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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

Not drafted? No problem!

For most NHL players, the start of their pro career comes on a magical day in June known as the NHL entry draft. Alongside family and agents, young men aged 18 or older crowd into an NHL arena with the hopes that they will hear their name called by one of 32 franchises. This day is surely life altering for these players and their families, whether or not they ever make it to the NHL.

All this being said, it is important to note that not being drafted is not the end of the road for a player's career. Many successful NHLers were never drafted, instead signing a free agent contract with a NHL franchise. Some players may be late bloomers, or were just not selected as there is only a limited number of draft spots available. Highlighted below are the top 10 scoring NHLers who were never drafted:

Adam Oates - 1420 points over 19 NHL seasons. Signed as a free agent by Detroit in 1985 after three seasons with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Named to the Hockey Hall of Fame and one of the NHL’s top 100 players of all-time, Oates ranks eighth all-time in assists and 20th in points.

Peter Stastny - 1239 points over 15 NHL seasons. Signed by Quebec in 1980 after defecting from Czechoslovakia. Statsny won the Calder Trophy in 1981, is a Hockey Hall of Famer and also one of the NHL’s top 100 players of all-time.

Dino Ciccarelli - 1200 points over 19 NHL seasons. A rare free agent signing not out of college but instead OHL London in 1979 by Minnesota. He is a Hall of Famer and ranks 19th all-time in goals.

Joe Mullen - 1063 points over 16 seasons. Signed by St. Louis in 1979 after four seasons with Boston College. In his career Mullen won three Stanley Cups, 2 Byng Trophies, was a first-team all-star and is a Hall of Famer.

Martin St. Louis - 1033 points over 16 seasons. Signed with Calgary in 1988 after playing four seasons at Vermont and a season in the IHL. Boasts a Stanley Cup, 2 Art Ross Trophies, a Hart & Pearson, 3 Byng Trophies, and five postseason all-star selections (one first-team and four second-team). Not surprisingly St. Louis also a Hall of Famer.

Steve Thomas - 933 points over 20 seasons. Signed with Toronto in 1984 after playing for the Toronto Marlboros in the OHL. Finished top 10 in game winning goals in four seasons, ranks 42nd all-time with 78.

Geoff Courtnall - 799 points over 17 seasons. Signed with Boston in 1983 after three seasons with Victoria in the WHL. Won a Stanley Cup in 1988 with Edmonton.

Mike Ridley - 758 points over 12 seasons. Signed with the New York Rangers in 1985 after playing with the University of Manitoba. Named to the 1986 all-rookie team, ranks 11th all-time with a 19.3% shooting percentage.

Steve Duchesne - 753 points in 16 seasons. Signed with Los Angeles in 1984 after playing with Drummondville in the QMJHL. The highest scoring non-drafted defenceman off all-time, Duchesne named to the 1987 all-rookie team and won a Stanley Cup in 2002 with Detroit.

Greg Adams - 743 points in 17 seasons. See post below for more career details.

Card 424 - Adrien Plavsic

A defenceman, Plavsic was drafted 30th overall by St. Louis in 1988 following his freshman season at the University of New Hampshire. He played the 1988-89 season with the Canadian National Team, then turned pro the following season with Peoria in the IHL. Plavsic played four games with the Blues that season before being traded in March 1990 alongside two draft picks to Vancouver for Harold Snepsts, Rich Sutter and a draft pick.

In his first season in Vancouver he played 48 games, scoring two goals and 12 points. The following season Plavsic played only 16 games for the Canucks, spending the majority of the season with the Canadian National Team, winning a silver medal at the 1992 Olympics. As a follow up to his Olympic experience, Plavsic had a career-year in the NHL in 1992-93, scoring six goals and 27 points in 57 games. Less than two seasons later he was traded to Tampa Bay for a draft pick; over two seasons with the Lightning Plavsic played in 22 games, playing most of the 1995-96 season with Atlanta in the AHL.

The 1996-97 season saw him sign with Anaheim, playing his final six NHL games with the Mighty Ducks. Plavsic ventured to Europe for the second act of his pro hockey career, playing one season in Germany before settling in as a regular in Swiss leagues from 1998-99 to 2007-08. In this time he won two NLA championships, was named defenceman of the year in 2000 and won a championship in the second tier pro league.

