By Steven Ellis
Draft day is an exciting time for any young player with aspirations of making the NHL. It’s a day they work their whole life for. Teams host huge parties for kids who are still in high school. Television networks devote hours upon hours of coverage to it.
But what if, after all the build-up, a prospect doesn't get drafted?
Fortunately, they get a second chance. Overagers looking for another shot at the NHL draft can prove their worth with a "show me" season. These players may have been overlooked in their first draft-eligible season due to injuries, a minimized role with their team or, perhaps, they just weren’t considered good enough yet. Wayne Simmonds, Ryan Callahan and Jason Demers are examples of NHLers who made a real impact after waiting an extra year to get drafted.
Which prospects deserve a second chance at the NHL draft in Dallas this June? We’ve compiled some of the best players looking for redemption after hot starts to their hockey season:
Sean Durzi, D, Owen Sound (OHL): It’s hard to ignore the ridiculous season that Durzi has had so far. By mid-November, the 19-year-old defenseman was battling with Vegas Golden Knights first-rounder Nick Suzuki for the status of being Owen Sound’s top offensive player. Durzi had a nine-game point streak earlier this season, recording 20 points in that span. He attended the New York Islanders' rookie camp last summer, wasn't offered a contract. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine the two-way blueliner not getting drafted this time around.
Albert Michnac, C, Mississauga (OHL): The Steelheads needed someone to take the reins with Michael McLeod out of action for two months. Michnac has been doing exactly that in his rookie campaign in the OHL, and was named the league’s player of the week in early November. But it didn’t start pretty, with Michnac struggling to find his place at the beginning of the season. With eight goals in a three-game weekend to kick off November, it was clear he was finding his stride. Michnac leads the Steelheads in points, beating out potential top-10 pick Ryan McLeod and Golden Knights prospect Nick Hague for the honor.
Zach Solow, C, Northeastern (NCAA): Something will have to go wrong for Solow to not have his name called this June. The USHL's scoring leader last season with 69 points, Solow was one of the draft’s most underrated playmakers after setting up his teammates 51 times. As a freshman this year at Northeastern, Solow is tied for first in NCAA rookie scoring with 13 points. Being an offensive leader on a team just outside the NCAA’s top 10 ranking will give Solow plenty of opportunities to help his stock rise – and if he doesn’t get picked, watch him become a sought-after commodity a few years down the line.
Jared Moe, G, Waterloo (USHL): The newest commit to the University of Minnesota, Moe's jump from high school hockey to the USHL has been a successful one early on. In fact, he’s overtaken Philadelphia Flyers prospect Matej Tomek, who came down from the NCAA in order to get more playing time. This isn’t a case of Tomek fighting an injury, like he has the past few seasons. Instead, Moe has simply outplayed him, putting up a .946 save percentage and 1.44 goals-against average with two shutouts through seven games with Waterloo. Moe was ranked 26th by NHL Central Scouting among North American goalies last year and should get a look in the late rounds of the draft this year – especially if he continues to outplay Tomek the rest of the season.
Joey Keane, D, Barrie (OHL): The Colts' sophomore defenseman got off to a great start this season with 15 points in 18 games. Keane was one of Team USA's best players at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament during the summer and he'll surpass last year's production – 19 points in 67 games – in the very near future. He's quick, he's improved his defensive play and he doesn’t lose many puck battles. What’s not to like?
Jerry Turkulainen, RW, JYP (Liiga): The late 1998-born winger made the transition to playing against men in Finland's top pro league last year, with decent numbers for a rookie. This season, however, the 5-foot-7 speedster should be able to easily top his 26-point season, and has earned more and more ice time with JYP this year. Through his first 70 Liiga games, Turkulainen’s numbers were nearly identical to Edmonton Oilers first-rounder Jesse Puljujarvi, and while he slowed down a bit in November, it’s hard to imagine Turkulainen not getting drafted this June.
Saku Vesterinen, D, Charlottetown (QMJHL): Charlottetown is a pretty average team in the QMJHL right now, not scoring at will like they did at some points last year. Finnish sophomore Vesterinen, however, has been a bright spot for the team, leading the Islanders in points with nearly a point-per-game average through mid-November. Vesterinen will beat his output from a year ago in a matter of days and could very well finish as the QMJHL’s top-scoring defenseman. Don't count out a WJC appearance for Vesterinen, either.