NHL: P.A. Parenteau And 10 Players With Feel Good Stories
Let's face it, not everyone who comes into the NHL is a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, or a Drew Doughty. Not everyone has headlines swirling around them and makes the bigs at age 18.
There are plenty of journeymen players who pay their dues, and make their way into a place no one really expected them to be in. Maybe they were a career AHLer, a last round draft pick, an injury plagued player.
But they made it. And that is impressive.
Truth is, there are so many routes to the NHL that go un-celebrated or unnoticed. Here are just 10 of those hundreds of stories that you can sit back and feel good about. Even if it's a player on a rival team maybe.
Ever been picked last in a pick-up game? Or how about gym in Junior High? Remember how that felt?
Well, imagine how it must have felt for now 27-year-old Jonathan Ericsson when he was picked dead last in the 2002 entry draft.
Leave it to the late and great drafting Detroit Red Wings to pick up a player in the ninth round, at pick 291, and have him become a roster mainstay.
Also, another compelling side to the Ericsson story, he never even played defense until 2001-02 when Wings scout Hakan Andersson convinced him to do so.
Ericsson slowly made his way through the Swedish Elite League, the AHL with Grand Rapids, and finally to the Detroit Red Wings in 2008-2009, six years post being drafted, and has been around ever since.
Cheer up if you get picked last. Look what Ericsson has done since.
As a Kings fan, this one always hurt, and still stings a little, but I feel good for Matt.
Moulson was a collegiate hockey stand out at Cornell when he was drafted in the ninth round of the 2003 NHL entry draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
However Moulson wanted to finish off his college career, playing three more season with the Big Red which made Pittsburgh lose interest.
He was signed as a free agent by the L.A. Kings in 2006, where he really started to turn some heads.
Moulson put up some great numbers with the Kings affiliate Manchester Monarchs but was never really given a solid opportunity with the rebuilding big club.
It was a mistake they would surely regret. In 2009, six years after his draft year, Moulson would get a chance with the rebuilding New York Islanders. He has since been a staple on the first line with burgeoning superstar John Tavares, and has back-to-back 30-goal seasons.
Moulson has just recently signed a three-year $9.45 million dollar contract extension with the Isle.
But he isn't the only feel good story on the Isles top line...
Up on the top line with Tavares and Moulson is AHL journeyman Pierre-Alexandr Parenteau, or rather, P.A. Parenteau.
P.A. was drafted in the ninth round of 2001 by the Anaheim Ducks.
After finishing his Major Junior career in the QMJHL with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens in 2002, he would travel the minor leagues from 2003-2010.
He saw just five NHL games with the Blackhawks during that stretch and played with AHL teams in Cincinnati, Portland, Norfolk, Hartford, and even a short ECHL stint in Augusta.
It was only last season in 2010-11 when Parenteau arrived in Long Island that he got his shot.
As stated earlier, he plays on the top line with John Tavares and Matt Moulson, and last season had a respectable 20 goal, 53 point season.
He is off to a burning hot start this year with seven points in four games.
Not bad for a guy who spent almost 10 years in the minors.
This isn't about a guy who was picked in the last round, or a career AHLer turned NHLer. Koivu, in 2001, had a very different battle on his hands.
As I am sure many people remember, while playing for the Montreal Canadiens in 2001, Koivu was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma causing him to miss nearly an entire season.
Koivu overcame the cancer and stormed back next season with a 71-point year.
It all looked to be back to health for Koivu, who had had several injury problems prior to his illness. But again, in the 2006 playoffs, luck would not fall on the side of Saku.
Koivu was struck in the eye by the stick of then Hurricane Justin Williams. Koivu suffered a detached retina and has since lost some vision in his left eye.
However, this has not stopped Koivu from being a 50-point average player in the twilight of his career with the Canadiens and now Ducks. He has battled back so many times from serious injury that it's hard not to route for the guy.
It's not often you get the kind of commitment from a player, like the commitment the Phoenix Coyotes have received from Shane Doan.
Doan is a gritty, tenacious style of player, that you may not like on ice, but it's hard to deny what his heart has been about.
Doan was drafted seventh overall in 1995 by the Winnipeg Jets. He has played with the organization his entire 16-year NHL career. Doan has captained the team as well from 2003 til now.
And it hasn't been easy. Phoenix has gone through a relocation, a bankruptcy, and for the last five years or so been suffering poor attendance and more relocation talk.
All the while, the Yotes have had limited playoff success and many times have bottomed out the league.
Many players would become stifled with the off ice trauma, and the on ice quality and asked for a trade, or not re-signed. But Shane Doan has been dedicated to Phoenix.
And it's exactly what this team has needed through these rough years. A Leader.
Doan continues to be an example of leadership on and off the ice. He still averages 60-70 points a year for Phoenix.
If my gut is right, he'll be one of those players to wear a Phoenix (or maybe Kansas/Quebec City...) jersey in his final game in the NHL.
