For some who play junior hockey, the pinnacle of success achieved in their teens is a call to the podium at the NHL Entry Draft. However, going undrafted is not the end of the world by any stretch.
A few recent cases in point here from the WHL:
1. David Schlemko: My personal favorite because I included him in my Top 20 WHL Prospects piece prior to the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Schlemko played on the Medicine Hat Tigers' blueline behind the likes of Cam Barker (Chicago), Kris Russell (Columbus) and Gord Baldwin (Calgary). Head coach Willi Desjardins absolutely loved Schlemko because he was a reliable contributor while the headliners were called to duty at a couple of World Junior Championships. Shortly after going undrafted, Schlemko was signed by the Phoenix Coyotes and has already played a few NHL games.
2. Brent Raedeke: The Detroit Red Wings love this kid, especially after the recent prospects camp. The Regina, Saskatchewan-born left winger has spent the past two seasons with the Edmonton Oil Kings. Signed as a free agent, Raedeke is playing his way into the plans of the NHL's premiere organization.
3. Kellen Tochkin: While skating is said to be the most important aspect at the professional level, I have always asked why then, do we look at the scoreboard after each game.? Perhaps it should be replaced by an odometer? I'd rather have an above average skater who can put the puck in the net, before an outstanding skater with hands of stone. When average skaters produce offensively on a consistent, they must be doing something right. Tochkin was overlooked last month on draft day, but put up impressive numbers for the Everett Silvertips. A great signing this week by the Vancouver Canucks!
4. Sam Klassen: The Saskatoon Blades took a chance on Klassen, who also went undrafted in the WHL bantam draft many moons ago. NHL teams also took a pass on the defender until someone in the New York Rangers' organization smelled the coffee. The blueshirts inked Klassen to a three-year deal this past week.