Approximately twenty percent of players chosen at the NHL Draft over the course of the last few years were selected in their second or third time through the process. It’s a growing trend every season, and one that offers hope for players who did not hear their name called the year before.
There are a number of quality forwards available for the 2015 NHL Draft who surpassed their totals from the year prior, with the list below providing a look at some of the top re-entry candidates in the forward ranks.
Tyson Baillie, Center/Right Wing, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
5’10”, 194 pounds, Fort Saskatchewan, AB
Underrated in many facets of the game, Tyson Baillie turned heads this season by continuing his scoring prowess, and doing so in clutch situations. He finished with career highs in goals with 37, assists with 39, and concluded his fourth season in the WHL as a plus player.
He elevated his game in the playoffs, finishing sixth in WHL playoff scoring with 24 points in 19 games, helping the Rockets to a WHL Championship and Memorial Cup berth. In particular, his hands and ability to finish in close improved, as did his skating stride, showing that he is more than just a complimentary player.
Bob Carpenter, Left Wing, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
5’11”, 174 pounds, Cambridge, MA
Bob Carpenter, the son of the former NHL forward and U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductee of the same name, recently finished his first full season in the USHL. His 35 goals were tied for first in USHL goal-scoring, and he finished seventh overall in league scoring.
Carpenter’s ability to score in traffic was noteworthy, so too is his feel for the game which helped guide him to 13 goals with the man advantage and another three shorthanded. Carpenter is a long term project who will head to Boston University in the Fall.
Reid Gardiner, Center, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
5’11”, 185 pounds, Humboldt, SK
If ever there was a player who put everything on the line consistently, it’s Reid Gardiner. The determined and often stubborn Gardiner went into the season known as a bottom-six support player, but came out of it with a changed reality, thanks in part to his ability to create off the rush.
Gardiner amassed 34 goals and 30 assists this season, leading the Raiders in scoring despite not having a tremendous amount of talent around him.
Conor Garland, Right Wing, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
5’8″, 165 pounds, Scituate, MA
It may be debatable that the NHL is changing their perception of small players, and we’re about to find out for sure with regards to where Conor Garland is selected. After a pedestrian sophomore campaign, Garland burst onto the scene and led the QMJHL in scoring with 35 goals and an astonishing 94 assists.
Only the second American-born player to lead the QMJHL in scoring after Pat LaFontaine, Garland’s wizardry with the puck and unpredictability often brought fans out of their seats. With the recent success of Johnny Gaudreau and Tyler Johnson, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a team nab Garland in the first half of the draft.
Andrew Mangiapane, Left Wing, Barrie Colts (OHL)
5’10”, 161 pounds, Bolton, ON
Other OHL teams might be remiss to find out that 100-point club forward Andrew Mangiapane was available as a free-agent invite, but NHL squads won’t leave him as a free-agent for long. Mangiapane was an unknown commodity heading into the 2014-15 season, but a season that included 43 goals and 61 assists – good for a share of seventh in OHL scoring – put him on the map.
Mangiapane often plays a lot bigger than he is, and is willing to drive the net or work down low to set up a teammate. He evolved this season into a patient, dangerous special teams contributor, and shouldn’t have to wait long to hear his name called.
Luke Philp, Center, Kootenay Ice (WHL)
5’10”, 181 pounds, Canmore, AB
Few WHL teams boasted as significant a 1-2 punch as did the Kootenay Ice, who employed Buffalo Sabres prospect Sam Reinhart and re-entry candidate Luke Philp at center. Philp, a consistent and battle-tested athlete, finished with 82 points, including a career-high 52 assists.
Philp was dangerous in the playoffs as the Ice took the Calgary Hitmen to seven games. He was named as Kootenay’s top playoff performer following a 12-point run in their only playoff series, which included a five point performance in Game Six to stave off elimination.
Matt Schmalz, Center/Right Wing, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
6’6″, 209 pounds, Dunnville, ON
With the recent success of OHL giants Mike McCarron (MTL) and Hunter Smith (CGY), it wouldn’t be surprising to see Schmalz as the next big man in line to avoid NHL free agency. One of the OHL’s most improved players, Schmalz stood out on an abysmal Sudbury squad that managed just 12 wins.
More than just an intimidating physical threat, Schmalz’ confidence with the puck and improved vision elevated his linemates this year. Clearly a work in progress, Schmalz is certainly worth a gamble for any team looking for a future bottom-six forward with a glint of offensive prowess.
Vladimir Tkachev, Left Wing, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
5’10”, 154 pounds, Omsk, RUS
One of the most polarizing players available in the draft is the crafty and energetic Vladimir Tkachev. After the Edmonton Oilers‘ misguided attempt to sign him in the offseason, Tkachev will re-enter the draft following an inconsistent 2014-15 campaign.
Few players have more talent with the puck than Tkachev, who makes navigating the neutral zone and maintaining possession appear easy. Tkachev hasn’t been brilliant defensively, and will surely need time to develop, but his tremendous individual ability can’t be ignored.
The next NHL Draft Primer will focus on highly regarded International skaters ranked 11 to 24 by NHL Central Scouting.
Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @