The best in the hockey world are now involved in the marathon that is the Stanley Cup playoffs.
A select few will raise the Stanley Cup after four rounds and 16 wins in just under two months time.
In a parallel universe, the also-rans, wannabes and never-will-be’s are start vying for the Calder Cup, awarded for American Hockey League supremacy.
The road to the NHL is a short one for some minor leaguers, but for others, a cup of coffee in the show — or a career riding buses — is the norm. Many a talented hockey player, lacking in one or more of the “five tools” has had to content himself with being the big fish in a small pond.
Take Don Cherry, of “Coaches Corner.” As a NHL coach, he found success in Boston and then renown as the more outspoken half of a Hockey Night in Canada staple that includes Ron McLean. As a defenceman, he played in many a minor league hockey game at a fairly high standard, never to grace a NHL rink.
There have been many like Cherry and we’ve got 10 who, despite minor league success, never got much of a sniff at the highest level (six forwards, three defencemen and one goalie in no particular order).
10. Mitch Lamoureux – F
As a little guy, Mitch Lamoureux was one of those players, if not for his size, could have had a lengthy NHL career. At 5’6″ and 185 lbs, the Ottawa native had to be crafty and would score 316 points in 196 OHL games with the Oshawa Generals between 1979-80 and 1981-82. The Pittsburgh Penguins thought enough of Lamoureux to select him 154th overall in 1981, but it would be nearly three years before he would play a NHL game. Mostly, he was a star for the AHL’s Baltimore Skipjacks, potting 57 goals and 50 assists in is rookie season (1982-83). In a AHL career that would span parts of 17 seasons and four teams, Lamoureux would score 816 points in 802 games, retiring as the second highest scorer in league history. Mixed in between, Lamoureux scored 67 points in 71 games for the San Diego Gulls of the IHL, 33 points in 16 games for B.C. of the UHL and 80 points in 42 contests for Zell am See of the Austrian league. The sum total of his NHL experience was just 73 games for Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, where he recorded just 20 points.
9. Josef Boumedienne – D
Josef Boumedienne is the only Swedish-Algerian hockey player to ever play in the NHL, albeit for a whopping 47 games. The Stockholm native skated as a defenceman for Sodertalje of the Swedish Elite league as a teenager in 1996-97 after being pick ed 91st overall by New Jersey in the ’96 draft. He would toil another season with Sodertalje and two with Tappara Tampere of the Finnish league before crossing the pond in 2000 to play for Albany of the AHL. He acquitted himself well with New Jersey’s farm club, scoring 37 points in 79 games. Despite his ability, he would play in just one NHL game for the Devils (scoring a goal) before being dealt to Tampa during the 2001-02 season (three more games), with another 53 for Tampa’s AHL club, the Springfield Falcons. Interspersed with call-ups to the Washington Capitals, Boumedienne would also play for Portland, Binghamton, Hershey and the Toronto Marlies. He finished his AHL career as the highest scoring right defenceman ever, scoring 33 goals and 143 assists in 295 games.
8. Bruce Boudreau – F
He might be a high profile coach now for the Minnesota Wild with 846 total games coached, but as a player Boudreau was probably best known for his role as “Hockey Player #7” in the seminal film “Slapshot.” Well, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but for all of his offensive talent, the diminutive Boudreau got into just 141 NHL games (70 points) in a pro career that spanned from 1975-76 to 1991-92. Name a team in the AHL and Boudreau played for them, as well as several teams in the old NAHL, WHA, CHL and IHL. At the AHL level, Boudreau recorded an amazing 799 points (third all-time) in just 634 games. He had stops with the New Brunswick Hawks, St. Catharines Saints, Baltimore Skipjacks, Nova Scotia Oilers, Springfield Indians and Newmarket Saints. In his best AHL season, he scored 122 points for St. Catharines in 1982-83. Boudreau also added 576 points in 439 games with teams like he Dallas Blackhawks of the CHL, and Fort Wayne Komets of the IHL, giving him 1,375 points in 1,073 minor league contests.
7. Alexandre Giroux – F
As of this writing, career minor leaguer Alexandre Giroux was still lacing them up with Zagreb-Medvescak of the KHL. The 35-year-old journeyman center from Quebec City has bounced around a lot since being selected in the seventh round (213th overall) by Ottawa in 1999. A 50-goal scorer in his second year of junior, the lanky pivot wouldn’t play the first of his 48 total NHL games until the 2005-06 season with the New York Rangers (his only game that season). In between brief bursts in the NHL with the Rangers, Capitals, Oilers and Blue Jackets, where he scored six goals and six assists, Giroux was very nearly a point-per-game man in 771 AHL tilts, finishing his career first all-time in goals (368) and sixth all time in points (704). We find it amazing that a guy who scored 60 in 69 games with the Hershey Bears during the 2008-09 campaign with the Hershey Bears and then another 50 in the same number of games the next season couldn’t find regular employment at the NHL level.
