Once you get to Round 4 or 5 of the draft, I think it’s fair to assume most people are like, “honestly who cares”. But the truth of the matter is – as Hextall pointed out in his presser this past week – the later rounds are still vital to a team’s success moving forward. You can’t afford to just pick players who you think may be able to fill out your AHL roster someday (*cough* Paul Holmgren). You never know where the next Pavel Datsyuk, Jamie Benn or Henrik Lundqvist will come from.
So, with that in mind, I’d like to point out players I’ve seen a bit and read about a lot who may go in that round 4-7 range and may have the raw tools to have a future in the NHL.
Weight: 248 lbs.
Team: Windsor (OHL)
There are two traits that really jump out at you when you first see Curtis Douglas, first being his size. Curtis Douglas is an enormous human at a shade over 6’8” and close to 250 lbs. Even at that size, he looks as though he hasn’t quite filled out yet, which lends to the 2nd thing you notice about Douglas: his skating. Douglas is not a good skater right now. His acceleration is poor, and his top speed isn’t great. That said, his stride is fluid, so as he fills out and becomes stronger in his lower body, he has the tools to become a strong skater. What he lacks in his skating he makes up for in his intelligence. Douglas is ahead of the curve in terms of thinking the game on both ends of the ice. This became evident in my research when I came across an in-depth article by Ryan Biech at CanucksArmy. His production of 46 points in 66 games doesn’t scream high upside, but this was a big leap from the 9 points he scored the previous season. And when you take a deeper dive into his numbers, you see that 39 of those points came at even strength. Douglas also showed a propensity for driving production, as his teammates were better with him than without him, even despite not having consistent linemates. Douglas doesn’t project as a high scoring player at the NHL level, but if he’s able to gain more power and speed in his skating, he could project as a bottom 6 center who can chip in offensively and kill penalties. And as the Bruins have shown over the past 5 or so seasons, it can’t hurt to have a 6’9” monster parked in front of the net on the powerplay.
Weight: 164 lbs.
Team: Owen Sound (OHL)
I felt it was only appropriate to go from the biggest player in the draft to one of the smallest. That said, he doesn’t play small. Dudas is very good on the forecheck, closing quickly on defensemen and causing turnovers with his stick and tenacity. Dudas also isn’t shy about going to the high danger areas and creating for himself and teammates. He’s skilled with the puck and can set up teammates with his vision and high IQ. His IQ is also evident in his defensive abilities, as he’s able to read the play and get his stick passing lanes. Dudas has a good and accurate shot he loves to use, though he could improve his power. With 31 goals and 65 points in 68 games, his production is pretty good. Even more impressive is the fact that he finished 4th among OHL first time draft eligible players in primary points this season, so he was a catalyst on a very good Owen Sound team that took Morgan Frost’s Soo Greyhounds to 7 games in the OHL playoffs. Obviously, his size can be an issue at the NHL level and that is why he could fall to the mid-late rounds of the draft, but Dudas possesses the puck skills and IQ that make you believe he could overcome that deficiency.
Weight: 163 lbs.
Team: Irbis Kazan (MHL)
Danila’s ability to push play up the ice is evident. He’s an excellent skater with good speed and puck skills on the back end. His high IQ allows him to process the play in front of him and often make the smart play. Despite his smaller stature, Zhuravlyov is not afraid to stand up oncoming players in the neutral zone or engage defensively. He also recovers well, whether it’s for himself after being too aggressive or for his partner. While not powerful, Danila possesses an accurate shot and can use his skating ability to walk the line and open up shooting lanes. His 18 points in 28 games doesn’t give you the impression of an offensive dynamo, but his abilities suggest he has more to give in this area, along with his PPG production at the U18’s (5 assists in 5 games).
Weight: 178 lbs.
Team: Karlskrona Jr. (SuperElit)
Karlsson is an intelligent two way forward. His defensive prowess and understanding of the game makes him a tough player to play against in the defensive zone. His intelligence is also evident offensively as he has no trouble finding the high danger areas and showing off his best attribute: his shot. Karlsson has a quick release which he used to score 27 goals. Karlsson basically was the offense for his team this past season. In fact, CanucksArmy’s draft profile showed that he had a GF% Rel of +24.9%. To put it more simply, his team was a -36 in goal differential when he wasn’t on the ice. Karlsson has produced at every level and this past season, finished second to potential 1st round pick Jonatan Berggren with 52 points in 47 games in the SuperElit. That’s super impressive for a player not projected to go until the later rounds. So why the lack of love for the Swede? My guess would be his simple style of play and his skating. Karlsson lacks explosiveness in most areas of his game. He lacks separation speed and won’t make many highlight reel, jaw-dropping plays. His game is beautiful in it’s simplicity and I believe the Flyers would be wise to take a chance on him in the later rounds of this draft.
