NHL Late-Round Draft Picks Always Full of Surprises (Part Two)
All right! I have a lot more underrated players to mention.
Special mention: Before I continue, I wanted to give a shout out to Matt D’Agostini. He’s a rookie, a sixth-round pick on the Montreal Canadiens roster right now.
In five games, he has five points (four goals and one assist). He’s on his way to a classic overachiever season. It’s only five games, but he’s doing exactly what I’m writing about in these articles.
So take a look at his play if you have the chance; he looks comfortable and right at home in the NHL.
Now for the second part of those late-round draft picks who impressed. Let's go:
Igor Larionov was a smallish Russian center. We can all agree that there are few players in the NHL that are 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds. Larionov would be classified as one of those "diminutive forwards" whot are now slowly getting their chance in the NHL.
Larionov was picked in the 11th round, 214th overall but didn’t get a chance to play in the NHL until 1989-90, simply, because communist Russia wouldn’t let players compete where they wanted.
By leaving his country, Larionov forfeited his place on the Russian national team where his legend actually started. He centered the KLM line (Krutov, Larionov, Makarov) who were the main reason for the Russian dominance in the world championships.
To be honest, Larionov’s numbers are not really impressive. But his usefulness is easily noticeable. He won multiple international titles: Olympic medals in 1984 and 1988 and World championship titles in 1982, 1983, 1986 and 1989. That’s not even half of what Larionov won, and that’s a pretty impressive collection of titles already.
So even though Larionov never really had impressive numbers, but somehow kept on winning wherever he played and for that reason, he’s been inducted in the Hall of Fame this very year.
He ended his NHL career with 921 games, 169 goals, 475 assists for 644 points. As for his hockey career in Russia, in approximately 451 games* he got 431 points, 201 of those being goals.
* In 1980-81, there are no records of how many games he played with Voskresensk Khimik, he had played 42 games the year before and 46 the year after, so I assumed he played about 43 games.
The next one I wanted to mention is another “diminutive forward”. These guys seem to be generally underrated because of their size. But it never stopped Theoren Fleury from being a pest and an incredible scorer!
Fleury was only 5-foot-6! He was smaller than most current NHL players. He was drafted by Calgary in the eighth round, 166th overall in 1987.
Theoren Fleury was a scoring machine in the WHL. With three consecutive seasons of 108, 129 and 160 points, we can say Fleury had a good scoring touch.
I was always impressed with Fleury’s speed and puck control, but what surprised me the most is actually the amount of penalty minutes such a small player piled up!
You can’t really call Theoren Fleury an enforcer or a goon, but he ended his career with 1,840 minutes in 1,084 games! That’s an average of about 2 minutes per game.
Few were as nasty and gritty than Fleury for a scorer of his caliber and size.
His offensive abilities were undeniable. He was a useful, productive player wherever he played until the very end of his career.
In 15 seasons, Fleury managed one 50-goal season, three seasons more over 40 goals, and another five times over 30 goals. Twice, he put up over 100 points.
He won the Stanley Cup with the Flames during his rookie season,, along with a few international medals with Team Canada. He is still the record holder as the Flames' best scorer (830 points) but should be passed this year be Jarome Iginla, who is only 35 points away.
Unfortunately for Fleury, even though he had a productive career, continuous drug and attitude problems had him suspended many times, and his on- and off-ice problems put a bit of a dark shadow on his career.
Still, his statistics are very impressive for a player only 5-foot-6 and 180 pounds! He ended his career with 1,084 games played, 455 goals, 633 assists for 1,088 points.
The next two have been drafted the same year, with one of them still playing as we speak. Mark Recchi and Alexander Mogilny both deserve to be on this list.
Mark Recchi still plays with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was a fourth-round pick, 67th overall in 1988. He is in his 19thseason and already has achieved many milestones. At this point in his career, he stands 19th on the all-time scoring list, the only active player ahead of him is Joe Sakic (eighth).
First off, out of 19 seasons, he led his team in scoring nine times with three different teams. Already, that shows how versatile he is. He has reached milestones like 500 goals, 1,000 games and over 1,000 points. He could reach 1,500 games if he decided to play next year and should reach 1,400 points this season (he needs four).
He still holds the record for most point in a season for the Flyers (123) and has played in seven all-star games. Recchi, nicknamed “Recchin Ball”, has always been consistent and at this point, has been more productive and reliable than most first-round picks around the league!
If he ended his career today, he can consider his career a great one with 1,437 games played, 528 goals, 868 assists and 1,396 points.
As for Alexander Mogilny, I remember fans loved him as much as they hated him. Mogilny was a temperamental player. He could be the best player on the ice as well as the worst. Mogilny was drafted by Buffalo, in the fifth round, 89th overall in 1988.
One thing Mogilny could do was score! During his prime, Mogilny was unstoppable. Easily one of the best scorers in the NHL and with a better attitude and better commitment, his numbers would probably be close to Jagr’s (1,599 points).
But still, Mogilny had a honorable career. He stands at No. 63 on the all-time scoring list with 1,032 points. His most impressive feat is his 76 goals and 127 points in 77 games. During that season, he scored his 50th goal in his 46th game!
In 16 seasons in the NHL, Mogilny scored over 30 goals eight times, over 40 goals three times (including the 76 goals season) and over 100 points twice.
Interesting facts about Mogilny:
He’s the original “Alex the Great,” a title now passed down to Alexander Ovechkin!
In Russia, he played on a line with center Sergei Fedorov and winger Pavel Bure…now that’s a dangerous line!
Mogilny’s production was delayed due to injury, so Sergei Fedorov reached the 1,000-point milestone just a few games before him. Fedorov latter said in an interview that Mogilny would’ve reached 1,000 points much faster than him if not for all those injuries.
Mogilny was waived by the Devils on the last year of his contract and decided to call it quits after a few games in the AHL. His totals: 990 games, 473 goals, 559 assists for 1032 points.
Keep watching for the rest!!!
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