A handful of former NHL players have gone on to have careers as NHL officials. Nine of the league’s current officials were selected in the NHL Draft, with the recently-retired Dean Morton the most recent to have made it to the NHL as both a player and an official.
With the 2023 NHL Entry Draft upon us, we look back at the draft picks who later went on to become NHL referees and linesmen.
Wes McCauley – 1990
8th Round, 150th Overall
D – Detroit Red Wings
At Michigan State, McCauley was teammates with Bryan Smolinski, Rem Murray, Anson Carter, Kip Miller, and Jason Woolley. He went on to play in the ECHL, IHL, and Continental Hockey League before spending two seasons playing in Italy
“I don’t think I was cracking that [Red Wings] lineup,” McCauley said, looking back on his playing career. “If you look at their draft the year before, they grabbed a guy who wore No. 5 [Nicklas Lidstrom]. I don’t think they were too worried about Wes McCauley. The closest I was going to get to playing with him was refereeing him, standing behind him.”
Selected Ahead Of: Peter Bondra (#156), Alexander Karpovtsev (#158), Ken Klee (#177), Valeri Zelepukin (#221)
Draft Class Highlights: Jaromir Jagr, Martin Brodeur, Keith Tkachuk, Doug Weight, Peter Bondra, Owen Nolan, Sergei Zubov, Petr Nedved
Scott Cherrey – 1994
2nd Round, 41st Overall
LW – Washington Capitals
Cherrey was drafted out of Sault Ste. Marie, where he played alongside Joe Thornton and Dan Cloutier. The Drayton, Ontario, native spent one season in the ECHL with the now-defunct Mobile Mysticks.
Selected Ahead Of: Dave Scatchard (#42), Curtis Brown (#43), Jose Theodore (#44), Patrik Elias (#51), Freddie Modin (#64), Sheldon Souray (#71), Chris Drury (#72), Milan Hejduk (#87), Daniel Alfredsson (#133)*, Evgeny Nabokov (#219), Steve Sullivan (#233), Tomas Holmstrom (#257).
* How many officials can say they were drafted ahead of a future Hall-of-Famer?
Draft Class Highlights: Aside from those listed above, Ed Jovanovski, Ryan Smyth, Jeff O’Neill, Jeff Friesen
Jake Brenk – 2001
5th Round, 154th Overall
F – Edmonton Oilers
Brenk played at MSU Mankato with David Backes and Travis Morin prior to being selected. He spent time in the ECHL, UHL, CHL and in Europe before making the jump to officiating full-time.
Selected Ahead Of: Ryan Clowe (#175), Marek Zidlicky (#176), Jussi Jokinen (#192), Brooks Laich (#193), Johnny Oduya (#221), P-A Parenteau (#264)
Draft Class Highlights: Ilya Kovalchuk, Jason Spezza, Jason Pominville, Mike Cammalleri, Patrick Sharp, Mikko Koivu, Craig Anderson, Mike Smith
Ryan Gibbons – 2003
6th Round, 178th Overall
RW – Phoenix Coyotes
Gibbons was suiting up for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds when he was drafted, where he played alongside Islanders’ defenseman Thomas Hickey. He moved on to the ECHL, where he played parts of three seasons with the Chiefs, Checkers, Condors, Jackals, and Royals. Gibbons talked with FOX Sports about making the transition.
Selected Ahead Of: Joe Pavelski (#205), Tobias Enstrom (#239), Dustin Byfuglien (#245), Matt Moulson (#263)
Draft Class Highlights: Eric Staal, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Thomas Vanek, Zach Parise, Patrice Bergeron, Brent Burns, Marc-Andre Fleury, Corey Crawford
Travis Gawryletz – 2004
8th Round, 253rd Overall
D – Philadelphia Flyers
Gawryletz was the first player with the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters to be drafted right out of the league. He went on to play college hockey at the University of Minn-Duluth with future NHLers Matt Niskanen, Mason Raymond, Jason Garrison and Alex Stalock. A physical, defensive defenseman, Gawryletz suited up for the ECHL’s Elmira Jackals from 2008-2010, where he played alongside future fellow linesman Ryan Gibbons.
Gawryletz moved up to the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters from 2009-2011 where he played under current New York Rangers head coach David Quinn, then spent three seasons in Europe before making a brief return to the ECHL with the Bakersfield Condors in 2014.
