In 2013, the Colorado Avalanche selected Nathan MacKinnon. In 2015, they picked Mikko Rantanen. Those two players became the building blocks of a team that is a top contender for the Stanley Cup, but in between, there was a draft class as forgettable as any in franchise history. The 2014 Colorado class has just 66 games to its name, all by Anton Lindholm, who currently plays in the KHL.
The first pick by Colorado that year was a WHL center named Conner Bleackley, selected 23rd overall after he scored 68 points in 71 games for the Red Deer Rebels. He had been named captain of the Rebels at a young age and looked like a good bet as a two-way contributor down the middle, a nice complement to MacKinnon’s huge upside. Bleackley never got that chance with the Avalanche though, as he was shipped off to the Arizona Coyotes (along with fellow 2014 draft pick Kyle Wood) for Mikkel Boedker in 2016 before he even signed an entry-level contract. With just months to go before his draft rights expired, Bleackley didn’t reach a deal with the Coyotes either, meaning he could re-enter the 2016 draft.
This time, after dealing with injuries and failing to take a step forward in his final two years of junior, Bleackley fell to the fifth round, where the St. Louis Blues used the 144th pick on him. The Coyotes ended up getting a compensation pick instead (which helped them move up in the first round to select Jakob Chychrun), and Bleackley finally signed his entry-level deal, this time with St. Louis.
Unfortunately, that promising two-way NHL center never appeared, and Bleackley has bounced around the minor leagues ever since. He’s no longer an NHL prospect, but that doesn’t mean his playing career is over. The 25-year-old signed with the ECHL’s Maine Mariners for the 2021-22 season, returning to a team he played for in 2019-20. Overall, Bleackley has suited up for the Chicago Wolves, Missouri Mavericks, Tulsa Oilers, San Antonio Rampage, Texas Stars, Idaho Steelheads, Hartford Wolf Pack, Allen Americans and the Mariners since turning pro in 2016.