So much leads up to the NHL Draft each summer. Who is Boston going to score with Toronto’s pick from when they traded Kessel? What deals will be made at the trade deadline that involve draft picks, and what can a team get for a fourth rounder (last March, the Hurricanes traded Aaron Ward for a 4th round pick and Justin Pogge… it remains to be seen which will be more valuable in the long run, the pick or the player!)
As exciting as it is to see a guy like Taylor Hall, or Marc-Andre Fleury or Sidney Crosby go number one, I’m always more interested in the guys who didn’t make the cut but still excel in professional hockey, winning Stanley Cups, Calder Cups, and captaining future Calder Cup winning teams (I’m talking about Bryan Rodney of the Checkers, people!)
Seven rounds of 30 picks at the NHL draft takes a couple of days to get through, and not every 18 year old hopeful is going to get chosen. And just because a guy isn’t drafted by no means is a reason for them not to be extremely successful at the professional level. Dustin Penner, Martin St-Louis, Chad LaRose, Brian Rafalski, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz and Brett Lebda all went undrafted, yet have gone on to win the Stanley cup, sometimes multiple times with multiple teams.
So what happens to guys like Jacob Micflikier, Bryan Rodney, Ethan Graham, Matthew Pistilli, Mike McKenzie and Brad Herauf? They work even harder and claw their way up the rankings through training camp invites and PTO agreements. Rodney is under contract with the Hurricanes, but the others I mentioned have AHL contracts directly with the Checkers.
As a Hurricane’s fan, I’ve always been a fan of Chad LaRose. He’s a smaller player, but he plays huge. He’s scrappy, aggressive and a bit chirpy, which I like on my team. LaRose wasn’t drafted out of juniors, but he never gave up. He fought his way through the ECHL and AHL for three and a half seasons, finally getting called up the year the Hurricanes won the cup. He’s a versatile player, and a lot of fun to watch. I see a lot of that drive and determination in other Checkers players.
Jacob Micflikier is quickly becoming a favorite of mine to watch. Again, he’s a smaller player, but not in the way he plays. To preserve his NCAA eligibility, he played in the USHL for a couple of seasons, then went to a great hockey school, and has found his way up the ranks to his current stay in Charlotte. He’s the kind of player I think is pivotal to the foundation of an AHL team like we have in Charlotte. I like the way Micflikier gets in there and doesn’t give up, game in and game out. He’s definitely leaving his mark in Charlotte, and I like it a lot.
I wouldn’t be surprised if guys like these who might not have been in the top 210 the year of their draft go on to have hugely successful professional careers.