Most hockey fans have likely never heard of the name Chad Costello, and for good reason. He has never played a single NHL game and is not a top prospect for the League either.
However, the 29-year-old is definitely an extremely talented hockey player. Perhaps, one who simply doesn’t get the opportunity he may deserve.
Costello is a three-time ECHL All-Star, has led the league in points twice, and is a two-time ECHL MVP. In his earlier career, he also led the United States Hockey League in points and was named to the NCAA All-Rookie Team in 2006-07.
So, obviously, Costello has some incredible hockey skills. The question is, why did he never find a spot in the NHL, or even the AHL for that matter?
NHL Draft Eligible Seasons
As an 18-year-old, Costello was playing for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL, where he would only score 15 points over 45 games. However, his development was clearly just scratching the surface.
The next year, Costello would play in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) for the Wichita Falls Wildcats. His offensive output saw vast improvements, and Costello’s confidence in himself grew. He would finish the year with 29 goals and 63 points in 56 games.
In his final NHL Draft eligible season, 2005-06, Costello returned to the USHL with the Cedar Rider Roughriders. His confidence transferred over, and Costello would go on to lead the league in points with 76. As a result, he drew significant NCAA interest and would commit to Northeastern University.
Brief NCAA Career
In 2006-07, Costello would be named to NCAA Hockey East All-Rookie Team after scoring 11 goals and 22 points in 32 games as a member of the Northeastern Huskies. The 21-year-old was finally garnering the interest he had deserved for his superior talents.
However, the following season would prove to be a difficult one for Costello. Over 27 games, he would score just three goals, and the progress he had made seemed to disintegrate in a matter of months. After diminished playing time, Costello decided he had a better opportunity in a professional hockey league, and left Northeastern after two seasons.
8-Year Battle in the CHL, ECHL and AHL
The following eight years have been all over the place, spending time in the IHL, CHL, ECHL, and AHL. Costello spent 2008-09 in the International Hockey League with the Muskegon Lumberjacks where he learned under the wings of some more mature teammates.
After that, Costello moved on to the CHL and ECHL, where he found annual success among the league’s best. For his performance, he was rewarded with a total of 40 AHL games spread out over the years. However, despite putting up 17 points over that time, he was never able to stick with any of the teams. So, back to the CHL or ECHL he went. Back to leading the league in points per game, but never getting the respect to even play full-time in the AHL.
Over the past five years, dating back to 2011, Costello has played most, or all, of four ECHL seasons. In 2013-14 he was injured and only played 14 games. However, in those four healthy years, Costello led the league in points per game each time.
In 2011-12, as a member of the Colorado Eagles, Costello scored 29 goals and 76 points in 47 games, picking up the Most Valuable Player award. The following season, Costello would again lead the ECHL in points per game, scoring 17 goals and 58 points in 36 games with the Eagles. As a result, he also earned 21 AHL games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
In 2014-15, Costello was now a member of the Allen Americans. He would lead the league in points and points per game, scoring a whopping 41 goals and 125 points in 72 games. Despite the outstanding year, he lost out on the MVP award to goaltender, Jeff Jakaitis.
Finally, in 2015-16, Costello would play a second consecutive full season for the Americans. While his offensive totals slipped to a still impressive 24 goals and 103 points, he was able to nab the MVP award for the second time in five years.
Why Does Costello Not Get Further Opportunities?
Costello’s offensive output in the ECHL may be some of the most impressive numbers the league has ever seen, so why doesn’t the 29-year-old get any further opportunities in the AHL?
For starters, he stands at just 5’9″ in an era that has become obsessed with size and physical abilities. He wasn’t able to blow away scouts during his slim time with the Sound Tigers, but three years later, why not give him another shot?
Costello has been the best player by a long shot in the ECHL, the league just below the AHL, over the last five years. He is still under 30 years of age and could certainly give an edge to many AHL teams. He deserves another shot to move up and prove his worth. After years in the ECHL, he has matured both as a hockey player and as a person.
Keep an eye on Chad Costello during the 2016-17 season. He will likely remain atop the ECHL scoring leaders, and hopefully, get some playing time in the AHL again.
Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at email@example.com or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.