Does playing for a championship-calibre team increase a player’s stock heading into the NHL draft? It may not be the only reason for a jump in rankings, but it would seem to be a contributing factor.
The deeper your team goes in the playoffs, the more exposure you get – more scouts, more TV coverage and more opportunities to make an impression.
Among teams that either won or reached the final of their respective leagues, there were a dozen players that were drafted at least one round sooner than projected.
Here’s a look at 6 of those players. They all enter the upcoming season hoping to prove that drafting them earlier than expected was a good decision.
(HP = HockeyProspect.com, NHLCS = NHL Central Scouting)
Chris Tierney – Centre, London Knights (OHL)
2011/12 – 65 GP, 11-23-34 Pts, 20 PIM, +25
HP Rank: 111th
NHLCS Rank: 118th
A projected mid-round pick, Tierney was chosen in the 2nd round by the San Jose Sharks. His skating improved noticeably from his rookie season to his sophomore year and he put up decent point totals despite playing a 4th-line role.
He scored 5 goals in the playoffs during London’s run to the OHL title, including 2 game-winners. He was also a regular on the PK during the post-season and the Memorial Cup.
2012/13 Outlook: Tierney is expected to get more ice time and there will be more pressure on him to deliver, both offensively & defensively.
Henrik Samuelsson – Right Wing, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
2011/12 – 28 GP, 7-16-23 Pts, 42 PIM, +18
HP Rank: 42nd
NHLCS Rank: 75th
After playing for Modo in the Swedish Elite League, Samuelsson joined the Oil Kings midway through the WHL season and immediately brought a big physical presence to their lineup.
He scored 4 goals & 10 assists in 17 playoff games during Edmonton’s run to the WHL title. Samuelsson was even more impressive at the Memorial Cup where he recorded 2 goals & 3 assists in 4 games and was named a tournament all-star.
His stock undoubtedly went up after the playoffs. A projected 2nd or 3rd round pick, Samuelsson was drafted in the 1st round by the Phoenix Coyotes.
2012/13 Outlook: Samuelsson plays on the edge and he was suspended four times last year. If he can remain disciplined in his play and improve his skating, he will be among the scoring leaders in the WHL.
Seth Griffith – Right Wing, London Knights (OHL)
2011/12 – 68 GP, 45-40-85 Pts, 49 PIM, +24
HP Rank: 91st
NHLCS Rank: NR (2012) / 158th (2011)
Griffith is another Knights player that benefitted from a long playoff run.
He led the Knights in goals and points during the regular season. Of his 45 goals, half of them were game-winners (8), short-handed markers (7) or first goals (8).
He followed that up with 10 goals (3 GWG) in the OHL playoffs and 3 points in four Memorial Cup games.
Although HockeyProspect.com ranked him 91st, Griffith was unranked by NHL Central Scouting in 2012. They ranked him 158th in 2011, but he went undrafted.
The Boston Bruins selected the forward in the 5th round, higher than most scouts expected.
2012/13 Outlook: Griffith will play on the #1 PP and expectations will be higher for the 4th year forward. If the Knights can find a suitable centre to replace Namestnikov, Griffith will once again flourish on the score sheet.
Mitch Moroz – Left Wing, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
2011/12 – 66 GP, 16-9-25 Pts, 131 PIM, +5
HP Rank: 67th
NHLCS Rank: 72nd
Moroz had 20 fighting majors last season and is known more for his physicality, but he developed his offensive game significantly over the past year. He goes to the net hard and has shown that he can finish in tight around the net.
After scoring 16 goals in the regular season, Moroz contributed to Edmonton’s playoff run with 4 goals & 4 assists in 20 games. He was also rotated into the top six to give the scoring lines a boost late in the season.
This could be a reason why the Edmonton Oilers selected him early in the 2nd round.
2012/13 Outlook: Moroz should get an opportunity for top-six minutes and more time on the PP, which will improve his point totals. Last season, 5 of his 16 goals were scored with the man advantage.
Brendan Leipsic – Centre, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
2011/12 – 65 GP, 28-30-58 Pts, 82 PIM, +16
HP Rank: 135th
NHLCS Rank: 114th
Leipsic finished 4th in goals on the Winterhawks last season while playing on the 2nd line & PP unit. A small, but gritty forward, he was tough to play against night-in and night-out. That was especially true in the playoffs.
He scored 7 goals & 8 assists in 20 playoff games, including two game-winning goals in the 2nd and 3rd games of the WHL Championship Series vs. Edmonton.
A projected mid-round pick, Leipsic was chosen in the 3rd round by the Nashville Predators.
2012/13 Outlook: Leipsic is expected to be the top line centre. Barring injury, he should have no trouble setting career highs in goals & points.
Taylor Leier – Left Wing, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
2011/12 – 72 GP, 13-24-37 Pts, 36 PIM, +11
HP Rank: 158th
NHLCS Rank: 131st
Despite playing on the 3rd line, Leier scored 13 goals & 37 points in his rookie season. He is a speedy forward that likes to play a physical game.
He scored 5 goals in 22 playoff games, including 2 game winners.
Expected to be a late-round pick, Leier was drafted in the 4th round by the Philadelphia Flyers.
2012/13 Outlook: Leier should move into a top-six role and will receive some time on one of the PP units.