The 2017 NHL Entry Draft is less than two months away. All 31 franchises are taking a hard look at which prospects have the best shot at helping them reach their ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup. While chances are they are spending most of their time deciding who to take in the first round, there is going to be a bunch of great players who will be taken in the second round and beyond.
History has shown us that NHL All-Stars and even Hall of Fame players have been drafted in the later rounds. The highest-scoring left winger in NHL history, Luc Robitaille, wasn't taken until all the way in the ninth round. The past five NHL drafts were no different when it comes to some of the gems that slipped late in the draft. Not only did some of these late round picks defy the odds by making to the NHL in the first place, but they have become significant parts of their respective team's.
Here are 15 of the biggest draft steals of the past five years.
15 15. Kevin Labanc (171st, 2014)
Kevin Labanc's rookie season in the OHL was nothing to write home about. The Brooklyn native recorded just 11 goals in 65 games. However, he still showed enough offensive flair for the San Jose Sharks to take a flyer on him in the sixth round. Labanc made the Sharks look like geniuses as he would go to post two consecutive 100-plus point seasons in the OHL.
Labanc turned pro ahead of the 2016-17 season and he proved that his offensive game could transfer over to the big leagues. He started out the season playing for the Shark's AHL affiliate. The fact that he was a point per game player in the AHL, earned him a call-up to the NHL. In 55 games with Sharks, Labanc would record a decent 20 points. The Sharks key players are not getting any younger, so if Labanc can somehow seize a top six role he has the potential to become a solid point producer in the NHL.
14 14. Sam Steel (30th, 2016)
Out of all the entries on this list, Sam Steel is the only player to come out of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. You are probably thinking to yourself, how can a guy who has never suited up for a single NHL game be considered a draft steal? Well, you are about to find out. By all accounts Sam Steel had an excellent draft year, putting up 7o points for the Regina Pats of the WHL. However, his production could have been even higher had he played with more offensive gifted players. While Steel would still end up going in the first round, it wouldn't be until the Anaheim Ducks took him with very last pick of the round, 30th overall.
Flash forward a year and the Anaheim Ducks couldn't be more happy about Steel's development. There was arguably no better player in all junior hockey in 2016-17 than Sam Steel. He led the entire WHL with 50 goals and an insane 131 points. While his offensive game is good enough to have the Ducks salivating at his potential, the fact that he plays a 200-foot game is a great bonus.
13 13. Connor Brown (156th, 2012)
Connor Brown slipped all the way to sixth round to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a few good reasons. Firstly, Brown had the misfortune of playing on absolutely terrible Erie Otters team in 2011-12. The team found themselves at the bottom of the standings having won only ten games all season long. Brown led the team with a decent 53 points, but he had a tremendously bad plus/minus rating of -72. You add the fact that Brown wasn't the most skilled player and you can see why he went so late in the draft.
As the Erie Otters became a better team the next couple of seasons, so did Connor Brown. In 2013-14, he led the team with 128 points, although it didn't hurt that he played on a line with the hockey prodigy Connor McDavid. Brown spent his first couple of professional seasons with the AHL's Toronto Marlies, proving that he was more than capable of playing at that level. Brown would spend the entire 2016-17 season with Leafs, recording a solid twenty goals. While Brown is probably never going to be more than a twenty goal player, that is more than the Leafs could ask for from a former sixth-round draft pick.
12 12. Christian Dvorak (58th, 2014)
To put it bluntly, Christian Dvorak had a pretty miserable draft year in 2013-14 while playing for the OHL's London Knight's. He suffered a knee injury that cost him half the season. When he was in the lineup, his numbers were not all that impressive either. In 33 games he recorded just 14 points. The Arizona Coyotes must saw something special and they took a gamble on him in the second round.
The gamble paid off pretty well for the Coyotes, to say the least. In his following two OHL seasons, Dvorak recorded a combined 230 points. The 2016-17 was his first professional season and was he able to make the Coyotes out of training camp. Dvorak would be a key player for Arizona, playing in all situations. He had a bit of slow start offensively, but as the season went he got more comfortable and points started to come for him.
