but are these numbers inflated because he has played top-line minutes, or deflated because of his mediocre teams? Either way, it doesn't matter. All that matters is that he cheats in shootouts.
5. Andy McDonald
|2008 - Andy McDonald||10||20||30||-12||20|
Though McDonald will almost certainly never have another 85 point season like he did with the Ducks in 05/06, he is still a great player who continues to put up good numbers. McDonald is currently sixth on his team in points, despite missing half the season due to injury. Okay, part of that may be because he plays for the St. Louis Blues... perhaps a large part.
4. Martin St. Louis
|2008 - Martin St. Louis||24||41||65||7||10|
There may be a bit of bias in putting Marty this high on the list (I'm 5'6", and am guilty of cheering on the little guy, including Theo Fleury, Muggsy Bogues, and Rocky Balboa when he fought Ivan Drago). I feel it's quite deserved, though, as this is a guy who managed to win the Art Ross, Hart, and Stanley Cup all in the same season, and has more points this year than teammate Vinnie Lecavalier. Not bad for a guy who put up great college numbers only to get passed over in his Draft year due to his size.
3. Niklas Backstrom
|2008 - Niklas Backstrom||54||3100||29||19||4||3||120||2.32||1541||1421||.922||6|
In three seasons with the Wild, Backstrom has always been above .920 for SV%, and below 2.33 for GAA. This year, he is fifth in the league in save percentage, fourth in goals against average, and tied for second in shutouts. Backstrom also helped lead Finland to a silver medal at the 2006 Olympic games in Turin. One of the best goalies in the league right now, it's a marvel he wasn't drafted.
2. Brian Rafalski
|2008 - Brian Rafalski||8||43||51||12||16|
After being ignored in the Draft, Rafalski went to Finland and tore up the SM-liiga, eventually leading to The Sporting News calling him the best hockey player in the world not currently in he NHL. Second only to Mike Green in points by a defenseman this year so far (and leading the league in assists by a D-man), Rafalski has put up tremendous numbers the past two seasons as a member of the offensely-minded Detroit Red Wings.
1. Dan Boyle
|2008 - Dan Boyle||14||31||45||10||46|
There are many reasons why the Sharks are Stanley Cup favourites this year, and Boyle is certainly one of them. Every team seems to be searching for offensive defensive these days, and Boyle is one of the best in the league. He helped the Lightning win the Cup in 2004, and he'd like to do the same with the Sharks this year.