Gretzky, easily best undrafted NHL player

Best Undrafted Players: The Great One Easily Makes List

We got to see 200+ players live their dream and get drafted to the NHL at the 2023 Draft. For all the kids selected by one of 32 NHL teams, there was an equal number (if not more) who didn't get picked. To those kids, I say: "The dream might seem dead, but it really isn't."

There are a number of undrafted players that have gone on to not only solid NHL careers but even record-breaking ones. Again, the dream isn't dead, and here's the proof.

Wayne Gretzky

That's right, the best player to ever play the game was undrafted. Too young to play in the NHL, The Great One decided to play in the WHA with the Indianapolis Racers. He played eight games before the Oilers (also then part of the WHA) and owner Peter Pocklington paid Indianapolis $700,000 for the young phenom.

Gretzky holds 61 NHL records including the most goals in a single season (92 goals), the most assists in a single season (163) and the most points in a single season (215). He's also got the longest point streak at 51 games and 13 consecutive seasons with 100 or more points. 

So to all you kids that went undrafted, the GOAT was just like you.

Ed Belfour

Ed Belfour is a two-time Vezina winner, a Calder winner, a four-time Jennings winner and Stanley Cup Champion with the Dallas Stars. He is easily the best goalie who never got drafted by an NHL team.

Ed made his way to the NHL after dominating as a 21-year-old freshman in college for UND. After that freshman year with a 29-4 record and averaging a 2.43GAA and 0.915SV% Chicago signed him. After two years in the Hawks IHL affiliate, he was called up to the show. 

Eddy The Eagle is in the Hockey Hall of Fame thanks to a career 0.906SV% and 2.50GAA. Remember, Eddy played in the late '80s and early '90s when scoring was still wild in the NHL. Putting up those numbers was incredible.

Adam Oates

Adam Oates is yet another undrafted player that found his way to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The kid who was deemed too slow to play at the NHL is regarded as one of the best playmakers of his generation. His 1,079 career assists are bested by only five other forwards: Wayne Gretzky, Ron Francis, Mark Messier, Jaromir Jagr and Joe Thornton.


Few were better than Oates at dishing the puck. And to think, he may have never made the league because scouts and teams didn't want to take the time to fix his skating. Ridiculous.

Borje Salming

The Swede holds the Leafs record for most goals (148), assists (620) and, of course, points (768) for defensemen. Salming didn't just score, he was tough as nails. Proving that European players weren't "soft". 

He was the first European player to play 1,000 NHL games and the first inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

And to think, he was discovered by accident. The Leafs were out in Gavle, Sweden scouting Borje's friend Inge Hammarstrom. 

Martin St. Louis

Unlike Oates, St. Louis had something he couldn't fix. His size. At 5'8" St. Louis was seen as too small to play in the NHL. With defensemen looming well over 6'0" in the 'chel, this Laval, Québec native would surely get crushed and never score as much as he did in the lower leagues.

Tell me if you've heard this before, but as it turns out, size doesn't matter. Talent speaks way louder than a measuring stick. (Having tree trunks for legs might help too.)

St. Louis would win *deep breath* three Lady Byng trophies, two Art Ross trophies, a Hart trophy, a Pearson award, a Stanley Cup with Tampa and he was named to the NHL's All-Star team five times.

Size isn't nearly the same pariah it was in St. Louis' days. And that's thanks to guys like Martin St. Louis. Cole Caufield, who stands 5'7", was drafted 15th overall in 2019 and has scored 0.43 goals per game in his...short NHL career.