By this point are you starting to get sick of all the Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel talk?
Yeah, me too.
For the past few weeks we here at Defending Big D have been profiling various prospects that are heading into the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, primarily players that could be selected with the Dallas Stars' first round pick, which falls at 12th overall.
However, there are still six other rounds beyond the first one, and they're also chock full of interesting prospects. As the NHL success of former 5th round picks Jamie Benn and John Klingberg goes to show, you never know when you're going to find a true diamond in the rough.
To switch things up a bit on the profile front I've decided to compile this exhaustive list of late round draft targets, selecting four different prospects that could be available for each pick that the Stars have from the 4th round up to the 7th.
Disclaimer: this list is solely my own. The players were selected based off of my own personal research and scouting. The Stars might coincidentally have their eyes on some of the same players, but they also might be looking at differently players entirely in the later rounds.
I aimed to compile a selection of various types of players in a variety of different leagues, but always kept into consideration the organization's biggest needs heading into the draft. Players were sorted on their likelihood to be available at each pick based off of pre-draft rankings from NHL Central Scouting and Future Considerations, but there's obviously no guarantee that they will still be there depending on how the draft unfolds. Whether or not any of these players end up getting selected by Dallas I consider each of the following 16 prospects as potential late round steals with real NHL potential.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the list:
4th Round (103rd Overall)
LW Andrew Mangiapane - Ranked 85th by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters), 95th by Future Considerations
Passed over in last year's draft because he lacked muscle, Mangiapane exploded offensively this season, scoring 104 points in 68 games with the OHL's Barrie Colts. His numbers undoubtedly benefited from being surrounded by a lot of scoring talent, but he still has very good hockey IQ, skating, and ability to handle the puck. Reliable defensive game as well. Will lose both of his older linemates next season so it will be interesting to see how he does without them.
RW Conor Garland - Ranked 86th by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters), 108th by Future Considerations
Garland is tiny at 5'8" and was also passed over last year but has a gargantuan amount of skill. Absolutely electrifying skating and hands. Possesses elite offensive instincts, which makes him especially dangerous on the powerplay when he has plenty of time and space. Led the QMJHL in points by a country mile, with 129 in 67 games. Definitely a high-risk, long-term project, but could be an NHL game-breaker after proper development and a little luck.
G Veini Vehvilainen - Ranked 6th by NHL Central Scouting (INTL Goalies), 74th by Future Considerations
As profiled by DBD's Huw Wales recently, Vehvilainen would be an excellent goaltender for the Stars to target in the later rounds of this year's draft. Was stellar for Finland at the World U18s, with a .949 save percentage in seven games, and also put up very good numbers for a goalie of his age in the Mestis, Finland's second-highest pro league. Puts forth a solid, balanced blend of size, smarts and athleticism.
C Pavel Karnaukhov - Ranked 118th by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters), 115th by Future Considerations
There are a lot of different things to like about Karnaukhov. He has the size and work ethic needed to play an aggressive power game, but also has the hands, smarts and a sneaky amount of mobility that allows him to contribute points at even strength and be a key player on the powerplay. Needs more consistency and refining of his raw skills, but should grow and develop a lot over the next two years in a very good Calgary Hitmen program. Very high ceiling if he can reach it.
5th Round (133rd Overall)
D Caleb Jones - Ranked 115th by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters), 164th by Future Considerations
Jones isn't a flashy player and doesn't excel in any particular areas, but is an incredibly well-balanced two-way defenseman. Has a very strong understanding of the game, realizing what he needs to do in any given situation, and he works relentlessly to ensure that it gets done. Looked great for Team USA at the U18s. He's Seth Jones' younger brother, and while he's not as large or as talented as his older sibling, how great would be it be to see him get drafted by Dallas?
C Aleksi Saarela - Ranked 31st by NHL Central Scouting (INTL Skaters), 137th by Future Considerations
Made his debut in Finland's top league, The Liiga, not long after his 16th birthday and has spent a lot of time there since. Played his entire draft year for Assat and put up 12 points in 51 games. He's on the smaller side of things, but has excellent speed and stickhandling. Could, and probably should, go a lot higher than he's ranked, but would be a home run selection if he somehow drops all the way to the 5th round.
D Sergey Zborovskiy - Ranked 103rd by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters), NR by Future Considerations
A big, rangy defenseman, Zborovskiy played for the WHL's Regina Pats last year, his first season in North America. Plays a reponsible, stay-at-home style, but isn't afraid to bring out a physical edge if the situation calls for it. A safe pick at worst, the 6'4" Russian defender might have some untapped potential that could emerge once he further gets used to playing in his new environment.
