A good number of players in the NHL are players who were drafted high with the expectation that they would eventually make an impact at the NHL level. By no means do I intend to discount the efforts of these players. Yes, Andrei Svechnikov entered the 2018 NHL Draft projected as a can’t miss NHLer based on his natural ability, but the recipe for his success also included hard work and sacrifices. I think sometimes fans can underestimate the sacrifices and life transitions that many young players go to packing up and moving at such a young age. As a high school age kid, Andrei Svechnikov packed up and left his home to move across the globe to a place where he did not speak the language — and pursue his dream of playing in the NHL.
The point is that pretty much every player has sacrifices and stories related to reaching the NHL.
But today’s Daily Cup of Joe steps briefly away from the here and now of training camp and looks at a few of the Hurricanes players who are improbable NHLers who beat the odds to make it to the show.
Lucas Wallmark (4th round)
After being a mid-round draft pick in 2014, Lucas Wallmark stayed home in Sweden to hone his skills for a couple more years. When he arrived in North America, Wallmark quickly earned some NHL ice time, but did not stick at the NHL level until the 2018-19 season.
Jaccob Slavin (4th round)
The biggest late-round draft win by the Hurricanes is easily Jaccob Slavin. Slavin was a ho-hum fourth-round selection who developed in college and then burst onto the NHL scene pretty quickly after signing his professional contract. As a player who is a long-term cornerstone for the franchise, he was obviously a tremendous get in the second half of the draft.
James Reimer (4th round)
Reimer was a fourth-round selection of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2006. Four years later he had climbed his way up into the NHL and was set to remain there. Reimer is one of many great goalie finds in the latter half of the draft.
Petr Mrazek (5th round)
Probably the position with the most later-round selections who eventually become NHLers is the goalie position. The nature of the position makes it a common one for late bloomers. Mrazek is exactly that as a fifth-rounder who has emerged to become a capable starting netminder.
Clark Bishop (5th round)
Bishop is a great example of a young player who understands what his skill set is and how it translates to the NHL level. Even at lower levels, Bishop was never a top-end scorer. But he can skate and hound the puck which is a great foundation for being a solid two-way player capable of being sound defensively and helping push pace. With a couple high-ceiling young players in the mix, Bishop seemed to start preseason pushed down the depth chart despite a strong 2018-19 season in a supporting role. But he had a stellar game on Wednesday, and he fits what Brind’Amour prefers on the wing.
Ryan Dzingel (7th round)
Dzingel is a great example of a value pick. The scout that pounded the table for him as a late pick certainly deserves credit, as Dzingel boosted his standing pretty quickly with his play at the NCAA level. Five years later he was in the NHL.
Erik Haula (7th round)
Haula was drafted in the 7th round where mostly teams are selecting players who caught a scout’s eye and seem to have some potential if a number of things go in their direction. Like many European players, he came to North America as a teenager and made five stops in North America in six years before breaking into the NHL with the Minnesota Wild.
Trevor van Riemsdyk (Undrafted)
Perhaps the highest riser against the odds is Trevor van Riemsdyk. Despite a decent college career, van Riemsdyk exited college as an undrafted free agent. The Chicago Blackhawks signed hims as a free agent and benefited from finding him. Van Riemsdyk is evidence that teams can benefit from evaluating potential late bloomers for NHL potential.
The Hurricanes roster also includes third-rounders Brett Pesce and Warren Foegele making nearly half of the likely 2019-20 roster players drafted in the third round or later.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Are you surprised that so many Hurricanes players were late-round draft picks? Who surprises you the most?
2) Of the Canes current prospects who were selected in the latter half of the draft, who do you think has the best chance to be the next surprise?