Everybody has their favorite NHL player of all-time. Wayne Gretzky. Bobby Orr. Steve Yzerman. Patrick Roy. Guy Lafleur. These are usually the big names, or at least players who did something substantial in their NHL careers.
But how about your all-time favorite obscure NHLers?
These players may have had a fleeting moment, or have a memorable name that cracks you up the one time you hear it every year. These guys likely won’t be anyone’s favorite player, but some of them may hold a special place in your heart, for whatever personal reason. It doesn’t even have to make any sense. Here are some great all-time obscure NHLers.
Lonny Bohonos: First with Vancouver, then with Toronto, Bohonos showed some offensive potential early in his NHL career. His career-best was 11 goals and 22 points, but he never did play even one-half of a season. Why do I like Bohonos? Mostly because of his name. But also because the last time we saw him in the NHL, he scored nine points in nine playoff games for the Maple Leafs in 1999. Those were the only Stanley Cup playoff games he ever played, so though he never returned to the NHL, it’s not the worst way to exit.
Want a flashback? Check out this video. First it features rookie Mike Johnson and then turns to Bohonos at about the 2:30 mark.
Sergei Krivokrasov: He was a 12th overall pick by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1992 and though Krivokrasov also played with Calgary, Minnesota and Anaheim, for some reason his time with Nashville sticks with me. You know how you remember things being better than they actually were? I remember Krivokrasov seemingly being a part of every Predators highlight package in 1998-99 and that he must have been an underrated goal scorer who found some room on an expansion team. Now I look back and see he scored 25 goals that year, which isn’t bad, but is much lower than it seemed like. Anyway, he was the first Predators player who stuck with me – and he never left.
His claim to fame may be this OT winner against Patrick Roy, which was his first career NHL playoff point.
Johan Garpenlov: A fifth round pick by Detroit in 1986, Garpenlov spent most of his NHL career with young franchises San Jose and Florida. In fact, it’s his time with Florida that makes him memorable to me. He was part of the surprise 1996 team that went all the way to the final and as a Panthers fan, every player from that team will hold a special place. He scored four goals and six points in that run, but was a top-four scorer on the team during the regular season.
The more memorable Garpenlov moment for some fans – especially those in Toronto – was the time he came within an inch of eliminating the Maple Leafs from the playoffs. In San Jose’s third season as a franchise – and first in the playoffs – they had already shocked the Detroit Red Wings and held a 3-2 series lead on Toronto. In OT, Garpenlov nearly ended it. Was this the start of San Jose’s playoff curse?
Mats Lindgren: This one is a favorite for purely virtual reasons. Lindgren topped out at 13 goals and 26 points with Edmonton in 1997-98 and spent parts of four seasons with the Islanders after that. He scored 54 goals and 128 points in 387 career NHL games and is kind of a forgettable player. But, I made a 50-goal scorer out of him in EA’s NHL ’99, so there you go, he makes the list.
Chris Terreri: The last Devils starter before someone named Martin Brodeur came along, so remember that for your next hockey trivia night. When he returned to New Jersey in the late-90s I always felt sorry for him because he’d only play 10 or 12 games in a year. But when you hear his name, you immediately think “Devils backup goalie” even though he really only played backup there for four or five seasons.
Here’s a flashback: a Terreri interview with Doc Emrick! Classic.
Zarley Zalapski: Everyone’s favorite NHLer from the last page of the phone book, you may have forgotten Zalapski scored a career-high 65 points in 1992-93 and he logged 20 goals the year before. He was a strong-skating player who left a lot of potential on the table. He’s got one of the more famous names in NHL history, but he might best be known for the Ron Francis trade he was a big part of. Zalapski was the key player headed back to Hartford when they sent Francis to Pittsburgh in the 1990-91 season. Zalapski’s last NHL game was with Philadelphia in 1999-00, but he last played pro hockey in 2009-10 for Lausanne in the Swiss ‘B’ league as a 42-year-old.
Video? Sure! Here’s Zalapski trying to fight Owen Nolan (and not doing so well).
Bob Rouse: OK, so Rouse played north of 1,000 career NHL games, so he may not qualify as “obscure” to some, but he only logged 218 points so he wasn’t exactly a headliner either. When Los Angeles’ Matt Greene told CBC during the Stanley Cup final that Rouse was his favorite player growing up, I freaked out. As a Toronto-area native, I best remember Rouse in the Blue and White and that we’d joke about him being related to my grandmother, whose maiden name was Rouse.
He was a bit of a fighter and here he is taking on Derian Hatcher – who is eight years his junior – near the end of his NHL career.
Bill Houlder: He had a long NHL career that totaled 846 games, but he wasn’t a flashy defenseman by any means. Houlder was a stay-at-home guy who retired after the 2002-03 season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He’s not on this list because of his name, or because of a memorable moment he was a part of. Houlder is on this list because, come on, check out the ‘stache. Unforgettable.
Rico Fata: Everyone remembers Fata as an incredible speedster who never caught on in the NHL. He was picked sixth overall by Calgary in 1998, but only recorded one assist for them in 27 games. Out of nowhere, he scored 16 goals for Pittsburgh in 2003-04 and never scored more than three again. He’s still around the hockey world though. Fata scored three points in 10 games with HIFK Helsinki this season.
This list only scratches the surface of some all-time great obscure NHLers. In surveying Twitter for responses, I also got nominations for Dan “Suitcase” Quinn, Maxim Bets, Mikhail Shtalenkov, Clarke Wilm, Peter Popovic, Luciano Borsato, Link Gaetz and more. The list goes on. Who is your favorite – and why?