25 NHL Players Who Did 'More with Less' Throughout NHL History

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor IAugust 31, 2012

25 NHL Players Who Did 'More with Less' Throughout NHL History

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    Sports fans tend to love underdogs—teams and players that aren't expected to be successful but find a way to overcome the odds and become winners.

    Here is a look at 25 players throughout NHL history who have "done more with less." Scouts and coaches wrote them off or didn't feel they would be all that successful, but they still managed to have productive NHL careers.

    As is always the case with all-time lists, it is easy to leave some people out. Feel free to chime in with other suggestions and your comments, as there are plenty of possibilities. Be sure to back up your suggestions with some explanation and/or stats to back it up.


25. Jordin Tootoo

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    Jordin Tootoo wasn't expected to do much in the NHL, but despite his lack of height and limited scoring skills, the Churchill, Manitoba native has played eight seasons in the NHL already and continues to frustrate opposing players with his grit, effort and hustle.

    Tootoo has 46 goals and 125 points in 486 career NHL games, all with Nashville. He is best known for his grinding and agitating and has also accumulated 725 career penalty minutes. His style has made him a fan favorite in the Music City.

    This offseason, he signed as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings, where he should prove equally popular in a short time.

24. Stan Jonathan

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    Stan Jonathan was only 5'8" and weighed 175 pounds, but that didn't stop him from taking on many bigger opponents on the ice, whether he was dropping the gloves or battling for the puck in the corner.

    Jonathan spent seven seasons in the NHL and scored a career-high 27 goals and 52 points for the Bruins in 1977-78, showing that he has decent hands to go along with his fighting ability.

    The Oshweken, Ontario native was part of Don Cherry's Bruins of the late 1970s, a team that reached the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back years in 1977 and 1978, only to lose to the Canadiens who, were in the midst of a run of four consecutive Stanley Cup titles.

    Jonathan scored 91 goals and 201 points in 411 career NHL games and was a fan favorite in Boston during his playing days there.

23. Nick Fotiu

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    Nick Fotiu became a successful NHL player despite the fact that he didn't skate until he was 15 years old and that he had to ride buses and trains for three hours to get to a rink to play at when he was growing up on Staten Island.

    Despite these obstacles, Fotiu became the first native New Yorker to play for the Rangers and suited up for more than 750 NHL and WHA games during his 15-year career.

    While he was best known for his fighting ability, Fotiu also had a very hard wrist shot, even if he needed a little more time and room to get it off than most NHL players. He scored some clutch goals for the Rangers over the years, especially against the rival Islanders.

    Fotiu scored 65 goals and 146 points in 756 career NHL and WHA games and accumulated exactly 1,600 penalty minutes. In addition to the Rangers, Fotiu spent time with the NHL and WHA Whalers and also played for Calgary, Philadelphia and Edmonton.

22. Garry Howatt

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    Garry Howatt was almost an afterthought in the 1972 NHL entry draft, when the Islanders selected him in the 10th round. He still managed to play for the Islanders later that season and went on to a successful career that included parts of 12 NHL seasons.

    Howatt was small but pugnacious. He stood just 5'9" and weighed just 170 pounds, but he never backed down from anybody and wasn't afraid to get into the dirty areas of the ice to make a play.

    Howatt scored a career-high 21 goals in 1975-76 and was a member of two Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Islanders in 1980 and 1981.

    In 720 career NHL games, Howatt finished with 112 goals and 268 points to go with 1,836 penalty minutes.

    After leaving the Isles, Howatt later spent time with the Whalers and Devils before injuries ended his career in 1984.

21. Mel Hill

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    Mel Hill was a fairly average NHL player in the late 1930s and early 1940s, but he rose to the occasion when it mattered most and helped lead the Bruins to a Stanley Cup title in 1939 with his clutch play.

    Hill scored three overtime goals in the semi-final round of the playoffs in 1939 to help the Bruins beat the Rangers. That record of three overtime winners in one series still stands more than 70 years later. It earned him the nickname "Sudden Death."

    Hill later played for the Brooklyn Americans and Toronto Maple Leafs before finishing his career in the minor leagues.

    Although he never scored more than 18 goals in an NHL season, Hill's heroics earned him a place in NHL history. He finished his career with 89 goals and 198 points in 323 NHL games while playing on three Stanley Cup-winning teams.

20. Keith Magnuson

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    Keith Magnuson wasn't very big and didn't have great hockey skills, but he was determined and never shied away from contact or fights, which helped him achieve a lot as an NHL defenseman in the 1970s.

    Magnuson's red hair matched the Blackhawks' red uniforms and helped him stand out on the ice. His toughness and willingness to defend his teammates made him one of the most popular players in Chicago.

