This is part 2 of a tour of the seventh rounds of the modern NHL. We’re looking at who was smart or lucky enough to get a gem in the last few picks.
There are many defenders in today’s section, enough you might begin to wonder if anyone can judge defence. There are also many Leafs blunders. But this is the past! It can’t hurt us anymore.
This is a cursory look at this issue, and while it looks like more real players were taken late the farther back in time you go, giving credence to an unproven theory that drafting and scouting is better, it could just be random variance.
This is a much less exciting year than some in part 1. Technically there is one star because the Hurricanes took Frederik Andersen at 187th, but he declined their offer and was re-drafted two years later.
The Flames took Patrick Holland at 193rd and he had five games for the Canadiens, who signed him to an ELC for reasons only they understand back in 2013-2014, but he’s now going to the University of Victoria after a season in the Liiga.
At 198th, Nashville took Joonas Rask, who should be a goalie with that name, but is actually a centre. He played two games in the NHL, a season in the AHL, and has been playing for HIFK in the Liiga for four years. He’s a very good player there, so his ELC was less of a mistake and more of a reasonable shot that didn’t pan out.
The Flyers took Brendan Ranford (famous name alert) at 209th, and he had good junior results, so the ELC wasn’t so odd. He has one NHL game played, and is on the Eisbären roster next season. He won’t be meeting fellow player Colin Smith for the first time, they both spent a season together on the Rampage.
And last, and not at all least, the Bruins took Zach Trotman, a defender, at 210th. He has 70 NHL games and a very respectable 12 points. He did most of that in Boston, but he’s on team number three now with Pittsburgh, and looks to be an AHLer/call-up now.
The Leafs took Josh Nicholls at 182nd, and I’ll confess, I have no idea who he is. But after a fascinating North American career in the minors, some time in Germany, Czechia and Norway (!), he’s playing for Kunlun Red Star in the KHL next year.
In 2009, the Leafs didn’t have the first overall pick. Not until a few weeks ago, anyway. Meanwhile in the seventh round, there was some interesting selections.
At 182nd, the Wild took Erik Haula, and Vegas says thanks. Haula has 342 games and 144 points, 55 of them with Vegas last year in only 76 games played.
At 186th, the Kings took Jordan Nolan, son of Ted. And he’s played 361 gritty games in the NHL, but also has 50 points. He’s a modern depth grinder. He’s moved on to the St. Louis Blues now, and that’s a tougher lineup to crack. I see AHL in his future.
The Flyers took Oliver Lauridsen, a defender, at 196th, and after only 16 NHL games, he’s now a fixture on Jokerit in the KHL.
Boston took Ben Sexton at 206th, and he played two NHL games last season for Ottawa. Nearly everyone who bought a ticket got in a game, so that’s not really any indication he’s anything but an AHLer.
Detroit took defender Adam Almqvist at 210th, and he has two NHL games too. And that’s another mystery ELC signing. He stuck out the AHL for two years and then went to the KHL before returning to the SHL. I would have seen him play last year several times, and he made no impression. And he’s moved down a level now to the Swiss league. Can anyone tell if a defender is good?
Speaking of, the Leafs took Barron Smith, and...that’s a pseudonym for the son of a certain President, right? It turns out Smith, a defender...wait, this guy had 86 total games played in the OHL over three years! He did parlay his hockey skills, such as they are, into a stint in USports at the University of Alberta, so good for him. He tried some level of pro hockey, and seems to have retired. Glad you got to use your junior scholarship though, Mr Smith. What an astonishing pick, even for the Leafs of those days.
This year adds a little to my growing feeling that no one at all knows a defender when they see one.
The Thrashers took defender Zach Redmond at 184th, and he has 133 NHL games played on various teams, mostly Colorado. He is an excellent human being, and so very, very close to an NHL defender. He’s on an AHL deal with Rochester this year, where he is very popular.
At 186th, the Sharks chose Jason Demers, a defender. He has 573 NHL games played and 191 points, and is that guy teams keep trading. He’s now, looking it up, with Arizona.
Columbus took Sean Collins at 187th and he has 21 unimpressive games played and is now with Sochi in the KHL.
The Leafs grabbed up Andrew MacWilliam, a defender, at 188th, and signed him to an ELC, played him 12 games, and he is now Redmond’s teammate in Rochester on an AHL deal.
The Panthers took defender Matt Bartkowski, who has 253 games played, 47 points, and is now with the Wild, but seems to be transitioning to a full-time AHLer.
The Flyers selected goalie Joacim Eriksson, and he has one NHL start with a GAA of 9.99! That was with the Canucks as a free agent signing. He’s had a very good SHL career, however, primarily as a tandem or backup goalie on good teams.
Washington took Stefan Della Rovere at 204th, signed him, and then traded him to St. Louis where they played him seven games. He’s in the British league this year after a tour of hockey teams that includes the Solar Bears, and the Alps league. Their slogan is they’re the highest low-level league in Europe.
Nashville took goalie Anders Lindback at 207th, and he’s been everywhere and has racked up 130 NHL games. He’s very, very close to being an NHL backup, but not quite. He’s talking about going back to Europe as he has no contract.
This is the year where the Leafs combine with the “what is a defenceman, anyway” trend and a little luck to give the team a draft-day win.
At 194th, the Leafs took Carl Gunnarsson, and he has played 556 NHL games so far with 112 points. If he were still on the Leafs, we’d be arguing whether he’s past it, but then that’s fans for you.
