Making the NHL is hard. Amongst tens of thousands of prospects, only a lucky few manage to stick in an organization, and still fewer make it all the way to the top. With 24 days to go until the preseason, let's take a look at the career trajectory of one of those lucky few: Kyle Chipchura
Kyle Douglas Glen Chipchura, in addition to being a front runner for most Canadian name in history, was a highly touted center out of the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League. He would be selected 18th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft (in an interesting coincidence, future teammate Lauri Korpikoski would be the next player selected, to the New York Rangers). While the lockout stopped the NHL dead in its tracks, Chipchura would still be able to play WHL hockey for two more years before being assigned to the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs.
It was in Hamilton that Chipchura caught success early on: he would record 12 goals and 27 assists in his first full AHL season, and add six more goals in a postseason run that landed Hamilton the 2007 Calder Cup. His first taste of NHL action would come in a 36 game stint with the Habs the next year. He scored four times and added seven assists in that stretch.
But the success Chipchura had in earlier stretches of his career eluded him in the NHL. He would not score again in two more seasons with the Canadiens, and was finally sent to Anaheim on December 2nd, 2009. The one time first round selection merited only a 4th rounder in return.
Seemingly invigorated by the change in scenery, Chipchura would tally six goals and six assists for the Ducks in 55 contests that year. But his bottom six role and offensive struggles would return, and in the 2010-11 season, Chipchura would log just two assists over 40 games.
Chipchura would get one last chance to remain an NHL forward when the Phoenix Coyotes signed him to a one-year, two-way contract for the 2011-12 season. He would start that year with the Portland Pirates, but found his way back to the NHL after just eight games in Portland, and would never look back.
With Phoenix, Chipchura solidified a spot on the fourth line as a versatile center/winger with some offensive upside. Though he may be considered a "bust" by draft standards, he still remains a valuable part of the team. In three full seasons with the Coyotes, Chipchura has more than doubled his career goal total (13 in Phoenix compared to 10 with MTL/ANA) and tripled his assist total (37 in Phoenix compared to 18 elsewhere).
This value translated to some long-term job security: the Coyotes gave Chipchura a one-year, one-way contract in 2012-13, and then a three-year deal worth $875K in the 2013-14 offseason. It hasn't been easy, but Chipchura appears to finally have found a home in Arizona, and has rewarded the Coyotes' commitment to him with consistent bottom six production.