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Undrafted, undaunted: Newfoundlander Brett Budgell tweets a challenge to adversity

Brett Budgell seems to be taking a positive approach after the Paradise native and Charlottetown Islanders forward was passed over in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. — SaltWire file photo/Jason Malloy
Brett Budgell seems to be taking a positive approach after the Paradise native and Charlottetown Islanders forward was passed over in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. — SaltWire file photo/Jason Malloy - Jason Malloy

Paradise native was passed over by NHL teams the weekend, but indicates on social media he’s not giving up on his dream

PARADISE, N.L. —

One of the better bits during coverage of the 2019 National Hockey League Entry Draft was a video featuring Calgary Flames defenceman and captain Mark Giordano, who urged those young players who weren’t selected not to give up on their dreams, pointing out he too had been undrafted, but still made it to the NHL, where he’s enjoyed a 12-year career. The 35-year-old Giordano who signed as a free agent with the Flames in 2004, then held up the Norris Trophy he had won as the NHL’s best rearguard just days before.

We’re not sure if Brett Budgell saw the video with the advice from Giardano, who coincidentally, had gone selected in the Ontario Hockey League draft as well. But whatever the case, it appears Budgell had adopted the attitude the Flames’ blueliner was preaching.

Monday on his Twitter account (@brettbudgell10), the 18-year-old from Paradise posted the following quotation from German aviator and author Dieter Uchtdorf:

“It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop.”

Budgell had gone unselected in the weekend draft, held in Vancouver. The forward from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Charlottetown Islanders had been rated 156th amongst North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s pre-draft rankings. But with those rankings not taking into account goaltenders or Europeans, and with only 217 players selected overall, that seemed to peg Budgell as having an outside chance, at best, of being taken.

Still, you know there had to be some disappointment, especially considering there were players ranked lower than Budgell, including from the QMJHL, who were picked. But he — and the hundreds of others who didn’t have their names called — will now have to be buoyed by the example of Giardano or of 20-year-old Western Hockey League forward Brett Leason, who was shut out in two Entry Drafts before the Washington Capitals traded up for a pick to select him in Saturday’s second round.

And there is the inter-provincial story of Bonavista’s Michael Ryder, the highest-scoring NHLer to ever come from Newfoundland. If the 1998 NHL draft had been a seven-round affair, as it is today, Ryder would have gone unselected; he was an eight-round choice by the Montreal Canadiens.

As it was, with 27 teams in the NHL at the time, Ryder was taken 216th overall, meaning that had he been born 21 years later, he would have been the second-last player drafted Saturday in Vancouver.

Charlottetown Islanders forward Brett Budgell (10) is shown in action earlier this Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. — Charlottetown Islanders photo/Darrell Theriault
Charlottetown Islanders forward Brett Budgell (10) is shown in action earlier this Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. — Charlottetown Islanders photo/Darrell Theriault

Many undrafted players will get invitations to summer prospects camps and/or rookie, AHL and main NHL training camps in September. There’s no immediate word on if Budgell has received or accepted such an invitation, but it would be surprising if there wasn’t some legitimate interest in the Islanders’ winger, who finished with 18 goals, 33 points and a plus-10 rating in his first full QMJHL season. What’s more, he had been thought of as a more draftable commodity not too many months ago; he was listed higher in Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings — 105th among North American forwards and defencemen.

In fact, there can be some benefit to be undrafted, as long as there is more than one team interested in the player. It can offer the prospect some choice, something unavailable to him if he is attached to a single team by virtue of being drafted.

While we’re offering hope to the undrafted, we’ll add a cautionary note to those who have been picked.

Undoubtedly, being drafted provides the advantage that comes with an NHL team having made the investment of a pick; it provides a built-in chance because organizations don't want to be seen as wasteful in their selections. But still, it doesn’t always mean a player is guaranteed contracted entry into an NHL organization. The Kelly Cup ECHL Newfoundland Growlers had more than a few players who were drafted, but never signed NHL deals with the big-league team that picked them. Defenceman Sam Jardine and forwards Giorgio Estephan, Matt Bradley and Hudson Elynuik all fall into the category, with Elynuik having been the highest chosen, 74th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2016.

Instead, they have resigned and dedicated themselves to finding a different route to their dreams, in this case with AHL contracts in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ system. And that route has taken them through Newfoundland, where five of the six leading scorers for the Growlers were never drafted, including Kelly Cup MVP and St. John’s native Zach O’Brien, who hasn’t played in the NHL, and might never, but has nevertheless fashioned an excellent minor-league career, earning championships in two leagues, the AHL and ECHL.

Twitter: @telybrendan


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