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Beating The Odds

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs




Ed Belfour. Never drafted.

Doug Gilmour. Drafted in the seventh round.

Is it still possible for a player to slip through the network of scouts and bird dogs, internet assessments and Central Scouting reports to beat the odds and land a spot in the NHL?

A glance at the Leafs roster says yes. So do some of the latest inductees for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

With James Reimer injured, the top three remaining goaltenders in the Leafs system weren’t selected in the NHL draft: Ben Scrivens, Jonas Gustavsson and Mark Owuya.

Tyler Bozak, holding down the number one centre spot with Tim Connolly on the mend, wasn’t drafted. Carl Gunnarsson, the defensive conscience of the team’s number one pairing, was selected in the seventh round in 2007.

Gilmour, the general manager of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs, says hockey players haven’t changed.

“You do see a lot of kids with a lot of energy. They become your favourite players.  There’s a lot of guys in our league who get drafted and end up signing (in the NHL) as a free agent."

Former Leafs and Olympic coach Pat Quinn worries about a cookie-cutter mentality that penalizes players who are late bloomers or lacking a bit of speed or size.

“There are three examples we might be missing today,” Quinn said, nodding to Belfour, Gilmour and Mark Howe.

“We go all the way down in our evaluation now and some kids get pushed away fast,” he said. “We don’t give them time to develop. Would we have missed Phil Esposito or real character guys like Bobby Clarke? “

But Belfour said he was sure prospects could beat the odds.

“I think it’s still possible, for sure,” said Belfour who had a blizzard of interest when he signed with the Chicago Blackhawks after a year at the University of North Dakota.

“You just never know. There are a lot of kids who are late bloomers. You just have to have the attitude to never give up and never quit.”

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