RW Deven Sideroff - Ranked 134th by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters), 144th by Future Considerations
If Sideroff's name rings a bell it's because he played most of this season on the same line as Stars prospect Cole Ully, which was the top line of the WHL's Kamloops Blazers. Didn't score nearly as much as Ully or their other regular linemate Matt Needham, but knew how to be an effective complementary player and do whatever was needed to help out his team. Played a depth role for Canada at the U18s but still produced a nice four points in seven games. Could crack an NHL team in the same sort of role as someone like Colton Sceviour.
6th Round (163rd Overall)
C Giorgio Estephan - Ranked 144th by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters), 149th by Future Considerations
Despite playing on a Lethbridge Hurricanes team that struggled badly to score goals, Estephan still managed to register 51 points in 64 games, which is enough to make him worth a closer look. Doesn't excel or specialize in any areas, but is simply "just good" when it comes to his skating, passing, shooting, puck control and defensive game. A responsible, balanced player with the chance that his true potential could be hidden by his bad team.
D Stephen Desrocher - Ranked 145th by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters), 172nd by Future Considerations
A player that made huge leaps in his development over the course of the season, Desrocher forced his way into the spotlight as his Oshawa Generals team won this year's Memorial Cup. Can log lots of ice time in tough minutes against top competition, and gradually added an offensive side to his game as the season went on thanks to his good shooting ability. Will be expected to be a veteran leader on his team next season and should be more than up to the task.
G Adam Huska - Ranked 16th by NHL Central Scouting (NA Goalies), 124th by Future Considerations
Huska is a long-term project for a goalie, but one that could pay off in the end and is well worth the risk of a 6th round pick. Big, athletic, and highly competitive, he has a good combination of tools and just needs the proper tutelage to put them all together. Was the best player on an awful Slovakian team at the U18s, but got shelled pretty badly in a short tryout in the USHL. Whether in Europe or the NCAA, the Stars could take their time developing Huska and see how he turns out.
LW Hayden McCool - Ranked 147th by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters), 207th by Future Considerations
McCool is the perfect example of judging a player not by what he is now, but by what he could become in the future. He's still incredibly raw, but has great size and is fearless about using it. Most important of all, he has the knowledge of how to use his size and strength to overcome his lack of skill and still chip in offense. Should be a Top 6 forward for the OHL's Windsor Spitfires next year. Best case scenario: you get David Clarkson, New Jersey Devils Edition. Worst case scenario: you get David Clarkson, Toronto Maple Leafs Edition.
7th Round (193rd Overall)
LW Martins Dzierkals - NR by NHL Central Scouting, NR by Future Considerations
Arguably the most undeservedly overlooked player available for this draft, Dzierkals is totally under the radar but still has real potential. He's small and skinny, but has more than enough offensive tools to produce points. Was excellent for Latvia at the U18s, with nine points in six games, and also had a very strong season in Russia's top junior league, the MHL. Has already played a lot internationally, and being from a smaller hockey nation like Latvia means that he has a very good chance of playing in more international tournaments in the future.
RW Reid Gardiner - Ranked 162 by NHL Central Scouting, NR by Future Considerations
One of the biggest and most surprising snubs of last year's NHL Draft, it would be downright criminal if Gardiner gets passed over by all 30 teams once again. Doesn't have a lot of size, but plays with a big heart and gives it his all every time he's on the ice. Scored 34 goals and 64 points in 67 games and was easily the best player on his Prince Albert Raiders team. Picture Ryan Callahan and that's what Gardiner gives you. The Stars would be crazy to let him slip by if he's still available in the 7th round.
Nikita Pavlychev - Ranked 153rd by NHL Central Scouting, NR by Future Considerations
Let's not beat around the bush: Pavlychev is a behemoth at 6'7" and that's the main reason why he's being considered in this space as a worthwhile late round draft selection. That being said, he's also reportedly quite reliable defensively, which makes him especially interesting. He's Russian-born but played for the USHL's Des Moines Buccaneers this season, chipping in 16 points in 42 games. Could be a Brian Boyle or Paul Gaustad type of player if his develop goes smoothly.
D Vili Saarijarvi - NR by NHL Central Scouting, NR by Future Considerations
If you're looking for a "swing-for-the-fences" sort of pick in the 7th round, look no further than Saarijarvi. He led all U18 defensemen in scoring with a whopping nine points in six games, and was also the highest-scoring blueliner on the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers with 23 points in 57 games. The downside is that he's as small as defensemen get, at roughly 5'9." Smaller and smaller players are finding success in the NHL these days: just how small can they get? Saarijarvi could be the answer to that question.