This article was originally published in July, 2013.
Over the last few decades, the NHL Entry Draft has been supplying NHL teams with a number of players that have eventually gone on to help the team that drafted them in a number of ways. While drafting players in the hope that they will one day influence an NHL lineup is a perfectly sound plan, there are a number of players that are passed over in the NHL Draft only to be signed as free agents down the line.
Despite the fact that many drafted players have somewhat of a route paved for them when it comes to ascending the ranks to the NHL level, a number of undrafted players have made a name for themselves over the years. Undrafted offensive players such as David Desharnais have certainly made an impact at the NHL level, but that is not to say that only undrafted forwards can have an impact on an NHL team or franchise. Even though large parts of a hockey team’s successful or unsuccessful play can be predicated on the team’s ability to properly play offense and defense, the role and importance of a good goaltender should not be dismissed.
Of course, any team would love to find a Henrik Lundqvist stashed in the deeper portions of an NHL Draft, but there have been a number of goalies who have found their way to the NHL after not being drafted and have had successful careers despite not having their name called during their respective draft proceedings.
Undrafted NHL Goalie #10: Glenn Healy
Glenn Healy might not have had the best statistics throughout his playing career, but the goalie was more than serviceable as a member of the Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, and Toronto Maple Leafs. Healy’s most memorable playing moments probably came during his time in the New York area as he helped the New York Islanders during their surprising ’92-’93 Stanley Cup Playoffs run and won a Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in the following year.
While Healy was an instrumental part of the New York Islanders’ playoff run during the early 90s, the goalie might just be remembered for the way that he played with the New York Rangers while the team’s number one netminder, Mike Richter, was injured. Despite the fact that Healy never really established himself as a “go-to” number one goalie in the NHL, he was always a goalie that could shoulder any workload presented to him, and one that rose to the occasion when his team needed him the most.
Undrafted NHL Goalie #9: Jon Casey
Jon Casey spent twelve seasons in the NHL and was a staple in the Minnesota North Stars’ crease for eight of his twelve years of NHL service. While Casey finished off the later portion of his career as a member of the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins, his best moments undoubtedly came as a North Star as the goalie took the team to the 1991 Stanley Cup Final.
Although Casey never won a Stanley Cup in his playing career, he was an integral part of the North Stars during the mid-to-late 80s and early 90s as he helped the team reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs four years in a row from 1988-1992. Throughout his time in the NHL, Casey posted 170 total regular season wins and added 32 more wins in the postseason. Even though Casey might not have been an elite netminder during his time in the NHL, he sure was quite a find for an undrafted goalie of his time.
Undrafted NHL Goalie #8: Chico Resch
Glenn “Chico” Resch played for a total of three teams during his fourteen season career in the NHL, but he certainly left an imprint on two of the franchises that he played for. While Resch is currently the New Jersey Devils’ T.V color commentator, the goalie was an instrumental part of the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils during his playing career. As a member of the Islanders, Resch not only won a Stanley Cup with the team in 1980, he helped build it into a contender.
To this day, Resch’s name still carries immense weight with all types of Islanders fans, and much the same can be said about the goalie in relation to his status with the New Jersey Devils and their fan-base. Despite the fact that Resch’s statistics took a hit as the Colorado Rockies relocated to New Jersey, the netminder never gave up on his team – regardless of the product on the ice or the results that followed. For an undrafted goalie that appeared in 571 games and won 231 of those contests, Resch certainly deserves to be considered a top ten undrafted NHL goalie.
Undrafted NHL Goalie #7: Sergei Bobrovsky
Sergei Bobrovsky had an unbelievable 2012-2013 NHL season with the Columbus Blue Jackets as he compiled a 21-11-6 record with a 2.00 GAA and a .932 Save Percentage. Of course, all eyes will be on Bobrovsky for the upcoming hockey season as many fans might be expecting some type of repeat performance from the Russian goalie, but the young netminder has given no reason to believe that he will falter in his second season in Columbus.
Despite the fact that Bobrovsky only has three years of NHL service under his belt, he has certainly demonstrated the ability needed to be a number one starting goalie during his time with the Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets. With Columbus’ impending shift to the Metropolitan Division, Bobrovsky will be facing some new talent when the 2013-2014 NHL season rolls around, but hockey fans should expect last year’s Vezina Trophy winner to adapt to his surroundings and circumstances – much like he has done over the last three years.
Undrafted NHL Goalie #6: Jonas Hiller
Jonas Hiller has been a key member of the Anaheim Ducks over the last six seasons, and the goalie has definitely proven his worth to his team since joining them for the 2007-2008 NHL season. As a member of the Ducks, Hiller has amassed a 133-97-25 record in 276 regular season games and has also gone 10-10 in twenty playoff games for Anaheim.
