February 06, 2016
Corey Locke was a scoring dynamo in junior hockey and the minor leagues. But the only numbers NHL coaches seemed to notice was his size: five-foot-nine. As a result he only played in a total of nine NHL games, and he never got a chance to show what he really could do.
Locke was a superstar scorer with the Ottawa 67s. In three seasons in the OHL he scored 132 goals and 180 assists in 186 games. In his last two seasons he led the entire OHL in goals and points, and won back-to-back Red Tilson Trophy as the league's most outstanding player. He was also named as the top junior player in all of Canada in 2003.
Despite his obvious ability to create offense, he was not drafted until the fourth round, 113th overall, in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens. He was lauded for his playmaking ability and his power play prowess, but he was too just too small.
Locke would go onto dominate at the AHL level. He would become a two time Calder Cup champion and winner of the AHL MVP award.
He really began to emerge in the spring of 2007. He led the AHL playoffs with 10 goals as he helped Hamilton win the Calder Cup championship. He would move on through the AHL to be a better than a point-per-game player, and by 2011 be named as the AHL's Most Valuable Player.
But his size, and a bad rap for spotty defensive play, all but kept him out of the National Hockey League. He would only play one game with Montreal. He moved onto play three games with the New York Rangers and five more with the Ottawa Senators.
He played one more injury plagued year in the minors before extending his career in Europe.
Brian Kilrea, the legendary Ottawa 67s coach, summed up Locke's career nicely.
"In the National Hockey League, unless you’re on the first line, they expect everyone to go out and finish their check. Corey’s the offensive talent. He didn’t really have to go out and finish his checks [in junior]. He had to worry about avoiding someone finishing their check. It got to be where [NHL] teams [were] looking for the stereotype player. They’re always looking for someone that goes up and down the ice and finishes their check hard."
"I feel sorry for him. Every year … he’s gone out there and put up numbers. Next thing you know you’re taking a look around and somebody else on your team has gone up [to the NHL] and stayed. That’s when it gets a little discouraging, I’m sure."
"He’s gifted offensively," Kilrea said, "so give him something to work with and see if he can produce at [the NHL] level. Don’t say, ‘Here’s a checking line.’"