The NHL is changing all the time, especially as it get younger and younger. It is very hard to get an NHL job and keep it for at least ten years these days. Older players usually have to find work elsewhere in other leagues and many borderline-NHL talented players opt to play overseas rather than in the minor league. Here is a look at some well-known NHL players and personnel that many people have forgotten about and thought they were just in the league yesterday.
After getting drafted 17th overall in 1993, Allison played a few seasons before breaking out as a star on the Boston Bruins. He eventually was named team captain and scored a career-high 95 points in 2000-01. However, the power forward was traded after that season to the Los Angeles Kings, where he enjoyed some success despite battling injury issues. Before the 2005-06 season, Allison signed a one-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs and scored a respectable 60 points in 66 games. He was an unrestricted free agent after that season, but did not sign any contract with a team. However, there was hope of a possible NHL comeback after the Maple Leafs invited him to their 2009 Training Camp. After making a case to be on the team, and crushing an opponent’s helmet with his bare hands in the process, Allison was eventually cut and left without a team again. The once-emerging NHL star now owns and operates a horse farm north of Toronto.
The 30th overall pick in the 199o NHL draft made a name for himself in the early 90s as an offensive defenceman with the San Jose Sharks. After getting traded to the Colorado Avalanche in the 1995-96 season, Ozolinsh emergerd as one of the best defensemen in the league. Over the next couple of seasons, he went on to win the Stanley Cup, became a Norris Trophy finalist, and was a First-Team All-Star. Ozolinsh went on to play for 5 more NHL teams in the 2000s before signing with his home country KHL team Dinamo Riga in 2009 and was named team captain. After playing one season with Atlant Moscow Oblast, Ozolinsh returned to Riga this season and was renamed team captain. Not too many people know that Ozolinsh is still playing professionally, but the 41-year-old is making a name for himself again as one of the best defencemen in the KHL.
A late round draft pick in 1998, Raycroft moved his way up the goalie ladder until 2003, when he became the starter on the Boston Bruins. In that season, he posted a 2.05 GAA, .926 save percentage, got three shutouts and led the team to a second place finish in the Eastern Conference; making him, without a doubt, one of the best rookie goalies in NHL history. However, his career went downhill from there. After the lockout, he had a poor 2005-06 season, and was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for future superstar Tuukka Rask. For the next few seasons, Raycroft was unable to hold onto his NHL job and was demoted and placed on waivers a couple times in the Maple Leafs, Canucks, and Stars organizations. During this time, Rask was emerging as one of the best young goalies in the NHL. Unable to find an NHL job, Raycroft now plays for Loven in the Swedish Hockey League.
The Polish-Canadian forward used to be a highly-coveted young gun when he was with the Colorado Avalanche. He started his NHL career off with a bang after recording 3 points in his first game. He continued this success with the Avalanche and the Phoenix Coyotes until 2010-11, when he got traded to the New York Rangers. He struggled with the Rangers, Panthers, and Capitals in the next couple of seasons before joining KH Sanok in the Polish Hockey Superleague this past offseason. However, the is still hope for the 27-year-old to find his way back to the NHL.
The notorious OHL player who gave Kitchener Rangers defenceman Ben Fanelli a major concussion was almost forgotten about in the hockey world. After his nearly season-long suspension in 2009, Liambas was offered a try-out with the Maple Leafs. After not making the team, he went to the University of Biritish Columbia to study Human Kinetics and later played in the ECHL. Liambas now plays in the AHL for the Milwaukee Admirals.
What happened to Jonathan Cheechoo, Alexei Yashin, and others? Found out in Part 2 of this series!