Draft day is an anxious time for all involved. For fans, it’s their first exposure to the potential future of the franchise. For scouts, it’s when their hard work comes to fruition. And for players, it’s either the moment their draft-day dream comes true or they suffer the sadness of being passed over in the selection process.
There are, however, a certain group of players for whom draft day is old hat, a select number who’ve experienced the joy of being drafted yet have to potential to enjoy the thrill all over again.
Over the weekend, the deadline came and went for teams to finalize deals with prospects drafted in 2017 in order to avoid losing their rights, and those who weren’t inked by their respective teams now have the chance to go back into draft all over again. And while being selected and then rejected might seem like a kiss of death for a player’s career, that’s not always the case. Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen couldn’t come to terms with Carolina after the team selected him in 2010 and he was selected by Anaheim two years later. Craig Anderson, Matt Lombardi and Nick Boynton are other examples of players who were chosen twice before finding NHL success.
Players re-entering the draft in such a manner are usually major junior players who still meet the age requirements (in this case, born in 1999) and can be selected by anyone – even the team with which they didn’t sign. That happened to Pierre Dagenais, who was picked twice by New Jersey before eventually playing 25 games with the team. With that in mind, here are five players who were left unsigned and can be drafted in Vancouver later this month:
Zach Gallant, C, 20 (Detroit Red Wings)
There was a time when Gallant was unstoppable in minor midget and Jr. A, and when Detroit selected him 83rd overall in 2017, it looked like the Wings had pulled off a steal. Fast forward to 2019, though, and Gallant is coming off of an injury-filled season that saw him finish with 25 points in 30 games. Not terrible, but you’d still expect more from one of the Peterborough Petes’ oldest players. After his OHL campaign finished, Gallant joined the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, scored four points in as many games in the regular season, 12 points in 23 playoff contests and is currently skating in the final against the Newfoundland Growlers. Gallant showed enough promise this season that a team could look at making him a project prospect.
Noel Hoefenmayer, D, 20 (Arizona Coyotes)
Playing on a strong team that nearly went all the way helped Hoefenmayer, who had a tremendous 2018-19 campaign. An assistant captain with the Ottawa 67s, he finished the season with 46 assists and 62 points, good for fourth among all OHL defensemen. A fourth-round pick of the Coyotes in 2017 (108th overall), Hoefenmayer has improved his defensive game and is a much better skater than he was when he was first picked two years ago. At best, he has the tools to be a solid two-way second-pairing defender capable. There’s no way he goes undrafted this June.
Kyle Olson, RW, 20 (Anaheim Ducks)
In terms of re-entry options, Olson has had one of the weirdest career stat lines. In 2016-17, he finished with 57 points in 72 games, only to fall to 18 points in 36 games the next campaign. This past season with Tri-City, Olson had 49 assists and 70 points, one of the most notable year-over-year improvements in the WHL, and it was a sign that the offensive prowess he showed in bantam and midget wasn’t a fluke. Selected 122nd overall by the Anaheim Ducks in 2017, Olson had steal potential for the Ducks. He’ll re-enter the draft this year, though, and there could be some suitors.
Liam Hawel, C, 20 (Dallas Stars)
Stuck on a team with Isaac Ratcliffe, Ryan Merkley and Nick Suzuki, among others, Hawel got lost in the hoopla surrounding Guelph at times. At 6-foot-5 and coming off of a 78-point campaign with the Storm, there are some attractive qualities in his game that will make teams take notice. For starters, he’s more defensively responsible than he was when Dallas picked him 101st overall in 2017, and the big, skilled centerman is capable of putting pucks in at a solid rate. Hawel needs to figure out how to use his size to his advantage if he wants to succeed at the next level, though. Teams seeking a player with good size who has proven he can be a decent goal-scorer might want to take a flyer on Hawel.
Scott Walford, D, 20 (Montreal Canadiens)
Let go by the Canadiens two years after they chose him in the third round (68th overall), Walford developed into a solid WHLer after scoring a career-high nine goals and 47 points this season, adding seven assists in 10 playoff games with the Victoria Royals. Walford did represent the WHL in the CIBC Canada-Russia series in November, and while he was a longshot to make Canada’s World Junior Championship roster, he was at least in consideration. The Canadiens signed two of their four defensive draft picks in 2017, making Walford the odd-man out. He has shown he can be an offensive contributor, but if another team picks him up, it will likely be as a potential depth addition.
Other notables: Cedric Pare (C, 20, Boston Bruins), D’Artagnan Joly (RW, 20, Calgary Flames), Brett Davis (C, 19, Dallas Stars), Lane Zablocki (C, 20, Detroit Red Wings), Zachary Lauzon (D, 20, Pittsburgh Penguins – missed 2018-19 with a concussion).
Want more in-depth features, analysis and an All-Access pass to the latest content? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.