6. Chris Snell – D
In 1993-94, Regina native Chris Snell led all AHL defencemen in scoring with the St. John’s Maple Leafs, firing 22 goals and adding 74 assists in 75 games and earning the Eddie Shore Award as top defender. He would enjoy just 34 games in the NHL, though, scoring nine points between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings. A great scorer in junior with the Ottawa 67s, Snell finished his three-year career there with 221 points in 183 games. The Buffalo Sabres drafted him 145th overall in 1991 and he spent two seasons with their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. He never did play in Buffalo, but put up 19 goals and 84 assists in 141 games with the Amerks. Snell would play just 248 games in the A and logged nearly a point per game, registering 231 points. He spent the last six seasons of his career in Germany.
5. Darren Haydar – F
Fast and talented little guys becoming big stars is not the norm in the NHL. Which is why elite minor league playmaker Darren Haydar couldn’t quite cut the grade in the show. The former ninth round pick of the Nashville Predators (248th overall in 1999) piled up 788 points in 780 AHL games, good for fourth all-time. His NHL count? Just one measly goal and seven assists in 23 games. Don’t get us wrong, just making it to the big league his huge, and maybe Haydar deserved a longer shot. But, after two seasons of Jr. A in Milton, Ontario and four more at the University of New Hampshire (where he was Hockey East player of the year in 2002), Haydar would spend the majority of his time in the AHL. What’s kind of galling is that after establishing career highs in goals (41) and points (122) with the Chicago Wolves in 2006-07 and being named MVP, he was given just a four-game stint with the Atlanta Thrashers that same season, scoring no points. Disappointment at the highest level, followed by demotion to the A was the hallmark of his illustrious pro career, which finished in 2015-16 when he played with the Lausitzer Foxes of the German second league.
4. Frederic Cassivi – G
Goaltending at the NHL level is hard. Even harder if a netminder is only given short windows with which to impress. Such was the case of Frederic Cassivi, who played the third most games in the AHL all-time at 433. At 6’4″, the Sorel, PQ born Cassivi had the size and talent to be a big leaguer, but failed to stick after four short stints with the Atlanta Thrashers, and Washington Capitals. Cassivi was good enough in junior to attract the attention of the Ottawa Senators in 1994, who selected him in the ninth round, 210th overall. He would play well in four seasons in the AHL with Syracuse, Worcester and Hershey and was summoned for six games with Atlanta during the 2001-02 season. He won two and lost three and logged a .918 save percentage and 3.32 GAA, not bad. Unfortunately, that would be as good as it got for the hard-luck netminder. He won two Calder Cups in the AHL, one with the Chicago Wolves in 2002 and another with the Hershey Bears in 2006. He was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2015.
3. Peter Ferraro – F
First round picks in the NHL typically get a better than average go of it in the big league. Not so Peter Ferraro, despite being nearly a point per game man in the A. One half of a talented set of twins with brother Chris, Peter was drafted 24th overall by the New York Rangers in 1992 and after playing well at the University of Maine, turned pro with the Binghamton Rangers in 1994. The following season the Port Jefferson, NY born right winger scored 48 goals and 53 assists in 68 games for Binghamton, followed by a five-game call-up to Broadway (one assist). That trend, though, would only continue, as he was promoted and demoted from the Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals over the course of the next six seasons. In all, he played in 92 NHL games, scoring nine times and adding 15 assists. His AHL resume saw him play 620 games and register 591 points with Binghamton, the Hartford Wolf Pack, Providence Bruins, Portland Pirates, Springfield Falcons, Syracuse Crunch, Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Peoria Rivermen.
2. Jean-Marc Richard – D
In 1987-88, high scoring junior defenceman Jean-Marc Richard had a great debut with the Quebec Nordiques, skating in four games and scoring two goals and an assist. This after lighting up the AHL for the Fredericton Express, tallying 56 points in 68 contests. His NHL career, however, would last just one more game during the 1989-90 campaign. The rest of his very good pro career would be split between the A, the IHL and German Bundesliga. Richard played 245 games in the AHL with Fredericton and the Halifax Citadels, recording 162 points. His prolific production continued in the IHL with stops in Fort Wayne (Komets), San Diego (Gulls), Las Vegas (Thunder) and Quebec (Rafales). Richard had 16 goals and 68 assists in 82 games for Fort Wayne in 1991-92, winning the Governor’s Trophy as the league’s best defenceman. In all he had 321 points in 418 total IHL games.
1. Jon DiSalvatore – F
The quaint city of Bangor, Maine is known as the home of legendary novelist Stephen King. It has also produced a fair number of other minor and major celebrities and exactly one hockey player, Jon DiSalvatore. The left winger was a standout at Providence College and was selected 104th overall by the San Jose Sharks in the 2000 draft. After four years with the Friars, DiSalvatore turned pro with the Sharks AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Barons, in 2003. He played two solid seasons in the Sharks system before being signed by St. Louis in 2004. DiSalvatore was full measure for the Blues AHL team, the Peoria Rivermen, scoring 22 goals and 45 assists in 72 games (his best minor league output) during the 2005-06 season. It was good enough to have the Blues call him up for five games late that season. Yet, he didn’t record a point in limited ice time and would play just one more NHL game, with the Minnesota Wild in 2011-12. His AHL career spanned 814 games (12th most, all-time) and eight teams and he finished with 576 points (good for 24th all-time).