For several years, forward Cody McLeod was the lone player on the Colorado Avalanche who played the role of enforcer, an incredibly tough player who makes up for his lack of high level skill with unequaled passion and determination. Size and strength help a lot too. Starting last season, he was no longer the only one, with the addition of Patrick Bordeleau, who is the same type of player. It is good to have more than one enforcer, as it adds to the team's depth and allows them to put one of those guys on the ice whenever their particular talents are needed. McLeod doesn't have to carry the responsibility of a lone enforcer anymore.
McLeod will turn 30 this month, which makes him one the older players on a young Avalanche team. He currently serves as an alternate captain, which is a testament to how far he has come since his days in junior hockey. He went undrafted in 2002, the first year he was eligible. In 2003 he was again not drafted. By then, it was clear that he would never be selected at an NHL draft. If no team thought he was worth spending a draft pick on before, that wasn't going to change as he got older without being in an NHL team's developmental system.
Many players who actually are drafted never become regulars on an NHL roster. There are seven rounds in the draft, which is more than 200 players drafted every year. The later a player is selected, the lower his odds of proving himself to be NHL worthy. So it is not difficult to imagine the odds that undrafted players with NHL ambitions face.
A few organizations in the American Hockey League were willing to give McLeod a chance to play with them. Most AHL teams are minor league affiliates of NHL teams, though McLeod was playing in the AHL without being in an NHL teams system. It was while McLeod was playing for his third AHL team, the Albany River Rats, that Colorado scouts took particular notice of him. Years of persistence finally paid off for McLeod when the Avalanche signed him as a free agent in 2006.
Ever since joining the Avalanche, McLeod has only become more valuable to the team as time goes by. One could say he was a late bloomer, but now his leadership and toughness ensure that his spot with Colorado is secure. Not long ago, he started wearing an "A" on the corner of his jersey, signifying his designation as an alternate captain, despite the fact that he only ever plays on the third or fourth line. That truly shows how much he means to the Avalanche organization. A non-top-6 forward being an alternate captain is far from typical practice. While he doesn't have the talent of a top-6 forward, being a captain or alternate captain is about so much more than talent. Primarily, it is about leading by example, which Cody McLeod does and will continue to do for Colorado next season, and probably for several more seasons to come.
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