When Joey Crabb had to wait until the seventh round to be taken 226th overall in the 2002 NHL draft he had a pretty good idea his road to the NHL would be a rocky one.
In fact, only three other players taken below Crabb in that draft are currently in the NHL Max Talbot 234th overall, Dennis Wideman 241st and Adam Burish 282nd.
But as Crabb, 29, has learned during a six-year professional career for the Chicago Wolves and Toronto Marlies of the AHL 299 games and the Atlanta Thrashers and Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL 144 games, persistence has its merits.
You always just gotta keep a strong work ethic, Crabb told reporters in a conference call on Monday after signing a one-year, one-way contract with the Capitals worth 950,000.
I was always confident in my game and confident I could play in the NHL. Obviously, I would have liked to get there earlier. I think with a couple different turns I might have been. I think its made me a bit of a stronger person and it helps me mentally.
In Crabb, the Capitals acquired a hard-hitting, penalty-killing, 6-foot-1, 190-pound right wing who last season scored 11 goals and added 15 assists and 33 penalty minutes in 67 games with the Maple Leafs.
For Caps fans looking for comparisons, think Matt Hendricks.
Im more of an energy guy, Crabb said. I play a two-way game. I like to take the body and create energy and get in on the forecheck. I have some offensive skills a little bit, too. I can chip in a goal here and there.
Crabb has played his last five pro seasons under one-year, two-way contracts. His most recent with the Maple Leafs was for 750,000 at the NHL level and 105,00 at the AHL level. The contract he signed on Monday represents his first one-way contract.
I talked to a handful of teams trying to work out a deal and the Capitals came up with one, Crabb said. One of the important factors for me was that theyre obviously a contender and theyre a good team. It seems like a good fit. Im just excited for a chance to win some games.
Crabb got a late start to his pro career because he spent four years at Colorado College, where he totaled 18 goals and 25 assists in 42 games as a senior. Crabbs most productive season in the AHL came in 2009-10 when he had 24 goals and 29 assists in 79 games with the Chicago Wolves.
If the Caps can get about half of that production from Crabb next season, along with some solid play on the penalty kill, theyll consider Mondays signing a steal.