Farine: Late rounders have big potential

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High-risk, high-reward picks certainly can attract a lot of attention and it’s easy to understand why.

I’ve always been a fan of the high-risk, high-reward pick later in the draft. I don’t think teams should always go for that type of pick, but I think a team should at least swing for the fences once per draft. In the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, there are a few picks that match that description. I think some of them had extremely good value where they were picked.

The first of these picks is a player that I am extremely familiar with.

Being based in Ottawa, second-year available Gatineau Olympiques forward Tomas Hyka is a player I’ve seen week in, week out over the course of this season. The first of two sixth round picks for the Los Angeles Kingss, Hyka has first-round hands and speed trapped in an underdeveloped body.

Despite missing nearly 20 games with various injuries, Hyka lead the Olympiques in scoring by nearly 20 points. The 171st overall pick accomplished this scoring record with consistently changing linemates because of the injury bug hitting Gatineau, none of which came close to matching his skill level after Jean-Gabriel Pageau was traded to Chicoutimi at the turn of the New Year.

Over the course of the season, Gatineau coach Benoit Groulx – limited in options because of the injuries – began using Hyka in every situation possible. By the end of the season, Hyka was running the power play and getting considerable time on the penalty kill. His play in his own zone improved greatly over the course of the season. Hyka sustained a few knocks over the course of the season, but his high-flying style of play never changed. If he can add a few pounds and keep developing at the same pace under Benoit Groulx this season,

Another high-risk high-reward pick that I’m particularly fond of is Danny O’Regan of St Sebastien High School, selected in the fifth round by the San Jose Sharks.

The small center selected 138th overall is a high value pick because of his performance in limited occasions against tougher competition.  Sure, a five-foot-nine skilled player will be able to put up big numbers against high schoolers, however, O’Regan kept up the pace in the USHL and then again for the United States Under-18 team. He was equally impressive in a grittier role at the U18 World Championshipsthis spring.

O’Regan is from a hockey family. Both his father and brother play. His father topped out at five-foot11 while his brother is playing for Harvard at six feet. If Danny can grow a few more inches, he’ll be able to play his game more effectively. His hockey sense is through the roof and his setup abilities are what shine through the most. His tenacity and determination on the ice make him an effective forechecker as well; he doesn’t shy away from the puck.

Finally, I like Montreal’s choice of Charles Hudon and the Rangers pick of Thomas Spelling in the fifth round. Hudon is a smaller skilled guy who has a lot of question marks attached to his name – most notably his skating. He’s had a bit of a rough season this year, but he still knows how to make things happen on the ice and could very well be a player that scouts bang their heads over not picking in a few years.

Spelling, like Hyka, was passed over last year. Again like Hyka, it was likely due to underexposure. This season, Spelling made scouts notice him at the World Juniors. Back home in Denmark, he produced over a point per game against men. It’s definitely worth the risk to see what Spelling can produce on this side of the ocean. Both these guys have value as swing-for-the-fences picks.

For me, however, the best value pick of the draft was Winnipeg’s selection of Scott Kosmachuk with the 70th overall pick. If all goes according to plan, Kosmachuk could become a smaller version of Jamie Benn. The drive and power with which he goes to the net and gets his shot off is unmatched in this draft and quite possibly in the entire OHL. When he’s on his game, he dares defenders to stop him, knowing full well that they won’t succeed. He has speed and strength, but it’s this determination and willpower that makes Kosmachuk special.

As for players not picked, I’m shocked by the lack of OHL defensemen.

Brampton’s Marcus McIvor, in my opinion, was one of the top-5 defensive defenseman in the league this past season. His sense of positioning was second to none. I have trouble thinking that not a single NHL team could use such a safe and smart prospect in their arsenal.

Kingston’s pairing of Alex Gudbranson and Warren Steele also surprises me. Gudbranson, who has since been traded to the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds, is a strong physical presence in front of the net who was easily Kingston’s most reliable defenseman. Steele’s mobility and rushing ability are a rarity at that age and can definitely be worked with. Kitchener’s Evan McEneny, although a bit of an unknown quantity, showed a lot of promise as a big two-way guy last season and in the preseason before missing most of the year.

The most surprising omission, however, was Max Iafrate. A player whose development has been trending upwards all year in Kitchener, Iafrate has all the tools necessary to be a solid top-4 two way NHLer someday. He’s physical and strong defensively while improving his offensive game. He’s learning how to run a power play from Ryan Murphy and will definitely see more power play time next season.

It baffles me that Iafrate went through the whole draft without being chosen.

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