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NHL draft wild card prospects

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NHL draft wild card prospects
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Taylor Cammarata was a force in the USHL, but how much will his short stature impact his draft stock? …

At this point, you’ve probably heard just about all you could hear about the top end of the 2013 draft: Jonathan Drouin had two points a game this year, Darnell Nurse’s uncle is Donovan McNabb, Seth Jones was raised in Colorado and so on.

But the draft can also be just as fruitful for franchises that maximize the latter half of the selection process. Just ask Detroit, which enjoyed its 22nd straight run in the post-season thanks to players such as Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Jonathan Ericsson and Gustav Nyquist – all of whom were taken after the 120nd pick in their respective classes, sometimes much later.

With the draft less than two weeks away, let’s take a look at some of the wild cards in this year’s crop. Will they all get drafted? Maybe not. And as an aside, it’s not the end of the world to not get picked – Andrew Shaw is proving right now that all 30 teams can watch a kid go past their eyes twice before one realizes the potential impact. But many of these players will hear their name called at some point on June 30 and it will be intriguing to see what the future holds for them.

Taylor Cammarata, C – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)

Cammarata won the United States League scoring title by a comfy margin, earning 38 goals and 93 points in 59 games. He’s committed to the University of Minnesota for next season (where more than a few prospects have been known to hang out) and took part in many prospect-related tourneys this season. On the other hand, he’s listed as 5-foot-7, 156 pounds and some scouts aren’t too hot on his skating stride. So where do you slot such a player? Johnny Gaudreau, a comparable in size but not playing style, had 36 goals and 72 points in 60 USHL games back in his 2011 draft year. He seems to be doing fine and Calgary fans are already chortling about getting the Boston College star 104th overall. But undersized players will always be put under a sharper microscope when it comes to the draft and Cammarata is no different.

Keegan Kanzig, D – Victoria Royals (WHL)

On the exact opposite end of the spectrum, we have the 6-foot-5, 238-pound behemoth Kanzig. For the big Royals rearguard, the issue is foot speed. Kanzig is a heavyweight fighter whose 159 PIM ranked fourth in the Western League, but he also has one goal in two full seasons, including playoffs. Some teams crave toughness and that would be Kanzig’s only ticket in New Jersey.

Pavel Koledov, D – Loko Yaroslavl (Rus.)

It’s probably not fair to say Koledov beat out top-10 prospect Nikita Zadorov for a spot on Russia’s world junior team this year, but he was the youngest blueliner and got the nod because the coaching staff was looking for a specific kind of player on the back end. Koledov is a steady, meat-and-potatoes defenseman who played most of his season in the KHL’s version of the American League, where the competition was not limited to fellow teens. Scouts at the world juniors told me he was definitely on their radar, though the “Russian Factor” would have to be weighed.

Henri Ikonen, C – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

The Finnish import is actually a 1994 birthday who enters the draft for the second time. Not that there’s any question about his work ethic now that he has played a year over here; scouts love his motor and the fact he plays all-out every shift. The only question is whether or not a team would rather have him or a younger North American player destined for the middle of the depth chart.

Willie Raskob, D – Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres (Minn. Prep)

The era of the undersized D-man is still upon us, with Ryan Ellis and Ryan Murphy still establishing their young reputations. In the meantime, each draft class brings in more puck-movers to ponder. Raskob comes in at 5-foot-10, 187 pounds, so he’s not slight, but not big either. He’s slated to play at the University of Minnesota-Duluth next season, which has become a premier destination in recent years and he thinks the game at a high level, but will he attract any suitors in New Jersey? With the draft taking place on one day instead of two this year, it will be a long haul for writers – and even longer for the kids themselves.

Ryan Kennedy, the co-author of Young Guns II, is THN's associate senior writer and a regular contributor to THN.com. His column appears Wednesdays and The Hot List appears Tuesdays. Follow him on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy.

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