An awful lot of people and new fans of the game put a lot of emphasis on first round draft picks. Rightfully so, they’ve worked hard and earned the right to be there. Some may become busts (Patrick Stefan anyone?) and some may excel to the best of their ability in the National Hockey League.
However, what most people don’t realize is that the majority of the players on your favourite teams don’t jump into the NHL pool from the first round, hell, even the second round. They work harder than most to prove they belong with the elite competition. Every once in a while you’ll come across a star players stats and you won’t believe that he was drafted in the later rounds.
This made me think and do some research. How many players made the NHL being drafted in the last round? Well, not too many. That’s why I decided to pick the best ones and see how they stacked up in time.
The 1990 NHL Entry Draft drafted 21 players in the first round. The first five, Owen Nolan, Petr Nedved, Keith Primeau, Mike Ricci and the god himself Jaromir Jagr, should tell you just what kind of talent the NHL was working with. Two goalies even went in the first round as well, Drake Berehowsky to Toronto and of course, Martin Brodeur to New Jersey.
LAST ROUND GEM
12th round, 244th overall – NEW YORK RANGERS
Nemchinov played 10 years in Russia before he got drafted to the Rangers. Splitting his time between CSKA Moscow an Krylja Sovetov, Nemchinov was a big man to stare down at centre ice. Standing at 6 feet and 200 pounds, the Rangers took a chance in this last round with a Russian. With the 10 years of Russian play under his belt, the Ranger brass probably didn’t think he’d make the hop over the pond.
Well, he did.
Nemchinov became one of the first Russians to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup when he helped the Rangers lift it in 1994. After a brief stint with the Vancouver Canucks and New York Islanders, Nemchnov found himself in New Jersey where he once again lifted the Cup with the Devils in 2000. He finished his NHL career with 761 games played, 152 goals, 193 assists for 345 points. Not bad for a guy who got picked in the last round.
Sergei Nemchinov went on to play two years with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in the KHL before retiring in 2004. CSKA Moscow gave him a GM job and he also oversaw Russia’s national junior team.
All this for a good lookin’ blonde kid from the USSR.
The 1991 NHL Entry Draft was all about Eric Lindros and the will he or won’t he play with the Quebec Nordiques. Everyone seems to forget who else got picked after him so I’ll help you out. The number two pick went to San Jose and they picked up Pat Falloon. Scott Niedermayer went third to New Jersey, Scott Lachance went fourth to the Islanders and everyone’s “favourite” TSN anchor, Aaron Ward went fifth to the Jets.
Peter Forsberg went 6th to Philadelphia and subsequently traded to Quebec for Lindros but we won’t talk about the “what could have been” if Forsberg stayed in Philly.
LAST ROUND GEM
10th Round, 203rd Overall – WINNIPEG JETS
Okay, so let’s be honest. Ulanov wasn’t all that great. He became a definite journeyman and probably saw more of North America then I have. Short stints with the Moncton Hawks, Fort Wayne Komets, Indianapolis Ice, Hartford Wolf Pack, San Antonio Rampage and the Toronto Roadrunners all were placed inside his time in the NHL.
But what Ulanov didn’t do on the score sheet, was made up in his way to draw penalties and fights. The guy’s job was to be an agitator and he did it well. I mean, why wouldn’t you have a 6’3, 220 pound Russian who likes to fight on your team?
Ulanov retired from the NHL with 1151 penalty minutes in 739 games.
The 1994 NHL Entry Draft was littered with goalies in the first round. Jamie Storr, Eric Fichaud, Evgeni Ryabchikov and Dan Clouthier were all taken. (Now tell me which ones you actually remember.) Ed Jovanovski went first to Florida, Oleg Tverdovsky second to Anaheim and Radek Bonk went THIRD (ahead of guys like Ryan Smyth, Jeff Friesen, Wade Belak and Mattias Ohlund) to Ottawa.
LAST ROUND GEM
10th round, 257th overall, DETROIT RED WINGS
Here’s one that boggles my mind and there must have been more to the story at the time. One of the best forwards and one of the best goalie agitators of all time was chosen in the last round. At the time, one of the scouts for Detroit was Swedish and had an awful good look at Holmstorm. After not making the national team in 1993, Holmstorm went back to his club team where the real eyes began to watch him. The rest is history.
Holmstorm was a massive presence in front of the net. Without stealing Sean Avery’s tactics, Holmstorm was able to throw goalies off their games for a split second to let that puck go in. This last rounder has four Stanley Cups to his name, Winter Olympic gold and 530 points in 1026 games.
The kid from Pitea, Sweden was also inducted into their Hall Of Fame in 2006.
Case in point that not all first rounders reach Sidney Crosby or Nathan McKinnon status: Aki Berg and Chad Kilger were taken third and fourth. Don’t get me wrong, they did what they needed to do and had the talent to be a solid second or third liner. This was another goalie filled year too, J.S. Giguere went to Hartford (!?), Marty Biron to Buffalo, Brian Boucher to Philly and Marc Denis to Colorado.
LAST ROUND GEM
9th round, 223rd overall, TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Before Leafs Nation takes a run at me, hear me out. You want guys like Dany Markov on your team. These agitating grinders know exactly what their job is and when to do it. Plus, he can bang in a goal or two. Not flashy, not a goal scorer, but he can contribute on the ice just as well as his mitts.
Hell, fun fact: Dany Markov scored the 10,000th goal in Philadelphia Flyers history.
But what do Leafs fans most remember him for? This.