The general managers who will step up to the podium tonight and Saturday to announce their club’s newest asset will vary in excitement. There are some who are known to be predictable and stale, and others who typically take unorthodox routes and love taking risks.
Detroit Red Wings’ GM Ken Holland is surely the flag waver of the latter group, as Detroit is infamous for its sleeper picking. They’ve developed otherwise unforeseen aptitudes into legitimate everyday NHLers and, on a few occasions, long-time superstars. Their scouts dig deep into the junior hockey ranks in order to discover that uncapped, unheralded kid who has the right components of the game on lock.
While tonight’s first has been predicted as an “anything can happen” round after the top five have left the stage, the second to seventh rounds will be even more scrambled. There’s bound to be a handful of GMs in Minnesota right now who are sitting in their hotels and being told by their scouting staff that so-and-so is a talent that cannot be continually ignored.
Here at Houses of the Hockey, we’ve compiled a three-player list of potential sleeper picks for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Logan Shaw (RW) – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Shaw is an interesting story heading into the draft, as he saw his stock rise 10 spots in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings. He is cemented in the 42-spot on their North American Skaters list, largely thanks to a vastly improved 2010-11 campaign with the Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL.
In comparison to the season prior, he notched almost three times more goals (nine to 26) and virtually doubled his overall point total (24 to 46). What scouts seem to enjoy about the Glace Bay, Nova Scotia native’s game is his mean body type. At 6’3”, 197 pounds, he’s got an above-average build for an 18-year-old and definitely has the time to chisel his frame. Smart franchises will also consider the fact that he played for a woeful club team, which certainly damaged his plus-minus rating (minus-18) as well as point production. Apparently some NHL teams have told him they weren’t even aware he was in the Quebec league from 2008-2010. If that doesn’t signal he’s a potential sleeper, what does?
Nick Cousins (F) – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
As a point-per-game player for Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL, Cousins was a force for the duration of the 2010-11 season. A left-shooting center/winger out of Belleville, Ontario, Cousins may be one of the draft’s biggest steals.
In Hockey Prospect’s annual NHL Draft Guide, the 5’11”, 166-pounder is sandwiched in their rankings between probable late first-rounder Nicklas Jensen and fellow Greyhound Daniel Catenacci. The well-respected scouting service praises his nifty hands in tight, accurate shot, and general ability to do the little things. For general managers who only see a handful of their draft picks play live, mastering the little things is a quality that they tend to overlook. At the same time, it’s a common ingredient thrown into the mix by scouts.
With drafting, raw talent is usually the go-to source for determining where to select a player. However, over time raw talent falls by the wayside and is replaced by versatility and awareness. Central Scouting has Cousins finalized at 71st among North American skaters, but don’t expect him to go in the fourth or fifth round – think higher.
Frans Tuohimaa (G) – Jokerit Jr.
Perhaps the boldest choice out of the three profiled potential sleepers, Tuohimaa is still a ‘tender worth standing behind. Even though he played in Finland’s main junior loop this past season and not the Elite League, his numbers — 2.14 goals against average, six shutouts, .931 save percentage in 37 games — are tremendous.
Sure, his competition was not up to NCAA/CHL standards, but the 6’2″, 178 pounder who was born a year earlier than most prospects deserves a little credit. As mentioned here, it was his performance and not simple hype that garnered him the six-spot in Central Scouting’s final rankings of European Goalies. While other backstoppers from Finland such as Christopher Gibson and Samu Perhonen have received more attention due to their exposure in Canada and massive size, their statistics simply don’t stack up against Tuohimaa’s.
When determining who is a notable goalie sleeper pick, it’s always necessary to keep in mind their ability or inability to dominate a league. Goalies are unquestionably the hardest to project, especially if they’re from less-covered European leagues, so don’t be surprised if Tuohimaa jumps the charts in the middle rounds on Saturday.