From now until the NHL Entry Draft, we will have a series of articles helping you get ready for both the draft and the combine. In this article, we outline four players who have been highly touted all season long but could see a draft-day slide.
If you were to ask ten NHL scouts for their rankings of the 2016 NHL Draft, it’s likely you would see ten differing opinions. Players inevitably fall down draft rankings with poor showings in late-season showcases such as the OHL playoffs, and there seems to be a handful of players every season who shoot up draft rankings as late-season draft sleepers.
The NHL Draft is widely considered to be a bit of a crapshoot, for lack of a better term. An inexact science, something that many in hockey circles consider to be less of a skill and more blind luck, rankings see many quality players slip down to late sleeper picks. For that reason, the prevalent strategy in many teams’ draft philosophies in recent seasons has shifted to quantity over quality (see: Toronto Maple Leafs).
For now, here’s a few players who may be listed highly on draft boards, but may slip in the rankings on draft day. In this article, you will find players listed inside Central Scouting’s rankings of the top 50 North American skaters and top 20 European skaters available for the draft. At their current listings, these players are projected to be selected inside the top two rounds of the draft.
Logan Stanley, D, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Logan Stanley, the behemoth 6’7″ defenseman for the Windsor Spitfires, has been in the conversation as a potential first round selection in the 2016 Draft all season. Weighing in at well over 200 pounds, the main attraction with Stanley is his overwhelming physicality, as he tallied over 100 penalty minutes for the the playoff-bound Spitfires this season. Despite his gargantuan size, Stanley remains fairly mobile and is a solid, albeit unspectacular, skater at his position.
However, Stanley’s production and overall skill set leaves much to be desired. Stanley’s run at the World Under-18 Championships for a Canadian team that failed to medal exposed some flaws, both offensive and defensive, that were easily exploited by smaller, quicker squads such as the bronze-winning American team.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) April 25, 2016
The NHL as a whole is moving in the direction of skill over size, and it seems that players of Stanley’s ilk have decreased in value in recent draft years. Bruins prospect Brandon Carlo, drafted 37th overall in 2015, was largely seen as a first-round prospect by many, finishing the season ranked 25th among North American skaters. However, his fall into the second round was aided by several smaller, skilled players leaping ahead of him in the draft order. Logan Stanley is currently ranked 19th among all North American skaters in the 2016 Draft, but is probably better suited to be a second rounder.
Timothy Gettinger, LW, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
I don’t understand the love for guys like Jordan Kyrou (34), Boris Katchouk (25), Jack Kopacka (33) or Tim Gettinger (37). Too high for me.
— Paul Berthelot (@PaulBerthelot) April 12, 2016
Tim Gettinger was a highly touted American recruit for the powerhouse Greyhounds last season, putting up 10 goals and 25 points in a secondary scoring role for the OHL’s regular season champs. With the departure of several veteran players this season, Gettinger was expected to step up and produce in a larger scoring role, especially after a strong showing with Team USA at the annual Ivan Hlinka Tournament last August.
However, Gettinger wasn’t able to find a stable scoring role all season, and ended up missing 18 games. He fell short of the 20 goal milestone, tallying only 17 goals and 39 points. Gettinger’s draft stock has fallen slightly since being ranked 28th among North American skaters in Central Scouting’s midterm rankings, but he is still ranked as a second rounder in the latest edition of the rankings (37th among North American skaters). Despite his inconsistent play with the Greyhounds and his end of season failure to crack the American World Under-18 Championship team, Gettinger is still in the conversation as a top 60 pick. While his ceiling remains relatively high, Gettinger simply hasn’t shown enough to be worthy of such a high selection. He’s better suited as a gamble in the third or fourth rounds.
Dennis Cholowski, D, Chilliwack Chiefs
Perhaps no prospect’s draft stock has risen quite as high as Dennis Cholowski’s this season, as the BCHL defender was originally projected to be a mid-round draft pick but is now looking like a near lock for the first round. A 10th round selection in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, Cholowski opted to stay and play Junior A hockey in his draft season, as he is committed to play for the St. Cloud State University Huskies to begin the 2017-2018 season.
A puck-moving defender on the smaller side at 6’1″ but only 165 pounds, Cholowski shot up the draft boards with a monumental improvement over his initial BCHL season. He tallied 40 points in 50 games from the blue line, which led all defensemen on his squad but lagged far behind fellow his draft-eligible prospect plying his trade in the BCHL in Dante Fabbro. Cholowski’s athleticism and strong skating abilities have helped propel him up draft boards, but his physical tools appear to far outweigh his production at this point. His failure to crack either Canada’s Ivan Hlinka roster or the World Under-18 Championship roster speaks to how much work he’ll have to put in to reach his ceiling.
Dennis Cholowski moves up from 48 to 23. He has been a riser for us as the season progressed but not quite that much. #NHLDraft
— Mark Edwards (@MarkEdwardsHP) April 12, 2016
With such a slight frame and a commitment to a strong NCAA program, Cholowski is the definition of a project and will be a risky selection for any team hoping to tag him with their first round selection. He looks like he could be pushing for a first-round draft slot in June, but would be much better value in the mid- to latter portion of the second round.
Jack Kopacka, LW, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Jack Kopacka was another highly touted American recruit by the Greyhounds, but unlike teammate Tim Gettinger, didn’t make his full-season OHL debut until this year. Playing in only 4 games last year and not participating in the Greyhounds’ postseason run, Kopacka was, along with Gettinger, expected to step straight into a scoring role and lead the relatively young Greyhounds to a playoff berth.
Only missing one game the whole season, Kopacka posted 20 goals and 43 points. Despite his strong rookie totals, Kopacka also flashed aspects of his game that held him back from capitalizing on his strong physical tools and impressive frame (6’2″, 190 pounds). While his physical tools, including his shot and skating ability, are worthy of a high pick in this summer’s draft, he simply hasn’t shown production worthy of his lofty draft ranking from Central Scouting.
— The Hockey Writers (@TheHockeyWriter) April 14, 2016
Ranked 33rd among North American skaters, Kopacka is considered to be one of only a handful of players expected to go early in the second round. But with the amount of development needed to round out his game and the long-term risk Kopacka presents, he would be a risky pick so high. He would be a much better value-pick in the third round and a great investment any later.
Joseph Aleong is an At-Large writer for THW from Toronto, Ontario. He is a graduate of Brock University in St. Catharines, ON. Follow him on Twitter @josephaleong11