The mid-to-late rounds of the NHL Entry Draft are always a bit of a guessing game for general managers. By this time, most of the high-end talent is off the board, forcing teams to settle for “sleeper” prospects with “high upside” and “intangibles.” Of course, these stereotypes don’t always come without merit. Every season, a player selected late in the draft (or not selected at all) bursts onto the scene and takes the NHL by storm. The likelihood is slim, but it does happen from time to time.
In 2011, the Calgary Flames selected 5-foot-8 forward Johnny Gaudreau 104th overall. Due to his stature (or lack thereof), the New Jersey native waited longer than expected to hear his name called, despite having exceptional talent. After three years of dominating the college ranks at Boston College, the shifty winger finally cracked the Flames’ roster and quickly cemented himself as one of the NHL’s top young goal scorers. Gaudreau is already a three-time All-Star at just 23 years old.
A more recent example of such a find unfolded in 2014 when the Nashville Predators selected a 5-foot-9 Swedish forward by the name of Viktor Arvidsson with the 112th overall selection. Like Gaudreau, Arvidsson’s size was a concern for many NHL clubs, but he, too, ended up making a splash when finally given an opportunity. Arvidsson exploded for 31 goals and 61 points and played a huge role for the Preds during their run to the Stanley Cup Final last year.
Moral of the story? Don’t discount a draft pick based on the round they were selected. This holds true for 19-year-old winger Jack Dugan, whom the Vegas Golden Knights selected in the fifth round of this year’s draft.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound winger picked up a head of steam as a high schooler this past season, scoring an insane 32 goals and 93 points in just 47 (forty-seven!) games. Dugan was dominant. So dominant, in fact, that Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News believes he could turn out to be a diamond in the rough for the Golden Knights.
Every draft has sleepers, dark horses and late bloomers and Dugan may be a hidden gem that encompasses all three. A big, aggressive and raw talent who was passed over last year, he has been building up his game at the Northwood prep school in Lake Placid under the tutelage of former AHL coach Chadd Cassidy.
Dugan committed to Providence College and has high hopes of winning an NCAA championship. But before he begins his journey to winning a national championship, he will spend a year playing for the Chicago Steel of the USHL, where he will continue to round out his game and perfect his craft.
It will be a while before Dugan earns a spot on the Golden Knights, if at all. But based on his track record and rising stock, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if we’re talking a lot more about him down the road.