    In 1971 and 1973, Magnuson was an integral part of teams that reached the Stanley Cup Final only to fall both times to the Montreal Canadiens. Magnuson served as captain of the Blackhawks for part of his career and was later named coach of the club after his retirement.

    In 589 career NHL games, Magnuson finished with 14 goals, 139 points and 1,442 penalty minutes.

19. Lee Fogolin

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    Lee Fogolin didn't have a lot of offensive skills, but he became an important and underrated part of two Stanley Cup-winning teams and played in two other Cup finals during his lengthy NHL career.

    Fogolin's father (Lee Fogolin, Sr.) played in the NHL as well back in the 1950s, so Fogolin grew up around the sport.

    He broke into the NHL with the Sabres in 1974-75, the season the Sabres reached the Stanley Cup Final. In 1984 and 1985, he was a member of the Oilers clubs that won the Cup, but the steady Fogolin was overshadowed by flashier players like Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey and Jari Kurri.

    Fogolin finished his NHL career with just 44 goals and 239 points in 924 games, but his smart and physical play in his own end made him a valuable part of some very good hockey teams.

18. Bob Kelly

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    Bob Kelly was a hard-working hockey player whose hustle earned him the nickname "Hound Dog" while playing for the Flyers and Capitals in the 1970s and 80s.

    Kelly was one of the original "Broad Street Bullies" of the 1970s, a group of hard-nosed hockey players who battled their way to a pair of Stanley Cup titles in 1974 and 1975.

    While he was known primarily as a grinder, Kelly did have a pair of 20-goal seasons, including a career-high 26 for Washington in 1980-81.

    Kelly finished his career with 154 goals, 362 points and 1,454 penalty minutes in 837 career NHL games. He is now active in the Flyers alumni association and remains a fan favorite in Philadelphia.

17. Brian Elliott

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    Brian Elliott was almost an afterthought when he was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the ninth round of 2003 NHL entry draft with the 291st overall pick.

    He struggled early on in his career and had yet to truly establish himself as an NHL starter after two very average seasons with the Senators.

    As the Blues entered training camp last season, it was unclear whether or not Elliott would stay in the NHL or be sent back to the minors, but the Newmarket, Ontario native made the team and never looked back.

    Elliott's strong performance helped the Blues to the league's second-best record in 2011-12. He split time with Jaroslav Halak and finished the season with an outstanding 1.56 GAA and nine shutouts.

    Elliott helped the Blues win the Jennings Trophy for the league's fewest goals allowed, and he won the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award with a league-best .940 save percentage.

16. Tie Domi

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    Tie Domi had limited skating ability and below-average hands, but his toughness, work ethic and willingness to drop the gloves and defend his teammates helped him play more than 1,000 career NHL games.

    Domi broke in with the New York Rangers in 1990-91 and later played for the Jets and Maple Leafs. Domi never scored more than 15 goals in an NHL season and only reached double digits in goals three times during his career, but he accumulated 3,515 career penalty minutes, the third-highest total in NHL history.

    Domi was one of the most popular players on the Leafs during his tenure in Toronto, and he was never afraid to put on a show for the fans by making gestures that couldn't be missed, which helped him get plenty of attention from fans and the media.

    In 1,020 NHL games, Domi finished with 104 goals and 245 points.

15. Jason Blake

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    Jason Blake went undrafted and struggled to make the NHL after graduating from the University of North Dakota.

    Eventually, Blake signed with the Los Angeles Kings but couldn't crack their lineup on a regular basis so he was traded to the New York Islanders.

    On Long Island, the Moorhead, Minn. native found his niche and hustled his way into becoming a first-line NHL player.

    Blake topped the 20-goal mark five times in his NHL career, including a career-high 40 goals in 2006-07 with the Islanders. He later played for the Maple Leafs and Ducks.

    Blake continued to play after being diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia in 2007 and has battled other injuries in recent years as well.

    Thus far, Blake has scored 213 goals and 486 points in 871 career NHL games. He is presently an unrestricted free agent.

14. Terry O'Reilly

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    Terry O'Reilly's skating wasn't going to win him any awards, but the scrappy Niagara Falls, Ontario native became one of the most popular Bruins of all time because of his toughness, leadership ability and tenacity.

    O'Reilly did top the 20-goal mark four times in his NHL career, finishing with 204 goals and 606 points in 891 career games. He also accumulated 2,095 career penalty minutes, including five consecutive seasons of 200 or more.

    His reckless style of play earned him the nickname "Taz," short for the Tasmanian Devil.

    O'Reilly played on three Bruins teams that reached the Stanley Cup Final and coached the team to the final in 1988, but he never got his name on the trophy.