11 11. Jake Guentzel (77th, 2013)
The fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins have already had so much luck when it comes drafting, it almost seems unfair when they find another late round gem. One of the Penguin's latest draft steals is Jake Guentzel. The third round pick spent three years at the University of Nebraska-Omaha before turning pro in 2016.
Guentzel started out the 2016-17 season with Pittsburgh's AHL affiliate recording an impressive 42 points in 33 games. Not only was that performance good enough for him to get a call-up to the NHL, but he was also given a chance to play on a line with Sidney Crosby. In 40 games with Pittsburgh, he proved his AHL numbers were no fluke as he put up a more than respectable 33 points. Guentzel took his goal scoring skills to another level in the 2017 NHL playoffs. If his rookie season is any indication, the Penguins might have another superstar player on their hands.
10 10. Anthony Duclair (80th, 2013)
While Anthony Duclair had a decent draft year playing for the Quebec Ramparts of the QMJHL, it was his season he had after that put everyone on notice. The New York Rangers third round draft pick led his team with an impressive 50 goals and 99 points. In 2014-15 Duclair would make the Rangers out of training camp. He would go on to record a decent 7 points in 18 games before he was sent back down to junior.
The speedy forward was traded to the Arizona Coyotes in 2015. Duclair's official rookie season took place with Coyotes in 2015-16. He immediately made the Rangers regret letting him go. He led all Coyote rookies with 20 goals. While Duclair suffered a bit of a sophomore slump in 2016-17, he's got too much talent not to bounce back.
9 9. Brayden Point (79th, 2014)
Brayden Point had a fantastic draft year in 2013-14 while playing for the WHL's Moose Jaw Warrior's. His team leading 91 points was 36 points higher than the team's second-leading scorer. Despite his excellent production Point slid all the way to the third round mostly due to the fact he was considered small for today's NHL.
After another couple of terrific WHL seasons, Point made his debut with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2016-17. It ended up being a solid rookie season for Point as he finished eighth among NHL rookies with 40 points. Prior to this season, the Tampa Bay Lightning were already blessed with young talented scorers, and now you can add Brayden Point to the list.
8 8. Sebastian Aho (35th, 2015)
During his draft year of 2014-15, Sebastian Aho got a chance to play against men twice his age in Finland's top league. Like most teenagers playing on European teams, his ice time was limited. However, when Aho was on the ice he certainly looked like he belonged there. His play was impressive enough for the Carolina Hurricanes to take him early in the second round.
After playing another year in the SM-liiga, where he led his team with an impressive 45 points, Aho was ready for the NHL. The fact there were so many great NHL rookies in 2016-17, kind of made Aho a forgotten man. While he may not be a household name just yet, Aho has all the offensive talent to one day be an elite scorer in the league.
7 7. Colton Parayko (2012, 86th)
Colton Parayko had to wait a long time to hear his name get called at the NHL draft. The hulking defenseman was eligible to selected in the 2011 draft, but all 30 NHL teams decided to take a pass on him. Heading into the 2012 draft, Parayko was not among the 210 North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings. Despite not being highly touted, the St.Louis Blues took the Fort McMurray Oil Baron late in the third round.
After spending three years at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Parayko made his debut with the Blues in 2015-16. He didn't all look out of place on the Blues backend, providing a both offensive and defensive skill set. Parayko proved that his rookie season wasn't a fluke as he was arguably St.Louis best all-around defenseman during the 2016-17 season.
6 6. David Pastrnak (25th, 2014)
You might think that a player who was drafted in the first round couldn't be considered a steal. While that may be true most of the time, David Pastrnak is an exception. He was originally drafted late in the first round by the Boston Bruins. After three seasons in the NHL, Pastrnak looks like a player who should have been a top-three selection in the 2014 draft.
While Pastrnak's first two season's in the league were decent as he averaged 0.55 points per game, his third season was truly a breakout year for him. Although Brad Marchand had a terrific year for the Bruins, Pastrnak didn't trail too far behind. He finished second on the team in goals (34) and points (70). The Bruins might just have a perennial thirty goal scorer on their hands.
