Better Late Than Never: Top 10 2015 NHL Entry Draft Returnees

Vladimir Tkachev
Vlad Tkachev was passed over at last year’s draft, but is unlikely to be again this year (Daniel St Louis/Moncton Wildcats)

For many things in life there are no second chances.

In the world of hockey, however, second chances do exist in certain areas. One of those areas is the NHL Entry Draft.

Young hockey players from all over the world first become eligible for the draft the year that they turn 18 (barring their birthdays are before the September 15th cutoff date), yet still maintain their eligibility even if they don’t get selected the first year that they enter.

The overwhelming majority of drafted players in any given year are in their first year of eligibility, but in recent years more and more teams have been taking their chances with the mulligan approach, selecting players that had been passed up previously.  Some recent successful examples of this are Ondrej Palat of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who was taken as a 20 year-old in the 7th round of the 2011 draft but is now on pace for a 60-point season, as well as Sven Andrighetto of the Montreal Canadiens and Jyrki Jokipakka of the Dallas Stars.

With the 2015 NHL Entry Draft coming up in a few months, here now is a list of the Top 10 players that have been skipped in the past but are deserving of a selection this year.

LW Vladimir Tkachev: 32 points in 29 games

Tiny (roughly 5’8″ and 160 pounds) but oozing skill, Tkachev won’t be passed over at the entry draft again. His scoring rate is down from where it was last season, but with magical puck handling abilities there will certainly be teams that come calling.

RW Conor Garland: 125 points in 65 games

The leading scorer for the entire QMJHL, Garland’s hockey path has been anything but conventional, growing up in Boston but now playing for the Moncton Wildcats in the Q. Now in his second year of draft eligibility, teams would be insane to not take a flyer on someone producing at such a high pace, despite also being well on the smaller side of things.

C Trevor Cox: 104 points in 65 games

Going from 39 points up to 82 and then 104 so far this season, Cox’s scoring trajectory has been sky-high. Another tiny forward passed over (twice) because of his size, Cox is one of the best passers in the entire WHL and would be a worthwhile gamble with a 6th or 7th round pick.

C Tim McGauley: 103 points in 69 games

One might initially think that McGauley’s numbers are inflated because he plays for the Brandon Wheat Kings, one of the best teams in the WHL, but with a whopping 30 points more than his closest teammate he’s certainly carrying his fair share of the weight. A successful playoff run to cap off the season could make him too tempting for teams to pass up.

D Darren Raddysh: 43 points in 56 games

Speaking of inflated numbers, Raddysh’s point totals undeniably get a boost by playing on the same Erie Otters team as generational phenom Connor McDavid, but that doesn’t make him any less of a player individually. Raddysh is an effective puck-moving, two-way defenseman, something that organizations are finding more and more valuable in the new, faster NHL.

C Reid Gardiner: 60 points in 63 games

One of the more surprising snubs from last year’s draft, playing on a bad Raiders team up in the remote northern city of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan doesn’t exactly help Gardiner’s draft stock. Still, with 33 goals, a very responsible two-way game and a great work ethic, there’s a lot to like here, enough to give Gardiner some legitimate NHL potential.

LW Pius Suter: 67 points in 58 games

39 goals in 58 games in the OHL is enough to make NHL scouts stop and take notice, but scoring twice for his native Switzerland at this year’s World Juniors certainly helps his cause a lot as well. Was passed over last year, but is now more adjusted to hockey in North America and could be rewarded for a surprisingly productive season.

G Adin Hill: 29-9-1 record, .923 save percentage in 43 games

Everyone loves a winner, right? Playing on a powerhouse team like the Portland Winterhawks means that Hill might not always be challenged as much as goalies on other teams, but this season he’s been head and shoulders above any other goalie that’s dressed for his squad. Great natural size at 6’4″ yet still able to move around the crease well.

C Matt Needham: 73 points in 68 games

He’ll never blow you away on the ice or have his stats jump off the scoresheet, but with an abundance of smarts and versatility Needham is the type of player that has “pro” written all over him. Was passed over at the draft twice already but is still more than good enough of a player to warrant an NHL team using a late pick on him.

LW Andrew Mangiapane: 102 points in 66 games

Each member of Mangiapane’s forward line on the Barrie Colts has cracked the 100-point plateau already this season, which raises the questions about who’s driving that bus and how much Mangiapane himself could do away from the other two. Still, any 18 year-old that can do that can score 100 points in the OHL deserves a good, hard look from scouts.