With the NHL draft just around the corner, people within all hockey circles and fanbases are itching to find out who their teams will draft. People always tend to focus on the highly touted, top level prospects who may be on route to their respective teams. But, like a lot of things, the NHL draft is an inexact science. Luck is as much of a factor as anything. So believe me when I say there’s players flying below the radar that will make an impact at the NHL level. As the saying goes, watch out for the quiet ones, as guys like Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Alfredsson, Peter Bondra and Henrik Lundqvist were all selected in the 6th round or later. I’m not saying we’ll find someone of that calibre, but it goes to show there are players out their that get overlooked for whatever reason; whether its size, nationality, lack of scouting, etc. The Canes have had decent success in the last couple years plucking Jaccob Slavin, Lucas Wallmark, Nic Roy and Callum Booth in the back portion of the draft, and hopefully they can find a couple more studs in the later rounds. Here’s a few guys I think that could be worth a look & potentially contribute to the team in the future.
F Dante Salituro: Salituro is a kid that most Canes fans probably know about, especially me. Salituro, undrafted in 2015, attended the Canes prospects camp and was pretty impressive, from there he went to Columbus’ training camp, where he stayed pretty late into the preseason but was ultimately one of the final cuts. Many thought his impressive showing would lead to an entry-level contract, but Columbus opted against it and Salituro returned to my hometown Ottawa 67s of the OHL. After the 67s traded highly-touted prospect Travis Konecny, Salituro took over as the leader of the team, scoring 38 goals and 83 points leading the 67s to a first-round exit to the superior Niagara Ice Dogs. Salituro was one of the lone reasons the 67s made it to the playoffs, with his hard working style of play and very skilled offensive approach. At just 5’9 175lbs, he’s undersized, but can be a difference maker at the NHL level due to his intangibles of leadership and goal scoring ability. Salituro is ranked the 106th North American prospect, which, as someone who’s watched Salituro play a lot, is astonishingly low. He could be a very low-risk, high-reward pick anywhere in the 4th round or beyond. His skillset would rank top-50 in the draft, but like many undersized prospects, he has a lot to prove if he wants to make it to the big leagues.
Risk: 1/5 Reward: 4-5 ETA: 3 years
G Veini Vehviläinen: Vehviläinen is arguably the most underrated prospect in this years draft. After inexplicably going undrafted in 2015, this kid made the jump from a European junior league, up to the Finnish Liiga where he outplayed Tuomas Tarkki, a much more experienced goaltender, and finished with a 15-7-4 record with a 2.04 GAA and a .925 save%. In comparison, Tarkki is 36 years old and has spent the majority of his career in that league without achieving Vehviläinen’s rookie numbers. Just 19 years old, Veini is signed with JYP for the next 2 seasons to continue his development in one of the world’s top hockey leagues. The Canes can stand to add more bodies to their goaltending group, and Vehviläinen might be one of the most rewarding adds in the draft. He’s likely to still be available in the latter portion of the draft, and with the Canes growing European prospect group, its hard not to imagine Vehviläinen as a good fit for this team. He could potentially blossom into a future starting goaltender in the NHL.
Risk: 1.5/5 Reward: 4.5/5 ETA: 3-5 years
Yegor Korshkov: Korshkov is an appealing player, he stands at 6’4 and 180lbs, and plays true to his size. A power forward, Korshkov held down a spot with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL, contributing 6 goals and 12 points in 41 games as a 19 year old. Long billed to have the makings of a solid two-player in the NHL, Korshkov struggled mightily during his 2015 draft year and as a result didn’t hear his name called. A rebound year, as evidenced by his 8 point performance at the WJC, Korshkov has leaped back up onto draft boards, ranked by some as high as the 43rd-ranked prospect and also as low as the 6th-7th round by others. Where he gets picked is anyone’s guess, but whichever team decides to take a chance on this kid could get a very rewarding player. There’s risk involved though, as scouts have compared him to Yaroslav Kosov – a Panthers 2011 draft pick who is virtually identical to Korshkov but has yet to play a game in North America and likely never will. However, if Korshkov decides he wants to play in the best league in the world, he has the intangibles to do it, and could be a very solid 2-way player for any team that takes a chance on him.
Risk: 3/5 Reward: 4/5 ETA: Unknown
Teams are always on the hunt to add promising players without moving assets, as the Canes did signing Sergey Tolchinsky as an UDFA in 2013. Some players unfortunately slip through the cracks, and it’s up to the Canes scouting department to find guys that can help contribute towards the goal of raising that Stanley Cup again as we did in 2006. Coupled with recent moves the Canes have made under Ron Francis’ management, we’re unquestionably on the right track.