Marc Del Gaizo
Weight: 170 lbs.
Team: Muskegon (USHL)
Del Gaizo is a dynamic puck moving defenseman. His production was solid, scoring 12 goals and 38 points in 59 games, adding 4 points in 3 playoff games. His greatest ability is his transition game, as he’s able to break out of the zone with ease either with his passing or his high-end skating ability. Though small in stature at 5’9”, Del Gaizo has a low center of gravity that allows him to compete with larger forwards down low and in front of the net. Where he really shines is in the offensive zone, using an array of puck skills to dangle around forwards at the line and let go a strong shot. That said, he’s not turnover-prone; he can play a “safer” style so he doesn’t have to be sheltered into a strictly offensive role. Del Gaizo will be headed to UMass this coming season, joining Avalanche draft pick Cale Makar on a talented blue line. For a Flyers team that struggles in zone exits, Del Gaizo could be a nice late round option to be patient with and develop in the college ranks.
Weight: 165 lbs.
Team: Leksands IF J20 (SuperElit)
Karlberg is the type of player Ron Hextall likes to draft: someone who demonstrated improvement throughout the year. That said, he went unranked in most publications, so once again I had to rely upon the work of CanucksArmy to do more in-depth research. Karlberg started his season in the U18’s, scoring 7 points in 6 games. He quickly found himself in the SuperElit league where he dominated with 47 points in 39 games, putting him 3rd in the league in PPG behind the aforementioned Jonatan Berggren and Linus Karlsson. He even saw 2 games at the SHL level, scoring a goal. Karlberg is much more a playmaker than a scorer, though his shot is deceptive. His greatest attributes are his IQ and passing ability. As CanucksArmy points out, his points/60 were very strong and consistent all season. In fact, his adjusted points per game numbers were in line with Gustav Nyquist in his draft year. So, where’s the downside? Once again, we look at size. At 5’8” you really must display some elite skills to project to the NHL level and Karlberg appears to be good at everything but not great or elite at anything. That said, his production and underlying numbers stand out, making him a risk worth taking late in the draft in my opinion.
Weight: 146 lbs.
Team: JYP (Liiga)
With the final skater of this article, I bring you the smallest of the small, Jerry Turkulainen. Turkulainen is in his 2nd year of eligibility. The 19-year-old had an impressive year in Liiga this past season, scoring 33 points in 52 games, up from 26 points in 48 games in his 1st year of eligibility. Turkulainen can’t be found in many publications, but once again Ryan Biech at CanucksArmy came to the rescue. Turkulainen drove production for JYP. He’s a crafty and deceptive player that relies on quick hands and feet to make plays and score goals. Again, we come to a player who scares teams due to his size. Turkulainen is not just small, he’s tiny. But his craftiness and work ethic have allowed him to be a productive player for 2 years in a professional league at age 18 and 19, which is no small feat. He’s not a player you want to draft high, but he strikes me as the type of player you could use a late round pick on and see if something sticks.
Weight: 158 lbs.
Team: Irbis-Kazan (MHL)
Yep, a goalie! Hextall pointed out in his presser this past week that they likely wouldn’t reach for a goalie, but if one were in a position they liked, they could take one. I’m not going to act like I’m some goalie guru, but just researching this draft, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of strong goalie prospects. That said, of the goalies available, Miftakhov intrigued me the most. Miftakhov put up stellar numbers in the MHL this year. He had a 1.91 GAA and .934 SV% in 26 regular season games for Irbis-Kazan. Internationally, he posted a 1.77 GAA and .953 SV% at the Hlinka Memorial Cup. Miftakhov lacks ideal size at just 6’0”, but he makes up for it with his tracking ability and intelligence. Miftakhov demonstrates poise and calm in net, positioning himself well and closing off angles. His mechanics in net are said to be mature for his age. This is a goalie that has earned a lot of praise for the mental aspect of his game, making him one of the few high upside goalies in this class. I think it’s good practice to take a goalie every year as they are so unpredictable and tough to project. I wouldn’t take a goalie early in this draft, but with the plethora of late picks Hextall has at his disposal, using one to select Miftakhov may be worth the risk.
This concludes my hidden gems series on the 2018 Draft. As I’ve commented with my last article, these are not the only players I found interesting, just some that I feel were more intriguing than others. Hopefully I was able to bring your attention to some lesser known prospects who could continue to add to the growing young talent in the Flyers organization.