Patric Hornqvist, taken by the Nashville Predators with the last pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, remembers the day he was drafted like it was yesterday.
After being told on Day 2 of the draft that he wouldn’t be selected, he went to bed because in Sweden the draft is conducted at night.
“My agent called me the night before and gave me a heads up that I probably wouldn’t be drafted, and maybe I could get drafted the next year,” Hornqvist said. “[The next morning] my dad opened the paper and saw my name there at last overall. He came up and woke me up – he knocked on my door and told me I was drafted by Nashville. It was a pretty exciting moment.”
It was also a dream come true, Hornqvist mentioned.
“It was a big day for my career to get drafted and have an opportunity to come over and play in the best league in the world. Since the first time I put skates on I wanted to play in the NHL.”
As a seventh-round pick and the final selection of the draft, the chances weren’t great for Hornqvist to get to where he is today.
In the drafts leading up to 2005, 24.1% of seventh-round picks played in the NHL; much fewer stuck in the NHL beyond a handful of games. Moreover, only six players drafted with the final pick had ever reached the NHL.
However, it didn’t bother Hornqvist that the odds were stacked against him.
“You are 18 years old when you get drafted. You can’t really tell [the future] then,” he said. “In my opinion the first 50 picks are really good hockey players when they are 18. The rest of them have some really good stuff and have to work on other stuff. I think if you get drafted, even in late rounds, you can make the NHL for sure.”
In drafts around professional sports, the nickname ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ is popularly given to the player selected with the final pick of those drafts. Why? Because players picked last in the draft, in most cases, don’t have what it takes to get to his sport’s top league.
Hornqvist has been anything but irrelevant as a Nashville Predator.
In his first three-plus NHL seasons he has 80 goals in 263 games, recording back-to-back-to-back 20-goal seasons. Needless to say, he was a steal in the 2005 draft. And at 25 years old, the future is bright for Hornqvist in Nashville.
There are many examples all across the league of late-round picks becoming NHL stars. There are examples, too, on the Predators’ roster. Martin Erat and Pekka Rinne were seventh- and eighth-round picks, respectively. Also, Paul Gaustad, Hal Gill and Sergei Kostitsyn were drafted in the seventh round or later by other teams.
Good players can slip through the cracks and be found late in the draft.
“There’s always those stories,” Predators head coach Barry Trotz explained. “I look at Matt Hendricks, who’s playing in Washington – he was originally our draft pick. We had to make a decision based on two years. You look back, he was doing all the things he’s doing now. He’s gone somewhere else and it’s taken him another four or five years – he’s closer to 30 years old and making the NHL than 21 or 22. Everyone has their own timeframe.”
Hornqvist is an example that it doesn’t matter where you get drafted, whether it’s first or 230th overall.
“When you get drafted you have a chance,” he said.