What is it about the Islanders and these types of stories?
Montoya had a high hype around him, being drafted sixth overall by the Rangers in 2004.
But he played in systems that were just too deep at goaltender to give him a real shot.
Montoya played in New York behind all-star Henrik Lundqvist, and Phoenix behind all-star Ilya Bryzgalov. It would prove too tough a task for the young goaltender to dethrone two of the better netmen in the NHL.
It was looking more like Montoya might be an AHL journeymen. He was traded twice already before the age of 25, but then he landed in Long Island where the opportunities are high.
Montoya has benefited from repeated injury to Rick DiPietro. He is now getting a chance at the NHL level to prove why he was taken sixth overall, and why the Rangers and the Coyotes were wrong to get rid of him.
Montoya has played in 26 NHL games and currently holds a 12-6-5 record with two shutouts, a 2.34 GAA and a .922 save percentage. Those are very good numbers for the 26-year old Montoya.
What's nice is Montoya is young enough that he is just starting to truly write his story. Don't mess it up Al.
It's not always the most successful of decisions for an organization to take a chance on European stand outs, particularly goalies.
I could go over the list of those failed experiments all day.
But, in 2006 the Minnesota Wild hit a home run signing the 28-year old Niklas Backstrom, a finish league hero.
Backstrom got his chance almost immediately in 2006 with an injury to starter Manny Fernandez.
Backstrom put up staggering numbers losing just eight of 41 games in regulation finishing the year under 2.00 GAA with a 1.97.
Backstrom has been an iron-man between the pipes for a struggling Minnesota team the last five years, winning the Roger Crozier award (Best Save percentage) and the William M. Jennings trophy (Best GAA) in 06-07.
He holds three Wild Franchise records: most wins, most wins in a single season, and most shutouts.
It's possible that Backstrom may leave Minnesota in 2013 when his contract is up. Regardless, it's nice to see a middle-aged (hockey wise) European stand out come to the NHL and continue their outstanding play.
Ya hear that Gustavsson?
Martin St. Louis
Undrafted, undersized, unbelievable.
St. Louis has had an interesting road to the NHL, and has too often been judge by his size before his skill.
The 36-year old was passed over by every team nine times in the 1997 NHL entry draft. He had to start his career with a professional tryout with the Senators.
St. Louis was cut from the Senators camp. He made his way to the Calgary system, where he would play his entire season with the now defunct IHL team, the Cleveland Lumberjacks.
He had very good years for the Calgary affiliate St. John Flames but was released. Finally though, 2001 at the age of 26 he would get his chance in Tampa Bay. However that train was quickly derailed as he shattered his leg.
So in 2003 his healthy career began. And St. Louis has never looked back. The once too small, undrafted forward has put up three 90-plus point season and one 100-plus point season.
He is a six time all star. He has an Art Ross trophy, a Hart memorial trophy, two Lady Byng's, a Lester B. Pearson award, a Stanley Cup, and a Hall of Fame spot waiting for him.
It's been a long road for the little man, but wow has he been huge.
What comes to mind with Joel Ward? For me, it's hard work. It's blue collar hockey.
And when you look at Joel Ward's hockey history it really isn't surprising.
Ward was eligible for the entry draft in 2001, but was not taken.
He would choose to attend the University of Prince Edward Island, and not only continue his hockey career, but earn a degree in sociology.
Out of college he would get a shot in Minnesota where he would remain in their system for three years. It wasn't til the age of 28, that the work ethic paid off for Joel Ward.
However, it was in Nashville where he became an every day player, and a hard nosed 30-point two-way forward. Ward also became an NHL household name with his 2010-2011 playoff heroics with the Preds.
He's moved on to Washington with a nice four-year $12 Million dollar contract. And with the work ethic that got him to the NHL, Mr. Ward going to Washington should be a nice fit in the system of Bruce Boudreau.
A seventh round draft pick, a man who has played for nine professional non NHL teams, and a Roger Crozier, Vezina, and Stanley Cup Winner.
This is the route goalie Tim Thomas took.
Timmy Thomas started off as a draft choice of the Quebec Nordiques, but instead would embark on a career path that took him many places.
The NCAA at the University of Vermont, HIFK, Kärpät and Jokerit in the SM-Liga in Finland, to AIK in the Swedish Elite League, to the Birmingham Bulls in the ECHL, to the Houston Aeros, Hamilton Bulldogs, Detroit Vipers and Providence Bruins of the AHL/IHL, and finally, the Boston Bruins of the NHL.
He was already 31-years old when he finally landed in Boston. The Bruins couldn't be happier, nor could Thomas. He played six years in Boston and has two Vezinas, a Conn Smythe, and a Stanley Cup.
As with many of these players, I think it would have been easy for Tim Thomas to quit and say enough is enough.
But they never did, and it's why we continue to cheer for them.