After interviewing many people who have either reported on games or coached in the Canadian Major Junior Hockey league, here is a list of the top 10 hockey players who never made it.
9. Philipe Lefebvre
10. Tommy Burlington
Tommy Burlington set scoring records in every league that he played. He signed an NHL contract with the Chicago Black Hawks but he never skated on hockey's biggest stage. In the autumn of 1939 a young man threw his hockey gear into the back of a transport truck and climbed into the cab. He was leaving his hometown of Mount Dennis to play junior hockey in Owen Sound, Ontario. Little did he know that the career that lay ahead would be a roller-coaster ride of highs experienced from setting records and winning championships, but also burdened with devastating disappointment. Many hockey fans, who saw Tommy Burlington play hockey, rank him with Wayne Gretzky as one of the best hockey players that they ever saw! When players, reporters and hockey historians, meet someone from Owen Sound, many immediately ask if they knew Tommy Burlington, or saw him play. When the same question is asked of them, the response is always the same. "Tommy Burlington was one of the best!" Tommy Burlington was born on August 8, 1920 in Toronto. After a season of junior hockey, he remained in Owen Sound, playing Intermediate hockey. The following season, 1941-42, Burlington signed with the Eastern Hockey League's Atlantic City Seagulls. Burlington stayed in Atlantic City for only one season. But what a season! He terrorized goaltenders, setting a league scoring record with 65 goals and 66 assists. Burlington's scoring feats are even more phenomenal when you consider that he only had vision in one eye.
Lefebvre started his career with the Laval Voisins of the (QMJHL). When he was drafted at age 15, he declared that he would break league records; in the 1983-84 QMJHL season, Lefebvre broke the league record for points in a season with 282 (133 goals, 149 assists) in 70 games. In his last game of the regular season, Lefebvre needed three goals to tie Guy Lafleur's record of 130 goals—he scored two goals and added six assists in a 16-4 victory. Although he played in the 1983 World Junior Hockey Championships, Lefebvre refused to play for the Canadian Juniors in 1984 because he disliked how coach Dave Kingtreated him in the previous tournament. He also did not want to break up his junior season. He finished his QMJHL career with 362 points (147 goals, 215 assists) in three seasons.
8. Mark Roussel
Drafted ninth overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Calgary Flames and completed his run in the Western Hockey League for the Red Deer Rebels in the spring of 2005. He was named to the CHL First All-Star team for the 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 seasons. Roussel represented Canada at the 2004 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Helsinki, Finland and he was named to the Tournament All Star Team. The following year Roussel returned to the 2005 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where the Canadians took gold for the first time in eight years. He was again awarded a spot on the Tournament All-Star Team and was named Top Defenseman of the tournament. Roussel became only the third rookie defenseman to score 20 goals in a season. Brian Sutter, coach of the Red Deer Rebels stated, "Roussel is the total package in terms of a defenseman. He has speed, size and a heck of a shot. Roussel will be the franchise in Calgary for as long as they can keep him and is arguably the best defenseman playing in the game today."
7. Paul Lisi
At the age of 15, Paul Lisi tore up the Quebec Midget AAA circuit. Even though he stood out among the league for his superb skating skills and original stickhandling technique he was often critisized for his lack of effort by QMJHL officials. His record of twenty seven games with five or more points still holds to this day. After playing just 13 games for the Laval Titan a knee injury ended his playing career. His coach was quoted at the time, "Paul's is a sad story, the opponent's fans gave him a really hard time, it was not easy for an anglophone to play in this league and pose such an offensive threat. He did not have the support or will to recover from such an injury. But, when Paul was angry and motivated to play, he had such an exceptional combination of skill and vision of the game, no one could stop him from doing whatever he wanted to with the puck."
6. Doug Wickenheiser
Wickenheiser routinely brought the crowds to life - especially in the spring of 1980 when he captained Regina to its most-recent WHL title. "Doug was an exceptional player, as everyone is aware,'' says Bob Strumm, whose first season as the Pats' general manager was Wickenheiser's 89-goal campaign. "He had it all . . . the size, the skill, and an exceptional sense for the game around him that all the great players have. He had three or four speeds and used them all effectively when he had the puck. "He was much more competitive than people gave him credit for, and he was truly a man among boys at the time.'' Strumm noticed that even before joining the Pats. For example, there was one game in 1978-79, when Strumm was GM of the now-defunct Billings Bighorns. "The Pats were in town,'' Strumm recalls. "It was the first time I had seen the kid everyone was talking about. He scored three times -- one using his quick wrist shot which accelerated into the net, one using his monster reach, and the other with a backhand move in front. I thought, 'Underage . . . Hmmmm, this kid is going to be great,' with some adjectives thrown in, of course.''Strumm was able to enjoy Wickenheiser's presence to a greater degree the following winter, when Regina advanced to the Memorial Cup. That year, the CHL's championship tournament began in Brandon before moving to Regina. "In his last game as a Pat, we clobbered the eventual champion -- Cornwall,'' Strumm says. "He was outstanding. He did it all. It was a fitting farewell.'' Wickenheiser was an easy fit with the Pats. Despite his star status, he did not consider himself to be above anyone.
