Off The Radar: Gavrikov among trio of defenseman vying for NHL attention, while two consistent forwards look ahead

By David Hahn

Danick Martel - Blainville-Boisbriand Armada

Photo: Blainville-Boisbriand Armada forward Danick Martel is currently ranked second in scoring in the QMJHL, behind the Moncton Wildcats’ Conor Garland (courtesy of Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)

 

The NHL Draft often signals the beginning of a future professional career for many young hopefuls. For those not drafted, it can become a motivator to improve and put in the work necessary in order to be noticed.

The “Off the Radar” article is a monthly feature that spotlights prospects that have been overlooked in previous drafts who could be worthy of another look from NHL clubs. This month’s article includes prospects from Russia, the three CHL leagues, and from NCAA hockey.

Vladislav Gavrikov – Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)
Defenseman, 6’2”, 205 lbs., Yaroslavl, Russia

When a player goes undrafted, questions are often raised about a player’s size, exposure, and certain elements of their game. For Vladislav Gavrikov, he has seemingly erased all doubts heading into his second opportunity to gain entrance to an elusive NHL club.

Gavrikov has played at home in Yaroslavl for their MHL (U22) team over the last four seasons. Known for his penchant to disrupt opponents defensively, Gavrikov has taken strides to improve his offensive game with each consecutive season. Outside of his domestic league, Gavrikov is a decorated international competitor. He was a part of Russia’s World U17 Hockey Challenge gold medal team before participating in the following season’s U18 World Championship in Sochi. Gavrikov was a bit of a surprise omission from Russia’s U20 squad in 2013-14, but was still recognized as the 17th-ranked European skater as ranked by NHL Central Scouting. The edgy defenseman was not selected and appeared ready to participate in the KHL.

Gavrikov returned to his MHL team and was named captain to begin the season. He logged only 16 games before being recalled to the KHL, where he played 13 games in his first taste of professional hockey. However, Gavrikov gained notoriety as captain of Russia’s U20 silver medal-winning WJC team. Gavrikov was named as the tournament’s best defenseman despite not registering a point, a testament to his gritty defensive acumen. After shining on the big stage, Gavrikov has answered his critics and taken a major step towards a potential move to North America.

Tyson Baillie – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Forward, 5’10”, 195 lbs., Fort Saskatchewan, AB

One undrafted player who was a fairly surprising omission from the NHL Draft last summer was Tyson Baillie of the Kelowna Rockets. After being passed over, numerous media outlets and well respected scouts were puzzled by the fact that Baillie wasn’t chosen. Having done nothing but improve in each of his four WHL seasons, Baillie should hear his name called this year.

Baillie’s debut WHL season was a solid one, as the then 16-year-old posted 10 goals and 18 assists in 68 games. He followed that up with an even better sophomore campaign, totaling 56 points in 67 games before leading the Rockets in playoff scoring. Baillie entered his draft-eligible season and took another step forward in his third year in the league. He finished second on the team in points per game, and after missing the last month of the season due to injury, he returned in the playoffs to post five goals and eight assists in 14 games. Following the season, he was ranked 90th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting but went unchosen. It was a surprising turn of events for a young man who improved offensively each season in the league, has never been a minus player, and has elevated his game in the playoffs.

Despite the snub, the San Jose Sharks wasted no time in inviting Baillie to their training camp this summer. Baillie was returned to top-ranked Kelowna, and has potted 34 goals this season, second on the team and fifth in the WHL. The Rockets should feel good about having a playoff tested performer on their side, and hopefully NHL teams match that enthusiasm by selecting him in his second time through the NHL Draft.

Marcus McIvor – North Bay Battalion (OHL)
Defenseman, 6’1”, 230 lbs., Whitby, ON

Often times, reliable defenseman who don’t put up big offensive numbers get overlooked. Marcus McIvor is an example of that, having been close to an NHL contract on two occasions. Improvements at both ends of the ice have McIvor positioned for one last opportunity after five seasons in the OHL.

