Stefan Legein, formerly a prospect in the Flyers organization, was a second-round draft pick in 2007. In his final two junior seasons with the Niagara IceDogs, Legein played 94 games and scored 112 points.
His skill is NHL-caliber, and yet, he's never played a game in the NHL. Not even a sniff. Legein even retired from hockey at age 19 before ultimately coming back to the game a few months later. Two years and a trade to the Flyers organization later, he was demoted from the Phantoms to the ECHL for a time. In October, the Flyers shipped him to the Kings organization for future considerations. In other words, they gave him away for nothing.
Compare Legein to a guy like Harry Zolnierczyk. Not even a point per game player in ECAC Hockey, where the competition is not nearly as high as the Ontario Hockey League. Undrafted. Broke into the pros at age 23, three years after Legein. That certainly sets him back quite a bit in his development as a player.
But here Harry Z sits, a contributing piece on a team that's in the running for the top spot in the Eastern Conference this season. Legein, meanwhile, is still toiling away in the AHL, now a member of his third professional organization. Why is that?
The Flyers sent Zolnierczyk down to the Phantoms for the weekend so he could get some extra work in, while the rest of his Flyers teammates are off either in Ottawa as All-Stars, with family somewhere, or more likely, on a beach. It might just be a meaningless chirp, but here's Legein "congratulating" Harry Z on his new plans for the All-Star break:
It's probably silly to read too far into it, but I think it might be a bit illuminating. Here you see one player making fun of a guy for having to ship off to the desolate expanse of snowy New York for more work instead of taking a vacation to see family. Meanwhile, the player actually asked to put in the extra work? Via the Glens Falls Post-Star:
About 10 minutes after practice formally ended Thursday, Harry Zolnierczyk cradled an armful of pucks tucked in the front of his jersey. One by one he dropped them between two teammates doing some extra work on faceoffs.
This wasn't exactly the place Zolnierczyk expected to be this weekend. But he wasn't in a rush to get off the Civic Center ice, either.
They got in around 3 a.m. and a few hours later flew to Manchester, where they played in the Phantoms' 5-1 loss to the Monarchs.
Then it was a four-hour bus ride back to Glens Falls.
"It was a long day of travel with little sleep, but it's good to get back into the game," Zolnierczyk said.
Sometimes it's just about attitude. You can have all the skill in the world, but that doesn't necessarily dictate anything. Harry Zolnierczyk's a pretty hard working dude, as you can tell by his play on the ice and apparently off. There's a reason he's playing for the Flyers right now, and I'd bet that attitude and hard work are big reasons why he's been able to make the transition so quickly.