Every year at the NHL Entry Draft a team walks on stage and calls out a name that takes everyone by surprise, as was seen last year when the Winnipeg Jets drafted projected mid-first-round pick Mark Scheifele seventh overall.
Unlike this year’s fallers, the Draft Day risers didn’t enter the season under a microscope and performed better than expected, getting stronger as the season wore on.
With the help of hockeyprospect.com’s Mark Edwards, here are five players whose stock has risen heading into the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh, June 22-23.
1. Tom Wilson, RW, Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
You’ve likely heard of Tom Wilson by now. The hulking, nasty winger isn’t your typical first-round pick, but he brings intangibles — size, physicality, character and smarts — that have scouts salivating. While he’s not your prototypical tough guy, there isn’t a player in this draft as physical and mean as Wilson. The Toronto native has only played 77 games in two seasons with Plymouth, due to injury.
Scout’s take: “He’s not a guy who’s going to blow you away with a lot of skill, but he’s got the size and work ethic and the willingness to go into the dirty areas. He’ll go earlier than expected because there are no other Tom Wilsons in the draft. I had one NHL guy tell me, ‘Look at (Milan) Lucic.’ That’s what they hope he’ll become. He still needs to get more polished with his offensive game and make better puck-distribution decisions.”
2. Derrick Pouliot, D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Although the 2012 NHL Draft is ripe with defencemen, Pouliot is perhaps the most offensively gifted of the bunch. The Weyburn, Sask., native is a poised, puck-rushing defenceman who uses his speed to his advantage at both sides of the rink. Pouliot ranked fourth among WHL defencemen with 11 goals and 59 points in 72 games.
Scout’s take: “We had him just outside the first round (preseason) and he finished 10th. He’s like a P.K. Subban — just grabs the puck and goes. He really learned to pick his spots and made better decisions as the season progressed. He was the biggest riser for us. I know an NHL team that has him as the No. 1 D-man in the draft.”
3. Teuvo Teravainen, C, Jokerit (Finland)
An impressive performance at the world under-18 championship coupled with perhaps the most natural skill among his peers has Teravainen shooting up draft charts. The 5’10”, 185-pound Finn has dazzling puck skills, is a top-notch distributor and brings an off-the-charts hockey IQ. He still needs to bulk up and is likely a few years away from making an impact in North America.
Scout’s take: “This kid is unreal — he’s got eyes in the back of his head. He has really quick decision-making with the puck; it’s pretty impressive. He looked like he was playing Sunday morning shinny and just toying with guys out there (at U18). Size is obviously the concern, but he did grow this year.”
4. Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
While it’s tough to call a guy who has been highly regarded for most of the season a riser, he could be one of the first defencemen off the board because of his well-rounded play. At 6’2” and 203 pounds, Ceci has NHL size and plays well at both ends of the ice. Despite scoring 17 goals and 60 points for Ottawa this season, Ceci is better known for his sound defensive play.
Scout’s take: “He’s a pretty polished defenceman and is good in his own zone. He’s a little bit underrated offensively. The only thing I don’t like about him is that he’s such a monster and he’s just not mean enough. There’s not a lot to dislike in his game.”
5. Lukas Sutter, C, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Sutter likely won’t be drafted in the first round, but he deserves recognition for making a name for himself despite starting the year in anonymity. While not the most gifted offensively, Sutter improved drastically in 2011-12, finishing with 28 goals and 59 points to go along with 165 penalty minutes in 70 games. Sutter, the son of former NHLer Rich Sutter, is a defensive forward who uses his big frame to generate scoring chances.
Scout’s take: “Our Western guy really liked him. He’s not overly skilled, but he goes to the net hard, his decision-making has improved, and he wins battles along the boards. He met expectations defensively, but there is concern as to how high-end his offence can become.”