Some teams are going to find late-round gems in Philadelphia this weekend, so file these names away in your head. Our prospect guru makes his case for some draft dark horses.
Other than being very good players, Joe Pavelski, Dustin Byfuglien and Matt Moulson all have something in common: They were selected after the 200th pick in the 2003 draft. One year later, the same could be said for Pekka Rinne, Mark Streit and Troy Brouwer.
Every draft class has "sleepers," also known as players with potential that teams may have to wait longer on to develop, or simply take a leap of faith on. This year is no different, but who will those kids be? If we knew for sure, they wouldn't be sleepers, would they? In any event, here are some players I see as potential draftees this weekend who may go late, but have the potential to beat the odds and become NHLers one day. Keep in mind there are no guarantees these players will be drafted – even when a team tells a prospect they will pick him, things often change on draft day. But these kids have something to them.
Brendan van Riemsdyk, LW – Jersey Hitmen (USPHL)
The last brother behind James and Trevor, Brendan has James's size and also plays on the wing. At 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, 'BVR' has a great frame to build on and has a great hockey mind. Skating is a work in progress, but he knows how to put up points and killed the New Jersey high school circuit with Christian Brothers Academy before playing some junior with Jersey. Committed to the University of New Hampshire, van Riemsdyk will play at least one more year of junior before heading to the Wildcats.
Daniel Muzito Bagenda, LW – Modo (Swe.)
By the time he got to the world under-18s, Muzito Bagenda was up to 6-foot-1 and 198 pounds. That's NHL size right there. The challenge for the burly left winger now is tapping into his scoring potential and using his body to dominate on the ice. That's what NHL scouts want to see from him and if a team takes a chance, they may be able to steer him towards a productive pro career.
Kyle Wood, D – North Bay Battalion (OHL)
A late bloomer who also missed a bunch of games this season due to a knee injury, Wood bounced back from adversity and helped North Bay make a surprising run to the Ontario League final, where his Battalion would eventually lose to Guelph. Wood tied for fifth in playoff scoring among D-men and coupled with a 6-foot-5, 229-pound frame, he brings some nice assets to the table.
Jaedon Descheneau, RW – Kootenay Ice (WHL)
Sam Reinhart's linemate put up a ton of points this season and yeah, having Reinhart as your set-up man helps, but scouts saw Descheneau do more than his fair share. A smart player who went undrafted last year, the right winger comes in at just 5-foot-9, but he is 186 pounds now.
Ted Hart, C – Phillips Exeter Academy (New Hampshire HS)
Older brother Brian is a Tampa Bay pick playing at Harvard, though they play different games. Ted has developed into a two-way center who dazzled at the summer's Beanpot Invitational tournament thanks to his hands and 1-on-1 skills. Committed to Providence College, where his brother Kevin played.
Aleksandar Mikulovich, D – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
I was at an IceDogs game this year and Mikulovich got hit by a Mississauga player. A local in the press box remarked that the Russian import wouldn't let that go and sure enough on the next shift, Mikulovich blew up a Steelheads player with a devastating yet clean hit. He's a mean blueliner with great size at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. This Niagara team is poised for a big jump next year and Mikulovich has a great environment to grow in.
Brian Bowen, F – Boston Jr. Bruins (USPHL)
The leading scorer in the United States Premier League playoffs, Bowen is a late 1995 birthday committed to the University of Vermont. He's a big kid who plays physical and is good around the net, though some scouts think his skating will hold him back. Nonetheless, it only takes one team to believe in his skills and Bowen is on a good track: Green Bay picked him up in the USHL draft.