It's time to move on to the next mega event on the NHL schedule.
The Los Angeles Kings clinched the 2014 Stanley Cup earlier in the month, but now it's time to move into the offseason with the 2014 NHL draft. With several quality prospects ready to make a name for themselves at the next level, it will be interesting to see where the top names are taken.
Sometimes lesser-known players wind up having better careers than the top prospects. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, the scouting departments in charge of selecting those players receive much deserved praise.
Getting good value out of sleeper prospects is one of the many things the draft is all about. Want to know where the sleepers are taken? Keep reading to find a TV schedule and breakdown of the top sleepers.
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When: June 27 and 28
Watch: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Live Extra
Sleepers to Watch
Oskar Lindblom, LW/RW
While speed isn't Oskar Lindblom's strength, the Swedish forward has a lot of skills to like. He is a big, strong player who loves to play near the net in a physical setting. Not afraid to make hits or get a little dirty, Lindblom is a future power forward.
His net presence is fantastic. He bangs bodies in front of the goaltender, both setting himself up for rebound chances and distracting the netminder in the process.
He's probably even better defensively. He defends very well in his own zone and works hard to get after the puck. What he doesn't have in speed, he makes up for in effort.
Sure, speed would help his overall effectiveness on both offense and defense, but as a bruiser, his talents are just fine. Lindblom will certainly find a home in the NHL, as head coaches would love to add his physicality to one of their lines.
Joni Tuulola, LD
After a very strong year in Finland, Joni Tuulola has set himself to be a steal on draft night.
Tuulola is just 18 years old, but he has shown great maturity on the ice. He's extraordinarily smart and always seems to be in the right place. Whether that's helping out on the offensive end as a trailer or playing strong defense in front of the net, Tuulola can do it all.
It will probably be his smarts alone that get him drafted. He's obviously a very talented defenseman, but the fact that he already makes very good decisions might lead teams to believe he can become a team leader in a few years time. As his game progresses, so will his ability to make plays.
Offensively, Tuulola needs a little work. Many of his issues on offense stem from a lack of skating ability, but he's also just not a fine-tuned threat with the puck. A few years to acclimate to North American hockey will help him to get an idea of what to do on offense.
Maxim Letunov, C
Maxim Letunov was a member of the Dallas Stars' U16 team before he headed to the United States Hockey League (USHL) to play for the Youngstown Phantoms. Matt Stathopoulos of the Phantoms' official site wrote about his previous season in Youngstown:
"Letunov finished the season with 43 points, which was good enough to place him right behind [J.J.] Piccinich at number three on the team. Fourteen of those points came in the final 18 games of his rookie season in the USHL."
Letunov is at fault for sometimes trying to be too fine on offense and turning the puck over as a result, but he is a supremely skilled young center who has a big future in the NHL. According to Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com, regarding Letunov, NHL central scouting's David Gregory said, "This kid is committed and wants to play in North America. He has so much upside; he just needs to get stronger."
Getting stronger certainly must be a priority for Letunov, as he only weighs about 155 pounds. When he fills out his frame in a few years, he'll be ready for the NHL.
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