Scouting NHL talent is certainly an inexact science. How else do you explain 1st round busts and late round surprises?
But when a draft is over 200 selections, you would think at least NHL scouts could identify the top couple of hundred players each year. But somehow players slip through the cracks, or perhaps are late bloomers. After being passed over in multiple drafts, they sign on with an organization and somehow find their way.
Here's a look at the top players in NHL history since 1969 who were never drafted:
Goaltenders: Ed Belfour, Curtis Joseph, Glenn Healy
Defense: Jamie Macoun, Marty McSorley, Dan Boyle, Charlie Huddy, Brian Rafalski, Steve Duchesne, Mark Tinordi
Left Wing: Greg Adams, Geoff Courtnall, Ruslan Fedotenko, Illka Sinisalo, Jorgen Pettersson
Right Wing: Martin St. Louis, Dino Ciccarelli, Joey Mullen, Tim Kerr, Mike Keane, Steve Thomas
Center: Adam Oates, Guy Charron, Dave Poulin, Mike Ridley, John Madden, Jeff Halpern
This list does not include several 70s era European imports, such as Borje Salming or Peter Stastny. Because of their age and the rules at that time, they were free agents. Also notably absent is Wayne Gretzky, who arrived in the NHL prior to his draft day due to the merger with the WHA.