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November 22, 2015

Kelly Kisio

Kelly Kisio was never drafted by an NHL team despite some mindboggling statistics in junior. In 4 years with the AJHL's Red Deer Rustlers and WHL's Calgary Wranglers, Kelly played in 259 games, scored 252 goals, 250 assists for an amazing 502 points! However the only statistic that NHL scouts seemed to notice was his size 5'10".

He was very light in junior hockey as well, but by the time he made the NHL he beefed up to 185 lbs. Two reasons for his success at the NHL level were that he played much bigger than he actually was and his great balance on skates. He wasn't a fast or great skater, but he was tough to knock off of the puck.

Kelly wasn't discouraged by the draft snub. He ended up signing as a free agent in the minor leagues. He spent half a year with Adirondack. It was baptism by fire for Kisio as the AHL was the best minor league at the time, but he played respectfully. He also spent half a year in the IHL, which was pretty weak at the time. He scored almost a goal a game in 31 games with the Kalamazoo Wings.

Kelly really started catching the notice of scouts who were still writing him off because of his size in 1981-82 when he led the entire Central Hockey League, a good minor league at the time, in goals with 62 in 78 games. Yet NHL offers were not coming in for Kelly.

Kisio, perhaps a bit frustrated by this point, packed his bags and headed to Switzerland where he thought he could earn more money while playing hockey. He had a great year with HC Davos, and once their season ended the Detroit Red Wings offered Kelly a chance to finish out the season with them.

Kelly never looked back after finally getting his chance. The Wings brought him back the following year and for the next 10 seasons Kelly was a solid 20-25 goal getter and 65-70 point scorer with Wings, NY Rangers and San Jose Sharks.

Late in his career Kelly returned home to Calgary to play with the Flames. But his homecoming was ruined by a severe shoulder injury suffered in a game against the Washington Capitals that eventually forced him to retire.

Kelly put up decent numbers in the NHL once he got a chance, but he was more than a scorer. He saw the ice well and had good anticipation which allowed him to be a good member of a checking line and specialty team units. He was a good physical player who was all heart at both ends of the ice.

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