In eight NHL seasons, Plavsic played in 214 games, scoring 16 goals and 72 points. After retiring from the Swiss league, he coached for one season before returning to play as a player-coach for two seasons. Upon retiring for good, Plavsic has held a variety of coaching positions with the Swiss men’s and junior national teams, most recently coaching a U20 squad. We also can't miss the fact he is making a call on a payphone on the back of this card.

YouTube clip: scoring his first NHL goal against his former team, St. Louis. Plavsic beats Curtis Joseph on the short side, surely a goal CuJo wanted back.

Card 425 - Jergus Baca

A defenceman, Baca was drafted 141st overall by Hartford in 1990 at the age of 25 after having played a decade of pro hockey in his home country of Czechoslovakia. He came to North America following the draft, winning a Calder Cup with Springfield in his first North American pro season while also appearing in nine games with the Whalers.

1991-92 saw Baca played in one game for the Whalers, spending the season again with Springfield in the AHL. He played the two following seasons with Milwaukee in the AHL, then spent the lockout shortened 1994-95 season in Sweden. Baca returned to Milwaukee for 1995-96, which would be his final season of pro hockey in North America. For the next decade he played for teams in the Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia, retiring in 2004-05. In total, Baca played 10 games over two seasons in the NHL, recording two assists.

Although he had limited playing time in the NHL, Baca did win three world championship medals (one gold with Slovakia in 2002, two bronze with Czechoslovakia) and league titles in both countries. In retirement Baca has coached domestically and internationally in Slovakia, including the Slovakian men’s national team in 2006 at the Olympics and world championships. Most recently he has coached the U16 Slovak national team.

YouTube clip: getting stoned by Rochester’s David Littman in the 1991 Calder Cup Finals..

Card 426 - Greg Adams

A left winger, Adams was signed in 1984 by New Jersey as an undrafted free agent after two seasons at Northern Arizona University. He turned pro in 1984-85, splitting the season between Maine in the AHL and the Devils, scoring 21 points in 36 games in the NHL.

Adams’ production exploded in his first full NHL season, scoring 35 goals and a career-high 77 points. Despite this success, just prior to the 1987-88 season he was traded with Kirk McLean and a second round draft pick to Vancouver for Patrik Sundstrom and two draft picks. In his first season as a Canuck Adams scored a career-high 36 goals to go with 76 points, played in the 1988 all-star game and earned Byng Trophy consideration. Over his next six seasons in Vancouver Adams scored 20+ goals four times (30+ goals twice) and 50+ points three times.

Adams also experienced playoff success with the Canucks, finishing second on the team in playoff scoring in 1993 (13 points in 12 games). During the Canucks’ run to the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals, Adams scored 14 points in 23 games. He also contributed one of the biggest moments in franchise history, scoring the double overtime winner in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals to defeat Toronto and send Vancouver to the Finals.

During the 1994-95 season Adams was traded to Dallas with a draft pick and prospect for Russ Courtnall. Over three seasons with the Stars he scored 20+ goals twice, finishing sixth in the league in shooting percentage in 1996-97. Adams signed with Phoenix in 1998-99, putting up back-to-back seasons of 19 goals before playing one final season with Florida in 2000-01.

In 17 NHL seasons, Adams played in 1056 games, scoring 355 goals and 743 points. He also scored 20+ goals nine times, plus the two 19-goal seasons with Phoenix. Despite his goal scoring prowess, Adams was a career 0-for-4 on penalty shots.

Adams made a brief comeback with Frankfurt in the German league in 2002-03, and was a scout for Tampa Bay in 2008-09. More recently he has worked in real estate and a variety of business ventures, including developing a resort on Vancouver Island and starting a hockey stick manufacturing company.

YouTube clip: scoring the overtime winner in the first game of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals, immediately after Brian Leetch’s shot rang off the crossbar.

