Looking for the next Adam Oates 

February, 1, 2011

Getty ImagesOates had a prosperous NHL career and is, in some ways, the model for finding undrafted college stars.
What do NHL pro scouts do during the All-Star break? There's no going to the AHL, with its schedule suspended for its own All-Star game. Junior? Well, maybe, just to check up on some already drafted prospects, hopefully their own, and make some projections about who might get a call-up to the AHL at the end of the season. One option for these scouts looking for something to do is fishing -- for an undrafted college player who'll be a free agent at the end of the season.

But the odds of catching prospects who'll play and stick at the next level are long -- in the opinion of a lot of scouts and general managers, too long to invest much time scouting and money wooing them. They'll cite the example of Ray Staszak, a guy who passed through the draft untapped when he was with the University of Illinois-Chicago in the mid-80s and then put up 37 goals in 38 games. The Detroit Red Wings thought this was good for a million bucks, making Staszak the first-ever undrafted player to fetch seven figures. For that small fortune Staszak lasted a year; four games with the big club, 26 with Adirondack. That's the cautionary tale and also how most of these signings turn out. You'll find exceptions, but the odds are not in your favor.