Draft eligibles showcase plenty of sleeper potential

Aaron Vickers2018 Draft Center

Photo by Robert Murray | WHL

Teams will draft plenty of prospects that’ll hit in the first round.

There’ll be a few homeruns hit outside of the opening 31 picks, too.

The 2018 NHL Draft isn’t short on players who have the potential to outperform their draft position, and it’s the goal of those making the picks to leave Dallas with a haul that’ll eventually contribute in the National Hockey League.

Finding some late-round sleepers can help that.

And Luka Burzan, 70th in Future Considerations Final ranking for the 2018 draft, is a potential candidate.

Burzan, who joined the Brandon Wheat Kings from the Moose Jaw Warriors in a mid-season trade, exploded in the second-half of his draft year. The 6-foot, 185-pound center amassed nine goals and 12 assists in 30 games with Brandon to follow a six-goal, 19-point start in Brandon.

The change did him well, and has the Surrey, BC native high on third-round radars.

“He slowly lost steam after a slow start in Moose Jaw this year on a deep team,” Future Considerations head Western scout Justin Froese said. “He lacked offensive numbers and a more defensive role prior to his trade kind of took him off the map.”

Cue the move to the Wheat Kings.

“He saw more opportunity and, while it took him time to get going, he had ample opportunity to sort out his game and really started to shine once again down the stretch,” Froese added. “He has a strong two-way game, work ethic and a power type skill set below the goal line and around the net.

“Should really break out next season as he develops his individual skills as he has the mind and means to do it.”

Burzan could bloom.

So too could Alec Regula of the London Knights.

Regula, a 6-foot-2, 160-pound defenseman, had a solid rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League and showed increasingly improving promise as he better acquainted himself. He was second in team scoring amongst rearguards with seven goals and 25 points, trailing only fellow draft eligible Evan Bouchard, a projected top-10 pick.

Regula, ranked 67th, doesn’t quite have the pedigree of his teammate.

But he does have sleeper potential.

“Regula is a smooth-skating, very mobile defender who has an extremely proficient passing game,” Future Considerations’ head Ontario Scout Dylan Galloway said. “With Bouchard having such a dominant year for the Knights, Regula is a bit overshadowed and is flying under the radar.

“Though he struggles with consistency, the team that takes a swing on Regula could find themselves with one of the steals of the draft in a few years if he receives the development to reveal his true potential.”

The same can be said for Xavier Bernard of the Drummondville Voltigeurs.

Bernard, ranked 83rd, had 35 points (11 goals, 24 assists) in 66 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. It’s not just a productive season from the back end for the blueliner that has him as a player that holds plenty of intrigue, though.

He’s got size, at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. He can skate. He can move the puck.

And, according to Future Considerations scout Guillaume Gervais, Bernard still has plenty of room to grow.

“Bernard is not a the most flashy player, but he progressed a lot throughout the whole season,” Gervais said. “I think he could have more minutes next year which will help him understand more how to manage games and also to get more offensive opportunities to increase his production.

“He’s got the skillsets, he just needs to put it all together consistently and with the progress he’s made this season, the future seems bright for Bernard.”

Just a little south in terms of geography, and a little north in terms of ranking, Jack Drury of the Waterloo Black Hawks has a similar potential.

He had a solid season in the United States Hockey League, captaining Waterloo and leading the team in scoring with 65 points (24 goals, 41 assists). His potential outweighs his point production though, and Drury, 65th in Future Considerations’ final ranking, has plenty of tools that could make a team feel like they’ve got someone that’ll contribute down the road.

“He is a complete 200-foot player with great compete and passion for the game, and a sneaky ability to score, especially in front of the net,” said Jake VanBesien, Future Considerations’ lead United States scout. “He can play a bottom line role and valuable on special teams.”

Ivan Morozov of Mamonty Yugry brings a different potential as a sleeper.

Morozov, ranked 73rd, has untapped offensive potential that could place a premium on his draft stock. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound center had a modest 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in the MHL but showed a bit of his flair at the World Under-18 Championship with Russia.

“Morozov is an very skilled player with the puck, shows great vision and can set up plays with accurate passing,” said Future Considerations head European scout Dennis Schellenberg. “He’s a player that can deliver, offensively but lacks physicality.

Morozov is also a player a team will draft and park, being a handful of years away in his development from being ready, and overshadowed by some more exciting players coming out of Russia.

But should he hit, he’ll be looked upon as one of the bigger sleepers to emerge from the 2018 NHL Draft class.