Selected Ahead Of: Pekka Rinne (#258), Mark Streit (#262), Daniel Winnik (#265), Jannik Hansen (#287)
Draft Class Highlights: Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Blake Wheeler, Devan Dubnyk, Cory Schneider, David Krejci, Alexander Edler
Corey Syvret – 2007
6th Round, 181st Overall
D – Florida Panthers
Syvret was drafted while playing with the Guelph Storm; one of his teammates was future NHL/AHL official Conor O’Donnell. He went on to spend seven seasons in the ECHL, with occasional callups to the AHL. In the ECHL, Syvret took the ice with the Kalamazoo Wings, Trenton Titans, Alaska Aces, Florida Everblades, and Atlanta Gladiators.
Syvret’s AHL career was spent with the Rochester Americans, Portland Pirates, and Toronto Marlies – where he played with Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner. In Alaska, Syvret suited up alongside future NHL/AHL referees Michael Markovic and Cody Beach, as well as Brandon Dubinsky and Scott Gomez during the 2004-05 NHL lockout.
Selected Ahead Of: Carl Gunnarsson (#194), Justin Braun (#201)
Draft Class Highlights: Patrick Kane, Jakub Voracek, Logan Couture, Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk, P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Jamie Benn
Jordan Samuels-Thomas – 2009
7th Round, 203rd Overall
C/LW – Atlanta Thrashers
Drafted out of Waterloo, Samuels-Thomas headed to Bowling Green State University before finishing his college career at Quinnipiac, skating alongside Devon Toews, Matthew Peca, and Connor Clifton. The Connecticut native went on to post 28 goals and 28 assists in 195 AHL games with the Rochester Americans, Ontario Reign, and San Diego Gulls. He also spent parts of four seasons in the ECHL, heading to Europe for his final pro season.
Samuels-Thomas was teammates with fellow future referee Justin Kea; both suited up for the AHL’s Rochester Americans in 2014-15.
Selected Ahead Of: …not much. Ben Sexton (Boston, 2 NHL games) and Adam Almquist (Detroit, 2 NHL games)
Draft Class Highlights: John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene, Nazem Kadri, Chris Kreider, Ryan O’Reilly, Tyson Barrie, Mike Hoffman
Cody Beach – 2010
5th Round, 134th Overall
RW – St. Louis Blues
Beach played his junior hockey with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen and the Moose Jaw Warriors, where he was teammates with future Lightning forward Brayden Point and Leafs blueliner Morgan Rielly.
The Kelowna native kicked off his pro career in the ECHL with the Evansville Icemen, before a mid-season call-up saw him make his AHL debut with the Peoria Rivermen. Beach bounced back and forth between the ECHL and AHL for four seasons, spending time with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL along with the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings, Alaska Aces, and Quad City Mallards. In Chicago, Beach played alongside Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington and defenseman Colton Parayko.
Selected Ahead Of: Brendan Gallagher (#147), Jesper Fast (#157), Mark Stone (#178), Frederik Andersen (#187)
Draft Class Highlights: Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Vladimir Tarasenko, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ryan Johansen, Jeff Skinner, John Klingberg, Brendan Gallagher
Justin Kea – 2012
3rd Round, 73rd Overall
C – Buffalo Sabres
Forward Justin Kea was selected in the third round of the 2012 Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres, coming off his second season with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit, where he was teammates with Vincent Trocheck and Brandon Saad. He joined the AHL’s Rochester Americans for the 2013-14 season, going on to post four goals and three assists in four seasons with the club.
Kea’s AHL career included a handful of trips down to the ECHL, where he suited up with the Elmira Jackals, Florida Everblades, and Fort Wayne Komets, before wrapping up his pro career in 2018-19 with the Toledo Walleye.
Selected Ahead Of: Chris Driedger (#76), Shayne Gostisbehere (#78), Colton Parayko (#86), Frederick Andersen (#87), Jaccob Slavin (#120), Connor Hellebuyck (#130), Alex Kerfoot (#150), Connor Brown (#156), Linus Ullmark (#163)
Draft Class Highlights: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Filip Forsberg, Morgan Rielly, Tomas Hertl, Teuvo Teravainen, Connor Hellebuyck
As the names are announced at this year’s draft, just remember that not everyone will make it to the NHL.
There’s always the chance they might get there in stripes.
Originally published 6/22/16. Latest update 6/28/23.