5. David Gilbert
Gilbert was one of the most highly touted prospects to enter the OHL in its history and for two seasons, he demonstrated why. The 16-year-old sensation broke Wayne Gretzky’s record for most goals by a 16-year-old last season, won the CHL Player of the Year Award and the Red Tilson Trophy as OHL MVP. Gilbert suffered 3 head injuries and continues to suffer symptoms of post-concussion syndrome. "I'm sorry I couldn't overcome this injury and dragged this out as long as I did. I did it all with the best of intentions and with the thought of returning to the game I love and playing in front of 20,000 screaming fans."
4. Brad Johnson
Advancing almost to the head of the class after his selection as the top prospect in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft, defenseman Brad Johnson was the prototypical No. 1 NHL blueliner. Possessed of a fluid, assured hockey sense and great open-ice vision to go with his imposing frame, Johnson was widely considered as the best two-way defenseman at the 1985 World Junior Championships. Rarely has a defenseman of his size with his overall abilities failed to develop into a top NHL blueliner.
3. Joe Cologna
Joe Cologna was selected first overall in the midget draft by the Rimouski Océanic of the QMJHL. In his first game in the QMJHL, he scored one goal and added two assists. He was named Player of the Week for two consecutive weeks at the start of the season, and eventually won the honour four more times as the season progressed. He was named Player of the Month three times, and CHL Player of the Week three times. By the end of the season, he had been named Player of the Year, Top Rookie, and Top Scorer- the first QMJHL player to earn all three honours at once. He also led the QMJHL with 54 goals and 81 assists in only 59 regular season games. In August 2004, Cologna turned down $7.5 million over three years to play for the Hamilton franchise of the WHA, claiming that he was not ready to leave the junior league yet. During his amateur years, Cologna caught the attention of several journalists and other players, including Wayne Gretzky himself. When Gretzky was asked if he thought anyone could break his records, he answered that Joe Cologna could, and added that Cologna was the best player he had seen sinc Mario LeMieux.
2. Patrick Sound
Patrick Sound lead his team (15-6) to the Calder Cup, with an impressive goals against average (2.06) and save percentage (.936). In his first game of the Calder Cup finals, he stopped all 46 shots to post a shutout. He won the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the Calder Cup playoffs MVP while he was 19 years old. He is the youngest player ever to win this award. Sound was named Tournament MVP at the 2007 IIHF World Junior (U20) Ice Hockey Championship. He was also named the tournament's top goaltender and was named to the tournament's All-Star Team. He is the only goaltender in hockey history to be named CHL Goaltender of the year, World Junior Championship's tournament MVP and win the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy, all in the same year. He is also the only goaltender in hockey history to win the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy the same year as playing junior. Simply stopped playing due to personal and family problems.
1. Alexandre Daigle
Daigle was considered as a promising prospect. The Senators were even accused of deliberately losing late in the season to draft him, which prompted an investigation by the league. When the expansion team finished last, they drafted Daigle over future NHL superstarsChris Pronger and Paul Kariya who were picked second and fourth, respectively. He also uttered the infamous comment "I'm glad I got drafted first, because no one remembers number two." (Ironically, the Senators had drafted Alexei Yashin second overall in 1992.) Daigle also received the largest starting salary in league history (five-year, $12.25 million), which lead to the introduction of a rookie salary cap a few years later. Daigle never measured up to his potential, nor expectations throughout his stints. He was frequently criticized for lack of effort and motivation, partially because of his lucrative and long-term contract, and he was outshone by Russian centre Alexei Yashin in every season that they were teammates. Ironically, management continued to support Daigle over Yashin, not only giving Daigle a large rookie salary but also touting him over Yashin for the Calder Trophy (though Yashin ending up receiving a nomination instead of Daigle). Due to management's continued support of Daigle despite his underperformance, an angered Yashin threatened to hold out in the 1995-96 season unless his contract was raised to a level similar to Daigle's. After 4.5 years and only 74 goals, the fans and management in Ottawa turned against Daigle and he was then traded.