Card 427 - Tom Chorske

A left winger, Chorske was selected 16th overall by Montreal in the 1985 draft. Selected straight out of high school (in fact he won Minnesota’s coveted Mr. Hockey award as top high school player), Chorske played three seasons of college hockey at Minnesota before turning pro. His first pro season came in 1989-90, appearing in 14 NHL games, scoring three goals and four points while playing primarily with Sherbrooke in the AHL.

Following a full season with the Habs in 1990-91, Chorske was traded to New Jersey with Stephane Richer for Kirk Muller and Rollie Melanson. In his first season as a Devil he scored 19 goals and 36 points, then bested both of those marks with career-highs in 1993-94, scoring 21 goals and 41 points. New Jersey made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 1994, with Chorske contributing four goals and seven points in 20 games. The following year Chorske and the Devils would win the Stanley Cup, with the winger adding six points in 17 games.

At the start of the 1995-96 season he was claimed off waivers by Ottawa, scoring 15 or more goals in his two seasons with the Senators. At the start of the 1997-98 season Chorske was claimed off waivers a second time, going to the New York Islanders. He played a full season with the team, and was traded two games into the 1998-99 season, going to Washington. Chorske lasted 17 games with the Capitals before a second in-season trade, going to Calgary where he played seven games. His final NHL season came in 1999-2000 with Pittsburgh, scoring six points in 33 games. Chorske played one final pro season with Houston in the IHL before retiring in 2001.

In 11 NHL seasons he played in 596 games, scoring 115 goals and 237 points. In retirement he has dabbled in coaching and management, coaching Minneapolis High in 2012-13 and acting as the general manager for the St. Cloud Norsemen in the NAHL in 2020-21. From 2010 to 2020 he worked as an analyst for Minnesota Wild and U of Minnesota games; according to LinkedIn he currently works in sales for a data mining company.

YouTube clip: scoring the second of two goals in the third period for Ottawa in an April 1996 game against his former team New Jersey. The Sens’ victory (one of only 18 that season) eliminated the defending Stanley Cup Champions from playoff contention.

Card 428 - Scott Scissons

A centre, Scissons was selected sixth overall by the New York Islanders in 1990 after scoring 40 goals and 87 points with Saskatoon in the WHL. He played one more season with the Blades, also making his pro debut that season with one game with the Isles.

Scissons' next two seasons were spent with the Canadian National Team and the Capital District Islanders, scoring 44 points in 43 games during the 1992-93 season. During the 1993 playoffs he also played in one game for the Islanders. Scissons would play his second and last regular season NHL game in 1993-94, playing his next two seasons in the IHL with a variety of franchises. After signing a contract with Dallas in 1995-96, Scissons failed a medical evaluation and promptly retired from pro hockey.

In retirement Scissons went back to school and has worked for his family’s home development business. He has also coached youth hockey in Saskatchewan, starting as a scout with the Regina Pats from 2014 to 2017. Since 2018 he has coached his hometown Saskatoon Blazers AAA U18 team.

Card 429 - Dale Kushner

A right winger, Kushner signed as a free agent with the New York Islanders in April 1987. In his fourth and final year in the WHL, Kusher scored 68 points and recorded 250 penalty minutes while winning a Memorial Cup and being named to the tournament all-star team.

Turning pro in 1987-88, Kushner would spent the next three seasons with Springfield in the AHL, winning a Calder Cup in 1990. That season he made his NHL debut, playing in two games for the Isles. July 1990 saw Kushner sign with Philadelphia as a free agent; his first season as a Flyer was the best of his career, playing in 63 games, scoring seven goals, 18 points and recording 195 penalty minutes.

Kushner’s NHL time decreased to 19 games in 1991-92, contributing five points while playing primarily with Hershey in the AHL. He spent the next three seasons in the AHL with three different teams, playing his final pro season in 1995-96 with Michigan of the IHL.

In three NHL seasons, Kushner played in 84 games, scoring 10 goals and 23 points while racking up 215 penalty minutes. He appeared as a background player in the 1999 film Mystery, Alaska and currently works for Syngenta Canada, an agricultural firm.

YouTube clip: getting busted open in a fight against Mario Roberge in a November 1990 game, one Kushner’s 19 career fights.

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