Sometimes, the NHL Entry Draft gets it wrong. Not just the order of the picks, influenced by former biases or cultural stereotypes, letting players like Nicklas Lidstrom fall to the third round because of his heritage, or Jamie Benn to the fifth because of his competition. No, sometimes it’s even worse than that. Sometimes it misses players completely.
That’s the case for Darren Raddysh, the likely winner of OHL Defenseman of the Year and 21-year old brother of a Tampa Bay Lightning prospect drafted in the second round—Taylor Raddysh, who also had an incredible year. The elder Raddysh went undrafted through each year of eligibility and is now a free agent able to sign with any NHL team he wants, after each one passed on him dozens of times. As Scott Powers of The Athletic notes in his latest piece, the Chicago Blackhawks have considered Raddysh but you could say that for many teams. As his source tells him:
I think you might have 30 teams who would tell you the same thing. He had a very, very impressive year.
It’s true, Raddysh did have an impressive year. After two very successful seasons for the Erie Otters that saw him score 48 and 40 points, he exploded this season as an overager. While many players dominate the junior leagues after their 20th birthday, Raddysh performed on another level scoring 81 points in 62 games and another 22 in the playoffs. Even at his advanced age and on a team loaded with talent, the defenseman turned heads all over the league.
Now, there is no guarantee—or even really a likelihood—that Raddysh goes on to great things in the NHL. But you can be sure that he’ll be signing an entry-level contract somewhere, and will be given a chance to develop as a talented, puck-rushing defenseman. The fact that he’s right-handed helps his case, and though he’s not a bruising presence, he’s not small either. Standing at 6’1″, 200-lbs Raddysh can take care of himself in his own end and has enough offense to make up for it. Whether he can learn the systems of professional hockey and be sound enough positionally to make an impact is still to be seen, but people have underestimated him for too long. Now, instead of being chosen by an organization, it’s Raddysh that will get to make a selection.