Seeing as this is prospects week, I thought I'd do a spotlight on a few of our lesser known prospects - players usually from the later rounds, and all of them projects of sorts.
As we all know, drafting prospects can be a crap-shoot or a home run
In terms of percentages after the first two rounds, the chances a player will actually play in an NHL game is greatly reduced.
However, for every 20 John Doe's - scouts unearth a Patrick Sharp, Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Clowe, Tomas Kaberle, Pavol Demitra, Anson Carter, Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom etc...
In round 9 in 1994 any team could have taken Tim Thomas, Evgeni Nabokov or Tomas Vokoun!
I'm thinking Gunnarson (7th rd 2007) will be a great player. Do the Leafs have any gems in their system currently that the media hasn't spoken much about?
Here are 8 that caught my eye.
Eric Knodel - Defenseman
5th round 2009 - 20 years old
American player born in West Chesteer, PA. At six feet 6 inches, 216lbs, this kid is huge!
Like a lot of big prospects he needs to work on his skaking, but what impresses scouts most other than his size and aggressiveness, is his poise with the puck. He appears a play with a calmness, slowing the game down to play on his terms. He also appears to have decent on-ice vision.
He plays College hockey for the Des Moines Buccaneers. In the 2009/10 season he had 20 points in 50 games with 37 PIM. A glaring minus 26.
That said, it was a very bad Buccaneers team (20 wins 34 losses)
Definitely a long range prospect.
Jerome Flaake - Left wing/forward
5th round 2008 - 20 years old
From Guben, Germany.
His skating is elite and his stickhandling and shooting skills are very good. When the Leafs drafted him he was playing with Kölner Haie, and holding his own amongst men. He's 6-2, 187 & needs to pack on some more pounds to play in the NHL.
2007/8 in the DNL, Germany's top junior league he finished as the top scorer with 80 points in 36 games.
At the 2009 WJC he had 3 goals & 2 assists in 6 games for the Germans.
Last season in Kölner Haie - an elite men's league - he took a step back in production with 9 points in 42 games.
I think he needs to play with the Marlies to get a another year or two of seasoning before this prospect can be judged properly - but all the tools are there.
Jerry D'Amigo - Left wing
6th round 2009 - 19 years old
Another American from Binghamton, NY, USA, this is my personal darkhorse fan favorite!
The kid is all heart!
ECAC - All-Rookie Team & Rookie of the Year.
We all saw what his team did to the Canadians at the 2010 WJC and he played a significant role in that gold medal win.
The knock on him is that his game - although offensively gifted with speed and scoring abilities - isn't yet well rounded. He'll make a bad play one shift and an amazing play the next shift.
That said, his overall game though lacking in areas is definitely improving. Teams are already probably asking Burke for D'Amigo as a "thrown in" on possible trades.
Andrew MacWilliam - Defenseman
7th round 2008 - 20 years old
A Canadian from Calgary Alberta.
Has man's body at 6-2, 214lbs, and definitely plays with an edge getting 87 PIM in 43 games for the North Dakota Fighting Sioux last year.
Not much on his scouting report other than he skates and moves the puck well. He will not be scoring many points for what ever team he's playing for - getting a grand total of 3 points last year.
He could develop into an important steady-stay-at-home, clear-the-crease, protect-the-smaller-guys type player that every team needs.
Eric Knodel - Defenseman
7th round 2004 - 23 years old
Yet another American from Wadena, Montana - and nephew of former NHL enforcer Mike Peluso.
He plays for Bemidji State in the CHA.
Unlike his uncle, he's not a big guy listed at 5-11 180lbs.
Unlike his uncle, he's got elite level skating & puck moving skills with excellent on-ice vision. He was drafted by the Penguins and traded to the Leafs this past March for a 6th round pick. He needs to add some size to his game.
Who knows? Maybe he can turn into an Ian White type player for the Leafs somewhere down the line?
Juraj Mikus - Defenseman
5th round 2007 - 21 years old
From Trencin, Slovakia. Same town as Zdeno Chára, Marián Gáborík, Marián & Marcel Hossa, Andrej Meszároš & Róbert Švehla. I feel I need to mention Trencin only has a population of 57,000!
Oddly enough - another "Juraj Mikus" from Slovakia & born in the same year - was drafted a round earlier by the L.A. Kings.
Our "Juraj Mikus " has huge upside. At 6-4 185lbs he does need to fill his frame out a bit more, but he has a long wingspan and good lanky reach, has impressive skills and hockey sense, and may be a steal in the 5th round.
Plus he's from my wife's home country so I'm routing for him!
Greg McKegg - Left wing
3rd round 2010 - 18 years old
A Canadian kid from St.Thomas, in Southern Ontario.
Playing for the Erie Otters last year he got 85 points in 67 games.
Good size at 6-0 191lbs, with an all-around good skill set with an elite-level nose for scoring. An offensive spark plug with excellent hockey vision - this guy is a "hockey player" in the proverbial sense.
This kid will be a 3rd round steal. I project him as a top-six player, and calder Trophy candidate in 2 years time.
Billy Sweatt - Left wing
2nd round 2007 - 21 years old
I know - this is a second round pick, not really keeping in line with a so-called "darkhorse" type prospect. However I wanted to highlight this guy who was just a "throw-in" on the Versteeg deal.
Yet again another American from Elburn, IL.
Playing for Colorado College last year he had 33 points in 39 games.
This guy has speed to burn! Plus he can stickhandle the puck and make plays at these high speeds without missing a step. Scouts say that often its his teammates that can't keep up with him.
He's an offensive force. He backchecks effectively. He has elite on-ice vision. His coaches all speak very highly of him. His teammates speak highly of him.
He was drafted 38th overall in a deep draft year and his up-side is very encouraging. At 6-0,180 lbs he does need to add some size and strength.
He possesses all of the skills and intangibles needed to be a top-six forward in the NHL.
Stalberg who? In time maybe people will be saying Versteeg was the "throw-in" in this trade! I predict he'll make the team out of camp this year.