With the season still on pause, we continue our theme weeks, with this week being Underdog Week. And to start we are going to look at perhaps the biggest underdog ever to suit up for the Desert Dogs, defenseman David Schlemko.
Despite not being drafted, David Schlemko made the transition to professional hockey. The Coyotes would sign Schlemko to a three-year, entry-level contract, and he would start his career with the Arizona Sundogs in the now-defunct CHL.
Schlemko would spend most of his rookie season with the Sundogs, although he would play a game with the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL. His first season with Sundogs would prove to be a big one with the Sundogs winning the CHL’s Ray Miron President’s Cup.
After a season in the CHL, Schlemko would start the next season with the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL. He continued to show that he had an offensive upside as a defenseman, scoring 7 goals and 22 assists. He was growing as a player, and he would get earn three games with the Coyotes.
David Schlemko would bounce back and forth between the AHL and NHL until the 2010-11 season. That was the first time he spent the majority of his season in the NHL, playing 43 games and registering 4 goals and 10 assists.
Schlemko’s time with the Coyotes would come to an end in the 2014-15 season when he would be claimed off of waivers by the Dallas Stars. He would play five games with the Stars before being placed on waivers again, this time being claimed by the Calgary Flames. He would finish out the season with the Flames, playing 19 games, and recording no goals or assists.
After a season where he was claimed off waivers, Schlemko would sign with the New Jersey Devils as a free agent. He would end up having the best season of his career, playing in a career-high 67 games and registering a career-high 6 goals and 13 assists.
Schlemko would use that career season to sign a four-year deal with the San Jose Sharks. He had another solid season, playing in 62 games, and registering 6 goals and 12 assists. It looked like he had set a new standard for himself, but it was not to be.
The Vegas Golden Knights would claim Schlemko during the expansion draft and send him to the Montreal Canadiens for a fifth-round pick in 2019. Injuries would limit his two seasons with the Canadiens, and after playing 129 games in two seasons with the Devils and Sharks he was limited to 55 in his two seasons with the Canadiens.
Montreal would send Schlemko and Byron Froese to the Philadelphia Flyers for Dale Weise and Christian Folin. He would never play for the Flyers, being limited to 18 games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. In 18 games he would register 4 assists, and the Flyers would buy out the final year of his contract.
Schlemko hasn’t played in North America since the 2018-19 season. He went from an undrafted player in a now-defunct league to playing 415 NHL games, registering 18 goals and 76 assists. Even if he never plays another NHL game Schlemko’s underdog career has been truly astonishing.