The Battalion made McIvor their first round pick in 2010, and since then, he’s repaid that faith in full. In his first three seasons in the league, McIvor posted three consecutive 14-point seasons, only missing a small handful of games each season. McIvor developed a reputation as a defensive defenseman, a warrior that will block shots, clear pucks, and became a quick favorite of teammates. Following the 2012-13 season, McIvor went undrafted for the second time, but was invited to the Los Angeles Kings‘ development camp. He translated that valuable NHL experience into the 2013-14 season as McIvor took a step forward offensively, tallying two goals and 22 assists in a full 68-game season. McIvor was a major piece as the Battalion went deep into the playoffs, losing in the OHL Championship series to the Guelph Storm.

McIvor was invited by the Columbus Blue Jackets to participate in the Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament. Like the year before, he left without a contract and returned to North Bay as the captain. He recently surpassed his 300th OHL game, as well as his career highs in goals with four, and assists with 24. The Battalion are primed for another playoff run, and McIvor is hoping to again impress and gain another opportunity to earn a professional contract following the season.

Danick Martel – Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
Forward, 5’8”, 160 lbs., Drummondville, QC

For Blainville-Boisbriand forward Danick Martel, there has been one consistent deficiency that may be holding NHL teams back. The diminutive 5’8” forward has always been overlooked because of his size, but he doesn’t have to look any further than his linemate to prove that the NHL dream continues, even after being passed over three times.

While playing AAA hockey for the Magog Cantonniers in 2011-12, Martel posted 70 points over 82 games in his two seasons there. Heading into the 2013 season, Martel was invited to the Armada’s training camp as an undrafted free agent and was not guaranteed a spot. After impressing in camp, Martel finished his rookie season with 41 points in 68 games. He took a step forward in his sophomore season, posting 60 points in 63 games. Both years, he was passed over by NHL teams despite his offensive production.

This season, Martel has gone head-to-head against fellow undrafted forward Conor Garland at the top of the QMJHL scoring race. He started the season on an 18-game point streak, and even fought Garland in an increasingly more frequent display of his physical approach to the game. He was recently named the CHL Player of the Week shortly after his linemate, Nikita Jevpalovs, signed a contract with the San Jose Sharks. To date, Martel’s 45 goals and 45 assists have him second in QMJHL scoring. Despite his size, his offensive production should result in an opportunity at the next level.

Brien Diffley – Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
Defenseman, 6’2”, 181 lbs., Burlington, MA

Just three years ago, Brien Diffley’s claim to fame was guiding his hometown high school hockey team to a state championship. Now, Diffley is a regular on the blueline for Boston University. His ascent to relevance has resulted in him being ranked by NHL Central Scouting after being passed over last summer.

Diffley’s rise to prominence began at home, playing for Burlington High School in Massachusetts. He started to gain confidence after winning a Massachusetts state championship in 2012, scoring the game-winning goal in a shootout. He carried that momentum over playing for Buckingham Browne & Nichols, a private school in Cambridge. There, he posted five goals and 25 assists in 55 games and was regarded as one of the best prospects to play there since Vancouver Canucks prospect, Joe Cannata. Following a quick fall season with the Boston Junior Bruins, Diffley committed to Boston University in a famous recruiting class featuring Jack Eichel.

This season, Diffley has displayed his offensive acumen, rushing the puck with confidence. He enjoyed a memorable weekend in early November, registering his first career point in a 5-3 win over Boston College. He followed that up by scoring his first collegiate goal and multi-point game in a 4-4 tie against the University of Connecticut. To date, he has totaled one goal, five assists, and 10 penalty minutes in 27 games. Diffley’s remarkable ability to move the puck in his freshman season has garnered some NHL Draft attention. He was ranked as the 139th skater by NHL Central Scouting, one clear indicator that Diffley has a chance to be drafted in his second time through.

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey