The draft is all about potential and some players will beat the odds to become regular NHLers. Our prospect expert identifies one pick from every franchise who may need some time, but has the raw potential to make a mark down the road.
The 2015 draft was billed as having two sure things right at the top in Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Buffalo’s Jack Eichel, plus a pretty good crew of kids after that in the top 10. But every draft crop also features picks that beat the odds to become NHLers, despite being selected in the later rounds.
Jamie Benn, Ondrej Palat and, of course, Pavel Datsyuk, were all depth selections at the time and there will be at least a couple more from 2015. Here’s a “sleeper” pick from this year’s draft for each NHL team, which I am categorizing as either an unknown with lots of potential, or a player taken much later than his value.
Anaheim – Troy Terry, C, U.S. NTDP (148th overall). The University of Denver commit is a responsible pivot who can also chip in on the scoresheet. One of the youngest players in the draft.
Arizona – Conor Garland, RW, Moncton (123rd overall). Passed over last year, the 5-foot-8 Garland rounded out his game and began soaring, tying Dylan Strome for the CHL scoring crown with 129 points.
Boston – Cam Hughes, C, U. of Wisconsin (165th overall). A true freshman, Hughes walked into a disaster in Madison as the Badgers suffered through an horrific campaign. But the kid can skate and has three more years to help turn things around.
Buffalo – Devante Stephens, D, Kelowna (122nd overall). Played on a pairing with Caps pick Madison Bowey and didn’t look out of place at Memorial Cup. Great poise and smarts, just needs to get stronger.
Calgary – Oliver Kylington, D, Farjestad (60th overall). Definitely falls in the ‘value’ category. Kylington was a potential first-rounder thanks to his skating and offensive game, but fell to the Flames late in the second, since he needs to put it all together still.
Carolina – David Cotton, C, Cushing Academy (169th overall). A divisive player among scouts, Cotton has great size and skill, plus he’s committed to Boston College. But he needs to harden his game and play like his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame.
Chicago – Radovan Bondra, RW, Kosice (151st overall). I love this pick. Bondra was great as an all-situations player at the world juniors for Slovakia and comes in at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds. More snarl would be nice.
Colorado – J-C Beaudin, RW, Rouyn-Noranda (71st overall). A high riser this year, Beaudin worked his way up to the Huskies’ top line thanks to his hockey sense.
Columbus – Vladislav Gavrikov, D, Yaroslavl (159th overall). If the Jackets can get him over here, they’ll have the world juniors’ top D-man and Russia’s silver-medal captain. Passed over last year.
Dallas – Joseph Cecconi, D, Muskegon (133rd overall). The U. of Michigan commit plays rough and can also put up points from the blueline. Another fave of mine.
Detroit – Chase Pearson, C, Youngstown (140th overall). Buried on a great Phantoms team, Pearson is a Maine commit with great size and hockey smarts.
Edmonton – Ziyat Paigin, D, Kazan (209th overall). Best known for hurling his stick in the crowd after the world junior gold game loss, Paigin is a tower at 6-foot-6 and plays responsibly on the back end.
Florida – Denis Malgin, C, Zurich (102nd overall). The pint-sized Swiss pivot is a dazzling stickhandler with good hockey IQ, though he still needs to work on his shot and some other aspects of his game.
Los Angeles – Austin Wagner, LW, Regina (99th overall). Speed forces defenders to back off of Wagner, which creates chances for his linemates. Good 6-foot-1 frame to work with, too.
Minnesota – Jack Sadek, D, Lakeville North (204th overall). Offensive defenseman helped Panthers to undefeated season and state high school title. He’s bound for the University of Minnesota where his shot and skating will be assets.
Montreal – Simon Bourque, D, Rimouski (177th overall). Two-way defenseman played a top-four role for the Quebec League champions; quadrupled his point totals year-over-year from nine to 38.
Nashville – Evan Smith, G (205th overall). Skyscraper 6-foot-6 goaltender couldn’t hang in WHL Victoria, but blossomed in NAHL with Austin, taking Bruins to league final.
New Jersey – Brett Seney, LW, Merrimack (157th overall). Smaller scorer was passed over last year, but led Warriors in scoring as a freshman.
NY Islanders – Mitch Vande Sompel, D, Oshawa (82nd overall). Great value here as Isles get another General. This one is a classic modern offensive defenseman who can scorch on the power play and also plays forward when needed.
NY Rangers – Aleksi Saarela, C, Assat Pori (89th overall). Highly touted as a youngster, the shorter Saarela fell off the map a bit this year, but he still has great offensive potential thanks to his hands and hockey sense.
Ottawa – Filip Ahl, LW, HV 71 (109th overall). A big-bodied winger who is great along the boards, Ahl also has a nice set of hands and can produce as both a scorer or a playmaker.
Philadelphia – David Kase, C, Chomutov (128th overall). Brother of Ducks pick Ondrej Kase had good showing at world juniors for Czechs. He’s sharp on faceoffs and it’s tough to get the puck off him. A little undersized, but it doesn’t hamper him.
Pittsburgh – NIkita Pavlychev, C, Des Moines (197th overall). Extremely intriguing at 6-foot-7, Pavlchev moves well for his size and has nice creativity to his game. Penn State commit just scratching the surface.
San Jose – Adam Parsells, D, Wasau West (160th overall). Raw Wisconsin high schooler has great reach with his 6-foot-5 frame. Will head to USHL Green Bay, then U. of Wisconsin.
St. Louis – Glenn Gawdin, C, Swift Current (116th overall). Great value here for a faceoff ace who plays a responsible, heavy two-way game. Skating was a concern, which explains how Blues got a second-rounder in the fourth.
Tampa Bay – Ryan Zuhlsdorf, D, Sioux City (150th overall). USHL all-rookie team blueliner is a future Sioux City captain who will head to the University of Minnesota after one more junior campaign.
Toronto – Dmytro Timashov, LW, Quebec (125th overall). Nice value pick on a kid who led the Memorial Cup hosts in scoring. Sublime playmaker doesn’t have a lot of size and needs to work on defense.
Vancouver – Lukas Jasek, RW, Trinec (174th overall). A talented and creative winger who played half his season against men, Jasek really only produced when he was back in junior. So there’s work to do, but the foundation is there.
Washington – Jonas Siegenthaler, D, Zurich (57th overall). To be honest, the Caps only made four picks and since Ilya Samsonov is a known quantity, I’m going with the big Swiss D-man who makes a good first pass.
Winnipeg – Erik Foley, LW, Cedar Rapids (78th overall). There’s a bit of a Cult of Foley and I’m in that camp. The Providence commit is a physical player who makes things happen anytime he’s on the ice and can play on the top line.