By Chris Umpierre
ESTERO, Fla. – Brandon Roach knows about rejection. He has been told that he’s not good enough by so many teams that he could probably pen a book about it.
Despite a solid junior career, every NHL team passed on him in the draft.
Roach tried out for the NHL’s Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche in recent years, but they told him the same thing: Pack up your stuff and leave.
All of those rejections could cripple a man’s confidence. Not that of Roach.
The 22-year-old defenseman, who is in his first professional season with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades, still clings to his childhood dream of making it to the NHL, even though he’s two levels from The Show.
“There are a lot of guys playing in the NHL right now that didn’t get drafted and had to go up the ladder too,” said Roach, who has four points (one goal) in his first six pro games. “It’s not an easy path. It’s not a yellow brick road right now for me.
“I know I have to do my job and be stronger and more consistent every day just to get to the next level.”
Roach said it didn’t bother him that he went undrafted, even though he registered 101 points (34 goals) in 134 games in his final two junior campaigns. That’s an especially high point total for a defenseman.
Blades assistant captain Brett Peterson, who also wasn’t drafted, understands what Roach is going through.
“Initially, it’s a kick in the face when you don’t get drafted because you’re playing with the best players in juniors and all these guys are getting drafted,” Peterson said. “He should be using that as fire to show all the teams why he should be there and why somebody else shouldn’t.”
Peterson said the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Roach has the prototypical size for a defenseman. Blades coach Gerry Fleming likes the way Roach sees the ice.
“He’s definitely got tremendous upside,” Fleming said.
The Wild and Avalanche didn’t see that upside.
Roach said he made a mistake after Colorado rejected him.
He had some offers to play in the ECHL last season, but he passed them up to play at Acadia University in Nova Scotia.
“Things didn’t go so well,” Roach said of Acadia. “I ended up going to the university, which I kind of regret as a decision right now. I feel like I lost a year trying to get up the ladder in hockey. It’s been a battle just trying to get back into things.”
Roach will keep battling. He’s done that his whole career.
On a two-way contract with the American Hockey League’s Albany River Rats, Roach is banking on a call-up later this season.
He said he hasn’t thought about what he’d do if hockey doesn’t work out. “I’d have to re-plan my career but I don’t want to do that,” Roach said.