At 200th, the Wild took Carson McMillan, who played 16 games for them over the years of his ELC and then signed an AHL deal with the Marlies, played in Orlando, was traded to Bridgeport, and then moved over to Europe. He’s in the DEL this season. His ELC at least was based on a hot final year in junior.
One pick later, the Sharks took defender Justin Braun, a man who doesn’t get a lot of respect, but has 529 games played and 138 points. He is not slowing down at 31, he’s speeding up, and had a career high in points last season.
At 203rd the Sharks picked again, and they chose Frazer McLaren. He had 102 NHL games and 11 points. Sixty-two of those gloriously purposeless games were with the Leafs. He retired in 2016.
At 205th, the Thrashers took Paul Postma, yet another defender, and he has 205 games played and 35 points. He played almost entirely with the Jets, but was signed by Boston last summer. He barely played, and is currently without a contract.
To get the ball rolling in 2006, Chicago took Peter Leblanc at 186th. He’s played one NHL game, and it was with Washington seven years post draft. Chicago didn’t actually sign him until 2012, however, and then traded him to Washington the next year. He’d been playing on an AHL deal, and had one really hot year along with Brandon Pirri, Jeremy Morin, Ben Smith and Andrew Shaw. That’s a hell of a team, and I guess they figured why not see if he had grown. Last year he played in the British league.
At 189th, Columbus picked Derek Dorsett. He had 515 games and 127 points with the Canucks before “retiring” due to chronic injuries. He’ll spend the coming year on LTIR.
Phoenix took Benn Ferriero at 196th and he had 98 games with 23 points. He never played with Phoenix, but was signed after his rights expired by the Sharks. His scouting report says he was a great skater, so maybe that’s why three NHL teams gave him a try. He retired from hockey in 2016 after one year in Europe and an attempt at a comeback in the AHL.
The Thrashers took Arturs Kulda, a defender, at 200th and he has 15 games and 2 points. He exited the NHL by way of an odyssey to Winnipeg as the team moved, then to St. John’s to play for the IceCaps. Then he said to hell with this, I might as well go to actual Siberia. He played for a season in Novosibirsk before moving around the KHL to a few other teams. Kunlun Red Star tried him (seriously, they’ll give anyone a shot) and then he ended up in the Czech league. He seems to be looking for a job right now.
At 202nd, the Sharks took John McCarthy and he got into 88 games and put up six points. He absolutely must be a great guy. The Sharks kept trying him, traded him to the Blues, and then signed him the next year to an AHL deal, and he’s still with them. He is the captain of the Barracuda. Success comes in many forms, and 12 years of pro hockey in California is nothing to sneeze at.
At 210th, the Thrashers took Will O’Neill, a defender who played one game for the Flyers. The weird part is it was just last year. He’s on an AHL deal in Wilkes-Barre now.
Ottawa took Erik Condra at 211th, and he’s had 366 NHL games with 98 points while playing for the Senators and the Lightining, neither of whom could quite decide if he’s an NHLer or not. Dallas has him now, and he will likely play a lot of AHL again. He reminds me a lot of Josh Leivo.
The Leafs didn’t have a seventh rounder in this draft, so they couldn’t do something stupid with it.
This is the year that I chose the picture up top for. The first overall was Sidney Crosby, of course, but in the seventh round, many interesting things happened.
At 195th, the Penguins picked Joe Vitale who played 234 games and had 44 points. He played with PIttsburgh for years, moved on to Arizona, and spent one year on Detroit’s payroll, but didn’t play. He was traded for the Datsyuk contract, but he was suffering from a career-ending concussion and never played again.
At 200th, Montréal took Sergei Kostitsyn, and he had 353 NHL games and 176 points. He played for the Habs and the Preds and then went to the KHL where he’s moved around. He’s now with Dinamo Minsk along with his brother. They’ve mostly played together over there, but they don’t stick with a team for long.
At 204th, Ottawa took our man Colin Greening. He was their man for a long time, and put up 286 NHL games and 102 points before they accidentally overpaid him, and the Leafs took him in the Phaneuf trade. He’s a Calder Cup champ, might well be the Marlies captain this year, and we’re lucky to have him. He actually played 30 games for the Leafs in the tank year, and had a well above career average 15 points. How did the Leafs ever come last?
The Rangers chose Ryan Russell at 211, and he had 41 games and two points. He played all those games in one season for Columbus, and I assume they just had no other forwards. He tried the SHL for a couple of years, the British league for one and retired in 2016.
And, sadly, it’s that time again to tell you that the Leafs did the stupid defenceman trick again, and took Anton Stralman at 216th. He has 702 games and counting in the NHL with 225 points, and his coach once said he’s never going to win the Norris, but his partner will. And that turned out to be true. Our consolation is two other teams lost him too.
At 222nd, the Avalanche chose Kyle Cumiskey, a defender, who had 139 games and 35 points. After kicking around various teams, he tried the SHL where he could score big, and then he tried to come back. That did not go well, and he retired in 2017 after one final year in Sweden.
Back to the Leafs. At 228th, they took Chad Rau (brother of Kyle), and he got a contract with Minnesota eventually and played nine games. He also ended up on Kunlun Red Star, and then better KHL teams. He’s trying out Slovan Bratislava this year.
And the very last name called at the 2005 draft was, of course, the other man in that photo. Patric Hornqvist went to the Predators at 230th. He has 649 games played, 411 points, loves to argue with Crosby, and has won the Stanley Cup twice. Success comes in many forms, but that’s the best version you can have.
The Leafs draft so much better than they used to, so it’s not a stretch to assume another seventh rounder will come up big someday. As big as Hornqvist or Stralman? Who knows, but I’m telling you there’s a chance.