5 5. Shayne Gostisbehere (78th, 2012)
Shayne Gostisbehere was a relatively unknown player heading into his freshman year at Union College in 2011-12. However, after he helped Union reach the Frozen Four for the first time in school history, NHL team's starting taking notice. After no team took him during his first draft eligible year in 2011, the offensive defenseman would be selected in the third round by the Philidelphia Flyers.
Gostisbehere would go on to play two more season's for Union College where his numbers improved, but nobody would have thought he was ready for the NHL. He actually had a miserable first professional season in 2014-15 as he missed the majority of the season due to injury. After starting out the 2015-16 in the AHL, Gostisbehere got a call up to the NHL and he set the league on fire. The rookie defender finished the season with an impressive 17 goals, and 46 points in just 67 games. Although his second year wasn't as impressive, Gostisbehere looks like he going to be a significant part of the Flyers blueline for years to come.
4 4. Frederik Andersen (87th, 2012)
Frederik Andersen is the only player on this list who was actually drafted twice in the NHL. The Danish goaltender was originally taken by the Carolina Hurricanes in the seventh round of the 2010 draft. Despite putting up some decent numbers in the Danish league, Andersen and Hurricanes were not able to come to terms on a contract, thus allowing him to re-enter the 2012 draft. Andersen was coming off a stellar season for Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League when he was taken in the fourth round by the Anaheim Ducks.
Andersen would make his NHL debut for the Ducks during the 2013-14 season and posted some spectacular numbers for a rookie. He would go on to play two more seasons with the Ducks. Even though he put up solid numbers, the Ducks decided to go with the younger and equally talented John Gibson to be their goaltender of the future. Andersen would eventually be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2016. In his first season as the Leafs starter, he was a solid veteran presence on a very young team.
3 3. Jaccob Slavin (120th, 2012)
After a more than solid first season with USHL's Chicago Steel, Jaccob Slavin still was not good enough to be included in the Central Scouting’s final rankings prior to the 2012 NHL Draft. Despite this, the Carolina Hurricanes decided to take a chance on the defenseman in the fourth round. The Hurricanes would have to wait four years before Slavin decided to turn pro in 2015.
Now two season's into his NHL career, Slavin choosing to go the college route seemed like the right decision. Ever since his rookie NHL season in 2015-16, Slavin has not looked out of place. Not only has been a solid shutdown defenseman for Carolina, he's also shown some offensive ability as well. In 2016-17, he was second highest scoring defenseman on the team with 34 points.
2 2. Viktor Arvidsson (112th, 2014)
The story of Viktor Arvidsson is proof of what hard work and dedication can do. Despite being a productive junior player in his native home of Sweden, Arvidsson was passed over in not one, not two, but three NHL Entry Drafts in which he was available. The reason why he was passed over so many times, is that at just 5'9", team's didn't think he had the build to survive the NHL game. The Nashville Predators thought he was worth the gamble, and Arvidsson was finally drafted in the fourth round in 2014.
Arvidsson had no trouble transitioning his game when he came to North America ahead of the 2014-15 season. The rookie would lead Nashville's AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals with a solid 55 points. Arvidsson would end up playing the majority of the 2015-16 with the Predators. He didn't put up a whole lot of points, but you could tell if he kept up his insane work ethic, the production would eventually come. The 2016-17 season was a breakout year for Arvidsson as he was tied for the team lead with a surprising 31 goals, and was tied for the lead in points with 61.
1 1. Matt Murray (83rd, 2012)
Heading into his draft year, Matt Murray was considered one of the top goaltenders available in the 2012 draft. However, his 4.08 GAA and his .876 save percentage would scare off a few NHL teams from taking the lanky netminder. Murray would eventually slip down to the third round where he was taken by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After his mediocre at best draft year, Murray has been one of the top goalies in every league he's played in. He was one the best goaltenders in the OHL during his final couple of seasons in junior. When turned pro and headed to the AHL, his numbers were out of this world. During the 2014-15 season, Murray posted an incredible 1.58 GAA to go along with a sparkling .941 save percentage.
During the 2015-16 NHL season, the Penguins starter Marc-Andre Fleury went down with an injury which opened up a huge opportunity for Murray. He went on to lead the Penguins to the Stanley Cup. Although Murray has battled through some injuries early on in his career, he looks like he is set to become one of the NHL's elite goalies for years to come.
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