Chances are Chad Kilger watched July 8 come and go without much celebration.
Though the end to the NHL lockout was just days away, the date represented a significant milestone in Kilger's life.
Ten years earlier, he was drafted fourth overall by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. And to say Kilger has not lived up to expectations would be an understatement (nor has Maple Leafs teammate Aki Berg, who was drafted No. 3 in 1995 by the Los Angeles Kings).
"That's long gone," Kilger said, referring to the pressure that comes with being a first-round pick. "The pressure I have is competing every day to stay here in the NHL and do my best. 1995 is a long time ago. Some times you look back and wish things would have went better, but I am still here and I still have an opportunity to prove myself."
At least Kilger still has that in his favour.
Among those who were picked in the first round in 1995 who never made an NHL dent include Terry Ryan (eighth, Montreal), Teemu Riihijarvi (12th, San Jose) and Jeff Ware (15th, Toronto). On the other side, Wade Redden (second, New York Islanders), Shane Doan (seventh, Winnipeg) and Jarome Iginla (11th, Dallas) have panned out well, even if it has been with other clubs.
The 6-foot-4, 224-pound Kilger has not had much offensive success in his NHL career. Before this season, he had played in 500 games, but had only 145 points. Kilger, a Cornwall native who turns 29 on Nov. 27, has worn the sweaters of the Mighty Ducks, Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens and the Leafs. Kilger will earn $475,000 US this season.
"It has been a lot of things," Kilger said of his career struggles. "Getting traded in my first year (to Winnipeg from Anaheim) was a tough pill to swallow. I did not thrive (under Ducks coach Ron Wilson) and did not play as well as I could have. From there, I have just been constantly battling to stay."
Kilger had just three assists in 12 games before last night, when he finally scored.
In the dying seconds against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Kilger gained control of the puck in the Leafs' zone and wound up scoring into an empty net.
"I was fortunate to get out there (at a crucial part of the game)," Kilger said. "It's nice to get the zero out of there. I had some more opportunities but shot into (goalie John Grahame's) pads. Eventually they will go in with the goalie in there."