By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist

This column started with an innocent-enough question on Twitter from Josh Reed, the sports director of WIVB-TV in Buffalo.

Who is the best player to have never participated in an NHL playoff game?

It’s my kind of question, even though it’s become more difficult to come up with an answer. The reason is that the NHL, in its infinite wisdom, has stopped producing its annual guide and record book. In the old days, you could go through the list of retired players each year and pick out players who never took part in the postseason quite easily.

But the book hasn’t been out since the fall of 2017. So, in order to come up with a working list, I had to start with the 2017 list, and then poke around recent stats to find other candidates. The possibility of missing a player or two is relatively high. But, it’s the best I could do without a full, up-to-date database.

Even so, I found plenty of names to add to the 2017 version of the list. You won’t find it a particularly big coincidence that almost all of the newcomers have a connection to the Buffalo Sabres of the past several years.

Let’s start with the current top ten, compiled as of Tuesday morning. An asterisk indicates the player is active.

Name – Games
Guy Charron – 734
*Jeff Skinner – 716
*Zach Bogosian – 639
Ladislav Smid – 583
David Vyborny – 543
*Rasmus Ristolainen – 489
Vitali Yachmenev – 487
*Zemgus Girgensons – 485
Derek Armstrong – 477
Patrik Stefan – 455

There are three Sabres in the current top 10, and a fourth who just left for Tampa Bay. Zach Bogosian will have to chance to exit this list for good in the spring, if he can get some playing time there.

If you are going to pick the best player on that list, it probably would be Skinner. He has 465 points, a 40-goal season, and a rookie of the year trophy to his credit – and he’s still going. Charron wasn’t a bad player, though. He had 530 points and two 35-goal seasons. By the way, if Skinner plays in the rest of the Sabres’ games this season, he’ll fall one game short of Charron’s mark as of the summer.

If you look at the list of those who might move into the top 10 if someone ahead of them qualifies for the playoffs, you’ll see three more players with the Sabres on the backs of their hockey cards.

Name – Games
*Mark Pysyk – 414
Victor Rask – 404
Ron Lalonde – 397
*Sam Reinhart – 396
Jamie Heward – 394
Paul Gagne – 390
Yannick Tremblay – 390
*Johan Larsson – 389
Jack Lynch – 382
Jamie Allison – 372
Jay Harrison – 372

I found four other NHL players who have played in at least 250 NHL games without appearing in the playoffs. Yes, there are two more Sabres there – and one of them was Josh’s pick as the best player to never make the playoffs:

Other active players
*Jack Eichel – 350
*Jake McCabe – 336
*Evgeny Davidov – 277
*Anthony Mantha – 256

Eichel went into Tuesday night’s game tied for ninth in the league in scoring. I’m not sure there’s any other name on this list who could say that. Therefore, Josh is on to something – for now. Eichel is very likely to hang around the NHL long enough to be on a playoff team somewhere, so he’s probably going to exit the all-time leaders here at some point.

The same amount of counting goes into goaltenders too.

Goaltender – Games
Mike Dunham – 394
Marc Denis – 349
Dunc Wilson – 287
Jason LaBarbera – 187
Ed Chadwick – 184
Tommy Soderstrom – 156
Curtis Sanford – 144
Joey MacDonald – 133
Roberto Romano – 126
*Michael Hutchinson – 126

There are no Sabres here, as several have rotated through town to other teams during their current playoff drought. Linus Ullmark was at 95 career games as of Tuesday.

By the way, Ernie Banks has the major league baseball record for playing in 2,528 games without making it to the playoffs. There was only one round of playoffs then, so it was difficult. Luke Appling, Ron Santo, Ralph Kiner, Ferguson Jenkins, and Jim Bunning are other Hall of Famers who never made the postseason. The football list includes Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers and Joe Thomas, while the NBA’s non-playoff performers were Tom Van Arsdale, Geoff Petrie and St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson (285 games, 60th on the list).

(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has been involved in almost every aspect of the local sports scene for the last 40 years. He worked for WEBR Radio, the Buffalo Sabres' public relations department and The Buffalo News during that time. In that time he covered virtually every aspect of the area's sports world, from high schools to the Bills and Sabres and everything in between. Along the way, Budd served as a play-by-play announcer for the Bisons, an analyst for the Stallions, and a talk-show host. He won the National Lacrosse League's Tom Borrelli Award as the media personality of the year in 2011, and was a finalist for that same award in 2017. Budd's seventh and eighth books, one on the Transcontinental Railroad and the other about Ichiro Suzuki, are scheduled to be released in the fall.

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