When it comes to the draft, hype can be overblown.
Since fans and media are always intrigued by the next superstar, many talented prospects slip through the hype machine’s cracks and fall in two other distinct categories: sleepers and risers. The lists all 30 NHL teams will use on draft day will be filled with sleepers — prospects whose skills aren’t generating enough attention — and risers — prospects who came out of the woodwork and surpassed those generally believed to be ahead of them.
There’s no greater example of both sleeper and riser than Hampus Lindholm, the sixth overall pick by the Anaheim Ducks in last year’s draft. Lindholm was completely off the radar at Christmas, until a dominant second-half performance vaulted him ahead of far more hyped prospects Jacob Trouba and Mathew Dumba, among others.
Of course, determining each prospect’s worth won’t fully be known for years, long after the busts bust and the stars achieve greatness.
Nevertheless, here’s a list of five prospects who fit into the sleepers and risers categories heading into June 30’s draft.
Patrik Bartosak, G, Red Deer (WHL)
Bartosak is no secret to the junior community. The Czech goaltender was dominant in the Western Hockey League this season, posting a 2.26 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage en route to being crowned the Canadian Hockey League’s Vaughn goaltender of the year. Bartosak, however, passed through the draft twice, mainly because his style — best described as Dominik Hasek-esque — isn’t traditional. He was rated eighth among North American goalies by the NHL’s Central Scouting and should finally hear his name called sometime in this draft.
Peter Cehlarik, LW, Lulea (SEL)
The Slovakian forward began receiving more recognition following his call up to Lulea’s men’s team in the Swedish Elite League. A big forward with soft hands, Cehlarik made an immediate impact with Lulea, scoring six points in eight games and adding seven in six games at April’s under-18 world championship. His skating is below average, but his energy and offensive prowess should see him drafted higher than some expect.
Remi Elie, LW, London (OHL)
Elie joined the Knights this season and made an impact in a depth role. He plays an honest, hard-working game while providing a physical presence. His game is simple, yet he excels within its simplicity. Elie plays with energy, grit and may have better hands than his 17 points in 65 games would suggest. He’s the prototypical bottom-six forward every NHL team needs to succeed, particularly in the playoffs.
Greg Chase, C, Calgary (WHL)
Chase emerged as a solid two-way contributor for the Hitmen this season. A former first-round bantam pick, Chase’s offensive game improved in his sophomore season to the tune of 49 points in 69 games. He plays a heady, 200-foot game. He’s often in the right positions to make an impact at both ends of the ice and can draw the ire of his opposition with some trash talking. His hockey IQ is a good indicator he could survive as he moves up the ladder.
Vincent Dunn, C, Gatineau (QMJHL)
Dunn is one of the biggest pests in junior. He talks trash and gets under his opponent’s skin with his playing style. He showed new layers to his game this season, improving from a 13-point rookie season to a near point-per-game pace as a sophomore with 52 in 53 games. Although small and held back by his skating, Dunn’s antagonistic style is suitable for a future fourth liner.
Samuel Morin, D, Rimouski (QMJHL)
No prospect rose quicker up the ranks this season than the hulking rearguard for the Oceanic. Morin stands six-foot-six and 200 pounds, plays a nasty game and displayed enough skill to warrant a high selection on draft day. His skating is strong for his size and he has the poise with the puck to make a good first pass while surveying his options. Morin emerged through the course of his second season in Rimouski and only helped his cause with a solid performance in April’s under-18 world championship.
Emile Poirier, LW, Gatineau (QMJHL)
The second-year forward kept climbing up the draft boards throughout the season to the point now where he’s in the conversation as a first-round talent. Poirier is a speed demon with the hands and skill to match. His offence reached new heights this season, while his competitive, two-way style also earned high marks since Poirier isn’t simply a one-dimensional player. He plays with the type of intensity and attention to defence that leaves scouts wondering just how good he could become.
Chris Bigras, D, Owen Sound (OHL)
Bigras burst onto the scene with a strong performance at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial under-18 tournament in August and carried his stellar play throughout the season in Owen Sound. He’s a steady, two-way defender whose hockey IQ is top notch. Bigras showed enough versatility that he can excel in many different situations. Similar to Stuart Percy in his draft year, Bigras does all the small things well without the wow factor.
Laurent Dauphin, C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
Dauphin emerged out of nowhere to steal the spotlight at the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January. He wasn’t originally invited to the event, only receiving his invitation after Medicine Hat’s Hunter Shinkaruk missed it due to injury. Dauphin scored a goal and added an assist in Team Orr’s 3-0 win en route to being named player of the game. He then made an impact on Canada’s under-18 world championship roster, showing off an offensive game that now has him in contention as a late first-round pick or early second-round selection.
Austin Lotz, G, Everett (WHL)
Lotz gave the high-powered Portland Winterhawks headaches in the WHL’s opening round of the playoffs. An athletic and competitive goalie, Lotz never gives up on a play and will often make the desperation saves that provide his team a boost. His play during the second half and playoffs raised some eyebrows, as he now ranks among the more promising goalies in the draft and could be taken in the first three rounds.