Although Viktor Fasth might have stolen some of Hiller’s lightning during the ’12-’13 NHL season, fans must remember that Hiller is currently the most successful Swiss goalie in the NHL as he has set the bar in every statistical category for Swiss netminders. While Hiller’s contract with the Anaheim Ducks will expire after the ’13-’14 NHL season, fans should expect the goalie to have no trouble keeping active duty as he becomes one of the NHL’s more seasoned goaltenders.
Undrafted NHL Goalie #5: Antti Niemi
There is no doubting the fact that Antti Niemi has come a long way since being a Zamboni driver in his native country of Finland. Back in 2009-2010, Niemi raised the Stanley Cup as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks after he helped guide the team through various Western Conference opponents and the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final.
Niemi’s time in Chicago might have been limited, but the goalie has shown why he was worth signing as he has registered a 93-52-21 record with the San Jose Sharks over the last three years. If Niemi’s performance during his first two seasons with the Sharks wasn’t enough to win over fans, the goalie certainly put in a convincing effort during the ’12-’13 season as he won 24 of the 43 games that he started and kept his GAA (2.16) and Save Percentage (.924) to a very respectable clip. With Alex Stalock seemingly the heir apparent to the Sharks’ goaltending duties and Niemi’s contract set to expire, the goalie might be a hot trade or free agent commodity for San Jose in the near future, but he will certainly be an asset to any team if he and the Sharks choose to part ways.
Undrafted NHL Goalie #4: Niklas Backstrom
Niklas Backstrom has been an integral member of the Wild since the 2006-2007 NHL season and has been a staple in Minnesota’s crease ever since he took over the duties of a starting netminder. Over seven seasons of play, Backstrom has played to the tune of a 184-124-45 record and has averaged a 2.43 GAA and .917 Save Percentage.
While injuries might have limited Backstrom during portions of some seasons, the Finnish goalie has only had one losing record (22-23-5 in 2010-2011) throughout his whole NHL career. Even though some might point to Minnesota’s trapping and defensive style of hockey as a reason for some of Backstrom’s earlier success with the Wild, hockey fans must remember that Backstrom hasn’t been blessed with the best goal support over the last couple of year – something that makes his contributions so much more valuable to his team.
Undrafted NHL Goalie #3: Dwayne Roloson
During his sixteen seasons in the NHL, Dwayne Roloson managed to play for the Calgary Flames, Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota Wild, Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, and Tampa Bay Lightning. Always known as a fierce competitor, “Roli” endeared himself to fans through determined and tough play.
Despite the fact that Roloson played for a number of teams throughout his career, he was a player that put forth his best efforts, regardless of the situation. While Roloson did not win a Stanley Cup during his playing career, he certainly helped many teams get to the playoffs. Not only did Roloson backstop the 2005-2006 Edmonton Oilers all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, he was a big reason for the Minnesota Wild’s 2002-2003 playoff success as well as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s advancement during the 2010-2011 postseason. Although Roloson might sport an uneven W-L-T-OTL record (227-257-42-40), the goalie managed to successfully transcend his craft to the post-lockout (2004-2006) era while his attitude, work ethic, and determination made him one of the most respectable netminders that the NHL and its fans have seen over the last few decades.
Undrafted NHL Goalie #2: Curtis Joseph
With 454 career wins and 51 shutouts, Curtis Joseph might have been one of the best undrafted goalies to never win a Stanley Cup. During his NHL career, “CuJo” played for the St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames, and Detroit Red Wings. As a member of five of the six aforementioned teams, Joseph recorded 30 or more wins with each of the franchises that he played for, except for the Calgary Flames.
While Joseph was a part of some powerhouse teams throughout his NHL career, he was also a workhorse as he appeared in 60 or more games in ten of his nineteen NHL seasons of play. Not only did Joseph excel during the regular season, he also shined in the postseason as he managed to amass 63 wins, a 2.42 GAA, and .917 Save Percentage over 133 postseason contests. The Hockey Hall of Fame might not be calling Joseph’s name in the very near future, but when it does, the goalie will surely be a lock for admittance.
Undrafted NHL Goalie #1: Ed Belfour
Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour was quite the competitor during his seventeen seasons of NHL service, and the goalie sure made the most of his playing time. As a member of the 1998-1999 Dallas Stars, Belfour won the Stanley Cup after he went 16-7 with a spectacular 1.67 GAA and .930 Save Percentage. Even though Belfour wound up two wins shy of repeating as a Stanley Cup champion during the following season (1999-2000), he put in just as many sterling performances during the Stars’ 2000 postseason run as he did in 1999.
Over the course of his career, Belfour racked up 484 wins and 76 shutouts – numbers that undoubtedly contributed to his nomination to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Much like Curtis Joseph, Belfour also had an impressive playoff resume as the netminder compiled an 88-68 W-L record over 161 appearances made in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Goalies such as Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur might hold many statistical records that Belfour could not have surpassed during his playing career, but the goalie will certainly be remembered as one of the game’s elite netminders.