This week, we look at a guy who definitely went with the most unique experience before getting to the NHL that we've probably had before. Despite being drafted, going to NCAA, he chose to go overseas before touching the ice of a NHL rink. Yet, much like all the other AGMs; he had some struggles despite success before heading into the NHL ranks. This week, we look at Tom Draper.
Draper first got noticed while playing midget AAA hockey in Quebec with Lac St-Louis Lions, going 17-4-4 as a 15-year-old in 25 games. When he got to his 16-year-old age, he got 28 games, but with a 15-8-5 record over the season. In the 1983-84 season, Draper started his freshman year at the University of Vermont, where he would see 20 games in his debut season, going 8-12-0 in those games. His sophomore year was a little shakier, with a 5-17-0 record in 24 appearances. Even with that shaky season, Draper was selected in the 8th Round of the 1985 Entry Draft by the Winnipeg Jets. Draper would continue with Vermont, shaping up in his junior year, playing 29 games and posting a 15-12-1 record, which got him a spot on the 1986 ECAC First All-Star Team. His senior season was a crowning moment, where he would put up a 16-13-0 record in 29 games, once again getting First All-Star Team honors, and got Vermont in the ECAC playoffs, even though they got smoked by St. Lawrence.
While Draper could have went to minor pro, Draper decided to take a European vacation, heading over to Finland with Tappara Tampere for the 1987-88 season. Draper got accustomed to the difference of play, going 16-3-9 in his 28 games in the regular season, while going 7-3 in the playoffs leading Tampere to the 1988 SM-Liiga title.
Draper would move back over the Atlantic Ocean to play in the AHL first with the Moncton Hawks of the AHL to start the 1988-89 season. He would play well with Moncton, getting 57 games in, going 27-17-5 in those games while going 5-2 in the playoffs; despite Moncton losing in the Division Finals. Draper would also get a call-up to the Winnipeg Jets late in the season, going 1-1-0 in his two appearances. The 1989-90 season saw Draper start the season with Winnipeg, but would only play six games with a 2-4 record before heading back to Moncton. While in Moncton, Draper would play 51 games and go 20-24-3 in those appearances. The 1990-91 season was an odd one, as Draper would start with Moncton; playing 30 games with a 15-13-2 record.
In February of 1991, Draper would be traded from Winnipeg to the St. Louis Blues for future consideration. Draper was sent to the IHL's Fort Wayne Komets for 10 games, going 5-3-1 before being sent to the Peoria Rivermen for 10 games, going 6-3-1, while going 2-1 in four playoff games.
The summer of 1991 was an adventure one, as Draper was sent from St. Louis, back to Winnipeg for the same future considerations. Then Draper was sent from Winnipeg to the Buffalo Sabres for even more future considerations. Draper would start of with the Rochester Americans in the 1991-92 season, playing in nine games with a 4-3-2 record before being called-up to the Sabres to back-up Clint Malarchuk. Draper would see 26 games in the NHL with a 10-9-5 record, while being the go-to guy in the playoffs, going 3-4 in seven games in the post-season. The 1992-93 season would see Draper bounce from Rochester to Buffalo and have to deal with some injuries. Draper would only play five games (3-2-0) in Rochester and 11 games (5-6-0) in Buffalo for the year.
Before the start of the 1993-94 season, Draper was traded from the Sabres to the New York Islanders for a conditional draft pick. He would start out with the Islanders, but would go 1-3-0 in seven games before being shipped to the IHL's Salt Lake Golden Eagles, playing in 35 games and ending with a dismal 7-23-3 record to show.
Draper would return to Manitoba for the 1994-95 season, but with the Manitoba Moose of the IHL. He would play in 53 games for the Moose with a 25-20-6 record and went 0-2 in his two playoffs games.
Draper would stay in the IHL for the 1995-96 season, playing with the Milwaukee Admirals. He would appear in 31 games, with a 14-12-3 record. Draper would get to suit up in the NHL once again, as the Winnipeg Jets signed him as an emergency goalie for one game in December of 1995 and would get a no-decision in relief of former AGM, Tim Cheveldae.
As no other NHL jobs would come, Draper would stick with the IHL, playing with the Long Beach Ice Dogs in the 1996-97 season. Draper would go 28-7-3 for the year and get the Ice Dogs withing a couple games of the Turner Cup championship, but lost in six games to the Detroit Vipers. The 1997-98 season saw Draper head to Quebec to the play for the Quebec Rafales for 43 games with a 15-22-4 record before he was shipped to the Cleveland Lumberjacks. With the Lumberjacks, Draper played nine regular season games with a 4-2-2 record while going 5-5 in 10 playoff games.
For the 1998-99 season, Draper would jump back onto the Rochester Americans roster to back-up Martin Biron. Draper would see 26 games of regular season games and chalk up a 14-9-3 record, while playing in two playoff games with no-decisions in either. Biron and Draper would collect the Hap Holmes Trophy for fewest-goals-against during the season.
Without much in North America, Draper would head back to where it all began in Finland, playing the 1999-2000 season with Lukko Rauma. With Lukko, Draper would get some spark back, going 27-17-7 with six shutouts. After a year with Lukko (insert Suzanne Vega reference here), Draper would head to the Espoo Blues for the 2000-01 season, but would see his playing time reduced to only 35 games with a 13-15-6 record. Draper went back to where he started with Tappara Tampere for the 2001-02 season and would have a career year. Draper would play 50 games and post a 29-13-8 record with nine shutouts for the season, while going 7-3 in ten playoff games. It was another team for Draper in the 2002-03 season, as he would join HIFK Helsinki for seven games, going 2-2-2 before heading back to North America.
Draper would get a chance in the UHL first with the Adirondack IceHawks, where he would play five games with a 3-1-0 before going onto the ECHL. Draper would play with the Toledo Storm for four games with a 3-1-0 record before moving on the Augusta Lynx, playing in 17 games with a 6-5-2 record to end out the well-traveled 2002-03 campaign. Draper would play one more game with the UHL IceHawks for the 2003-04 season, which he would win before hanging up the pads for good.
Currently, Draper works as an Account Manager for Coca-Cola Enterprises while he also worked as a goalie coach for the Binghamton Junior C Senators. Apparently, he is quite the character to his family, as he freestyles while in front of them. There has been no official confirmation or denial of said free-styling.
It seems to be quite the interesting travel schedule that Draper had, especially heading to the European route before heading to the North American pro ranks. But, Draper did get to experience every facet of the hockey world both domestic and abroad. Plus, he got to know many teams as he did play with many teams in his short professional career, which could have been something that is high on the list of what he was able to take away from it all.