As the junior season approaches the end of its regular season and the beginning of its playoffs I thought it would be an appropriate time to look at prospects that are potentially sleepers in the upcoming draft. Firstly its the turn of the Ontario Hockey League to reveal the hidden gems and sleepers that aren't getting the attention that they deserve.
With sleepers its incredibly difficult to predict where they will get selected and quite often it will depend solely on whether a team has heard of them and how high they are on them. For example Emil Molin, despite not being on the NHL Central Scouting rankings or most other rankings, was drafted in the fourth round in 2010. If an unranked player by several major organisations can get drafted in the fourth round then a sleeper can go anywhere between the second and seventh rounds.
The first player that I think is flying under the radar is one that Dallas Stars scouts should know quite a bit about. Carter Verhaeghe is a centre on the Niagara IceDogs, Brett Ritchie's team, and because of the incredible strength of both Ritchie and Ryan Strome has been overlooked.
He is a relatively big player at 6"1 181lbs and he is an incredibly hard working forward. He's been described as a blue collar player who works incredibly hard at both ends of the ice. He uses his size and frame well and he is steadily developing his two way game and playmaking ability. He has probably been one of the more consistent forwards for the Niagara IceDogs outside of their incredible first line. Playing limited minutes hes managed to get 35 points through 61 games for the IceDogs and will likely breakout with the graduation of several key players to the pros.
I personally expect Carter Verhaeghe to have been drafted at the latest by the end of the third round. His work ethic, the room for development he will have in the next two seasons and his natural talent are all things that the Dallas Stars like from a player. I wouldn't be surprised if he was one of the players that they might have an interest in.
Though the Stars have a significant amount of talent on the right wing its possible that Nick Moutrey of the Saginaw Spirit might be too good to pass up if he is still available in the later rounds. Nick Moutrey is a classic Canadian power forward. He is big at 6"3 208lbs and he knows how to use it. He's got some high end offensive potential and could is beginning to learn how to use his own natural skill set to go to the net and score goals rather than relying upon others feeding him.
This combination of size and skill is something that the Dallas Stars have attempted to draft a lot of over the past few years. Their 'shotgun' style of drafting a particular skill set is generally predominantly focused on big talented players, like Nick Moutrey. At the last draft the Stars picked Branden Troock, another big body with skill and potential, though that particular experiment has been limited by several injuries.
Nick Moutrey might fall because of limited viewings on him because of the situation with Saginaw. He plays for the Saginaw Spirit which doesn't have the array of top end draft talent that other Ontario Hockey League teams do. Saginaw is also one of the more westerly OHL teams and because of this its possible that some scouts won't have gone out of their way to watch a lot of games there. This is all speculation but if true its possible that Nick Moutrey might fall down the rankings when he has a package of skills that could develop into something interesting for the future.
Another to watch coming out of Saginaw, but one who is mostly on the radar, is centreman Jimmy Lodge. From being a consistent underachiever last season he has become an over point per game man. He's relatively tall at 6"2 but at 165lbs he is very slight. He would need to bulk up to become effective at a higher level but he has the offensive vision to become a good playmaker. He is guilty of inconsistent play, not something completely uncommon among young players, but this can be improved upon.
With these kind of players available up and down the rounds its going to be a very interesting day come draft day.