Many quality NHL regulars didn’t quite pan out the way teams hoped immediately after being drafted. They took a little longer to develop, and maybe didn’t get a contract offer from the team that drafted him. That was the case for many, like Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen, who had to re-enter the draft before finding a home.
The deadline has come and gone for teams to sign 2014 draft picks not playing in foreign leagues or the NCAA. Some of the picks will become free agents, and others are eligible re-enter the draft. As with most years, some of those players will be re-drafted, but this year there are a few players being tossed back into the pond that could be a real catch.
Conner Bleackley, C
Colorado Avalanche, 2014 1st round (23rd overall)
The Colorado draft pick was traded to the Arizona Coyotes as a part of the trade deadline deal for Mikkel Boedker. The Coyotes acquired Bleackley in order to not sign him and get the compensatory draft pick that comes with an un-signed 1st round pick. That makes Bleackley a bit of a unicorn. 1st round picks aren’t often having to re-enter the draft.
He’ll almost certainly get picked at some point. His production has trailed off since being drafted, but he’s also shown that he’s a physical player with the ability to create space. He was injured for a good chunk of this last season, but made a comeback for the Memorial Cup and contributed for his Red Deer Rebels. He’s been a leader on that team for many years, having been praised for his character repeatedly.
Reid Duke, C/W
Minnesota Wild, 2014 6th round (169th overall)
The reason Duke didn’t get a contract is less clear. He’s been a solid forward in his junior career, and is coming off a very good postseason run with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
After a couple rough years with some absolutely miserable Lethbridge Hurricanes squads, he was moved to the Brandon Wheat Kings, where he’s produced at a good clip on some deep teams where he wasn’t getting top billing. He finished this season with 62 points in 68 games, followed by 24 points in 21 WHL playoff games. To boot, Duke can play center. Using a deep round pick to reset the clock on giving him a contract, while he continues to grow, could appeal to some teams.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) May 11, 2016
Alex Peters, D
Dallas Stars, 2014 3rd round (75th overall)
Peters is a player deserving of the overused, and somewhat obtuse “raw” moniker. There are many aspects of his game he can work on, and he’s not an offensive threat, but he’s a monstrous defenseman with some smarts and a strong defensive sense. A knee injury set back his development, but he may be worth a stab in the dark for a team that is willing to be patient with him and see if they can develop the 6-foot-4, 220-pound 19-year-old.
Alexis Vanier, D
San Jose Sharks, 2014 4th round (102nd overall)
Vanier is in a similar position to Peters. He’s a huge defenseman who needs to work on his mobility, but is able to get up to speed a little better than Peters. He has a good shot that he was able to access a little more this season after being traded to the Charlottetown Islanders. He too would be a bit of a project, but his size, shot, and other assets give the drafting team a player who has a lot of the raw materials of a good defenseman.
— Charlottetown Islanders Stats 🏝🏒 (@IslesStats) April 6, 2016
Olivier LeBlanc, D
Columbus Blue Jackets, 2014 7th round (197th overall)
The 7th rounder performed above his draft rank this year. He’s a mobile defenseman who has speed and the ability to jump up into the play. He’s capable of pushing play and creating a little havoc. On the other side of the rink, he isn’t as physical as most scouts would like and he’s slight, at just 172 pounds.
He’s probably a ways from being NHL ready, but a system with room for another contract and the depth to be patient could do worse than giving LeBlanc another shot.
— Kris Abbott (@EastlinkKris) January 17, 2016
Others Who May Draw Interest: Ryan Mantha, Julian Pelletier, Alexis Pepin
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.