13. Tim Thomas

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    Tim Thomas had one of the longest routes to NHL success, making stops in the ECHL, IHL, AHL, Sweden and Finland before finally catching on with the Bruins and establishing himself as an NHL star.

    Once he got there, Thomas became a perennial All-Star and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after leading the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in nearly 40 years.

    Thomas has played in four NHL All-Star games and has been named to a pair of postseason NHL All-Star teams while winning the Jennings Trophy and two Vezina Trophies. He also became the first goalie since Hall of Famer Bernie Parent (1975) to win the Smythe and Vezina Trophies and the Stanley Cup in the same year.

    Thomas has announced that he will take the 2012-13 season off to spend time with his family. His future in Boston is up in the air, but most experts expect him to resume his hockey career in the fall of 2013.

12. Dave Schultz

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    Few people expected much from Dave Schultz when the Flyers drafted him in the fifth round back in 1969, but "The Hammer" fought his way to a successful NHL career that changed the role of enforcers in the National Hockey League.

    Schultz was the king Bully of the Flyers teams that won the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975. He took on all comers and helped make the "Broad Street Bullies" the most feared team in hockey.

    Schultz did have some hockey ability: He scored a career-high 20 goals in 1973-74, the year the Flyers became the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup. But it was Schultz's flying fists that got him to and kept him in the NHL.

    In 1974-75, Schultz set an NHL record that still stands to this day, when he accumulated 472 penalty minutes in a single season.

    He later played for the Kings, Penguins and Sabres before his career ended in 1980.

    "The Hammer's" final NHL statistics included 79 goals, 200 points and 2,294 penalty minutes in 535 career games.

11. Bob Nystrom

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    Bob Nystrom earned the nickname "Mr. Islander" because he was arguably the hardest-working player on the Islanders teams that won four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-1983.

    Nystrom was a strong, two-way forward who usually played on the third line. He was never afraid to dig in the corners or drop the gloves and was always responsible in his own end. Nystrom was also a steady if unspectacular goal scorer, topping the 20-goal mark seven times during his NHL career, including a 30-goal season in 1977-78.

    He also scored the most famous goal in Islanders history when he beat Pete Peeters in overtime on May 24, 1980 to give the Islanders their first Stanley Cup win.

    In 900 career NHL games, Nystrom scored 235 goals and 513 points. He added 39 goals and 83 points in 157 playoff games.

    Nystrom's number was retired by the Isles in 1995. His son, Eric, presently plays for the Dallas Stars.

10. Bob Baun

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    Bob Baun wasn't fast and he didn't have great offensive skills, but his hard-hitting style of defense kept him in the NHL for 17 seasons and helped him contribute to four Stanley Cup wins for the Maple Leafs. Baun earned the nickname "Boomer" for his hard but clean checks.

    Despite the fact that he scored only 37 goals in 964 career NHL games, Baun was a valuable contributor. He was tough and was a leader who ended up scoring one of the most famous goals in Stanley Cup history.

    In 1964, Baun left Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against Detroit with a broken leg. He returned to score the game-winning goal in overtime, and the Leafs went on to win Game 7 and the Stanley Cup Final that season.

    Baun later served as the first captain of the Oakland Seals and played for Detroit before concluding his career with a second stint in a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater.

9. Claude Lemieux

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    Claude Lemieux wasn't the a super-fast skater and he didn't have the league's best shot, but he managed to become a steady goal scorer and one of the best agitators in NHL history.

    Lemieux played on four different Stanley Cup winners during his NHL career. He was a clutch performer, too, as his 80 career playoff goals rank him ninth all time in league history. He also won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1995 with the New Jersey Devils.

    Because of his agitating style, Lemieux was one of the most despised players in the NHL by opposing fans, but his teammates and fans of the teams he played for loved him.

    In 1,215 career NHL games, Lemieux scored 379 goals and 786 points.

8. Kevin Stevens

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    Kevin Stevens wasn't drafted until the sixth round of the 1983 NHL entry draft, but he proved scouts wrong when he went on to have a pair of 50-goal seasons.

    Stevens was not considered a top prospect, but he improved at Boston College and while playing for the U.S. National Team. Through hard work, he went on to become one of the better power forwards in the league.

    Stevens is one of only four players in NHL history to score 50 goals and accumulate more than 200 penalty minutes in a single season.

    The Brockton, Mass. native played on two Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Penguins. He later played for the Rangers, Kings, Bruins and Flyers before closing his career with a second stint in Pittsburgh.

    He finished his NHL career with 329 goals and 726 points in 874 games.

7. Ed Giacomin

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    Ed Giacomin had already spent seven seasons in the minors before Rangers GM Emile Francis acquired him and brought him to the New York Rangers.

