The first round is the most anticipated of the NHL Entry Draft, as it is where the most likely future stars are to be found. But as we are all well aware, the NHL is filled players who were not given much of a chance to succeed. With the likes of Kim Johnsson, Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Alfredsson and Pavol Demitra among the league’s elite despite being drafted in later rounds, it gives every young player hope.
Here are 10 prospects who could be a sleeper pick in this year’s draft.
1. (RW) Brendan Gallagher – Vancouver Giants (WHL)
A gritty, skilled forward that gets every ounce out of his ability with hockey sense, desire and determination. At 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds he is not the biggest guy, but he is a clutch point producer with 81 points in 72 games.
2. (RW) Cody Beach – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
The younger brother of Chicago Blackhawks draft pick Kyle Beach is a big, mean ornery crash-and-bang winger that can fill a role at the pro level. He is still lanky at 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, but once he fills out, look out, because he can skate. He could develop into a fourth-line grinder that scares the life out of the opposition, especially on the forecheck.
3. (C) Brooks Macek – Tri-City (WHL)
Generally when a player scores a point a game in the regular season and produces 17 points in 21 playoff games there would be more talk about him. He has flown under the radar and perhaps it is because he plays for Tri-City with little media attention, and because he is 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds. If he can put it all together he has the hockey sense to play at the pro level
4. (C) Sam Carrick – Brampton (OHL)
A responsible two-way forward with some grit in his game is the best way to describe Carrick. He can produce some offence, posting 42 points in 66 games and showing an ability to be score clutch goals. He has decent size at 6-feet and 195 pounds and skates well, so he could surprise some people five years from now.
5. (D) Adam Sedlak – Peterborough (OHL)
The 6-foot-1 and 205-pound right-handed defenceman showed some flashes playing on a sub-par Peterborough team that is rebuilding. To his credit he did get 23 points in 60 games and played on the power play. It’s debatable whether Sedlak can play in the high tempo and speed of the NHL level, but he could a defencemen that in six or seven years makes his way into the pro ranks.
6. (LW) Corey Durocher – Kingston (OHL)
Considering he was an OHL rookie this season and one of his 26 points came on the power play, it makes one think there might be more than at first glimpse. At 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds he has room to grow and if he uses his size effectively he could develop into a potential power forward. He is a diamond in the rough.
7. (D) Luke Curadi – Penticton (BCHL)
Even if you are a 6-foot-5 and 255-pound defenceman playing in the BCHL, you usually do not draw a lot of attention. The import product from Connecticut will be attending RPI next season so there is time for him to develop. If someone can harness his size and increase his mobility they may have a steady shutdown defensive presence.
8. (D) Justin Faulk – US NDTP
This defenceman is overshadowed by his teammates on the U.S. National Development Program for the most part, but the talent is obvious. He’s just under 6-feet, but he has a wide, stocky build that can handle the physical rigours. On the blue line he is consistent with his defensive responsibilities and he has a knack for getting the puck on net. He could be a sleeper pick after a few years at Minnesota-Duluth.
9. (G) Joel Vienneau – Kingston Junior A (OJHL)
The lanky, 6-foot-3 and 185-pound netminder had an excellent year in junior A, posting solid numbers in 35 games with a 2.16 GAA and a .928 save percentage. He uses his size well and shows some athleticism and speed moving post-to-post. He was drafted by Guelph, but is expected to play college hockey. This gives the team that drafts him time for Vienneau to develop.
10. (D) Kevin Gravel – Sioux City (USHL)
An underrated defenceman with the potential to be a solid two-way player once his game matures. At 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds he has not filled out yet, but once he does Gravel will be an imposing figure. He shows enough hockey sense and mobility to be an effective player and will be able to develop slowly at St. Cloud State University.