    Giacomin's style of roaming around almost like a third defenseman was unorthodox, but after an uneven start, he grew to become the Rangers' starter for 10 seasons and a favorite of the fans at Madison Square Garden.

    The Rangers defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions three years in a row with Giacomin in net and reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1972 before falling to the Bruins.

    Despite the late start, Giacomin won 289 NHL games, played in six All-Star games and was named to five postseason All-Star teams. Giacomin and Gilles Villemure also won the Vezina Trophy in 1971 for allowing the fewest goals in the league.

    The Rangers retired Giacomin's number one in 1989, two years after "Steady Eddie" was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

6. Joe Mullen

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    Joe Mullen grew up in the Hell's Kitchen section of Manhattan, hardly known as the home of future NHL stars.

    He was undrafted and actually only received a partial scholarship to play at Boston College his first year there.

    Although scouts didn't see much in Mullen, the tough American ended up playing for three Stanley Cup-winning teams and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000.

    Mullen topped the 40-goal mark seven times in his NHL career, including a career-high 51 in 1988-89. He won Stanley Cups with the Calgary Flames in 1989 and the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992.

    He also played in three NHL All-Star games and won two Lady Byng Trophies for gentlemanly play.

5. Bert Olmstead

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    Looking back at the career of Bert Olmstead, most hockey fans will tell you the reason he is in the Hockey Hall of Fame is because of his unequaled desire to win. Olmstead wasn't the fastest skater, he wasn't the biggest or strongest player and he didn't have the best hands, but nobody competed harder than "Dirty Bertie."

    Olmstead won five Stanley Cups during his NHL career, including four with the Canadiens and one with the Maple Leafs.

    Olmstead only topped the 20-goal mark once in his NHL career, but his hockey sense, physical style of play and leadership qualities helped him have a Hall of Fame career.

    He finished with 181 goals and 602 points in 848 career games.

4. Theo Fleury

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    Theo Fleury's 5'6" height scared off a lot of scouts, so he wasn't drafted until the eighth round of the 1987 NHL draft. While scouts could see how tall Fleury was, they couldn't measure the size of his heart.

    Fleury became one of the best players in Flames history, and the most popular. He helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 1989 and scored a career-high 51 goals two seasons later.

    Fleury played in seven NHL All-Star games in his career with the Flames, Avalanche, Rangers and Blackhawks before off-ice issues slowed him down.

    He finished with 455 goals and 1,088 points in 1,084 career games.

3. Doug Gilmour

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    Scouts were not convinced that Doug Gilmour had what it took to be a successful NHL hockey player, and he wasn't drafted until the seventh round back in 1982. But Gilmour's all-out effort helped him not only reach the NHL, he even made it into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

    In 1,474 career NHL games, the Kingston, Ontario native scored 450 goals and 1,414 points.

    Gilmour was an important cog in the Flames' 1989 Stanley Cup win and later served as the long-time captain of the Maple Leafs.

    His best season came in 1992-93, when he set a Leafs single-season record with 127 points.

    Gilmour also played with the Devils, Blackhawks, Sabers and Canadiens before retiring in 2003. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.

2. Bobby Clarke

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    Scouts shied away from drafting Bobby Clarke because of his diabetes, but Clarke's hunger to win hockey games and his all-out effort in all three zones of the ice helped make him a Hall of Famer.

    The Flin Flon, Manitoba native captained the Flyers two Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1974 and 1975, and he won the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP three times.

    In 1,144 career NHL games, Clarke scored 358 goals and 1,210 points while adding 1,453 penalty minutes.

    He was also a part of the 1972 Summit Series team and the 1976 club that won the first ever Canada Cup.

    After his playing career was over, Clarke served as an assistant coach and later as GM of the Flyers and also worked for the Panthers and North Stars.

    He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987.

1. Ted Lindsay

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    "Terrible" Ted Lindsay was only 5'8" and weighed just 163 pounds, but his toughness and desire led him to the Hockey Hall of Fame and made him one of the best and most influential players in NHL history.

    Lindsay won four Stanley Cups while playing for the Red Wings and Blackhawks in the 1940s and '50s. He was also named to nine postseason All-Star teams and played in 11 NHL All-Star games during his career. He won the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in points in 1950.

    Lindsay is considered one of the toughest players in league history and took on all comers. On the ice, he battled opposing players while off the ice, he fought management as one of the early leaders of the NHLPA.

    Lindsay later worked as a broadcaster and later served as GM of the Red Wings.

    In 2010, the NHLPA re-named the Pearson Trophy as the Ted Lindsay Award, which is awarded to the player voted as league MVP by the players themselves.

    Lindsay finished his career with 379 goals and 851 points in 1,068 NHL games and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.