|Forward Daultan Leveille ended his season with 43 goals and 86 points in 61 games, and is NHL Central Scouting's 47th-ranked North American skater.
Scouts will go wherever the prospects are in their hunt for new talent. While many are based in Toronto, it's rare they make the trip to see a game in the Golden Horseshoe League, a Junior B circuit based around the Toronto suburbs.
But this season, the Golden Horseshoe became a popular place to catch a game.
, a forward for the St. Catharines Falcons, played well enough to earn the No. 47 ranking among North American skaters in Central Scouting's final list.
"Daultan is easily one of the best skaters eligible for this year's draft," Chris Edwards, an Ontario-based scout for NHL Central Scouting, told NHL.com.
Leveille earned his ranking by a dominating performance in the GHL. He had 29 goals and 56 points in 45 regular-season games, but really elevated his play in the postseason, when he led the league with 14 goals and was second with 30 points in just 16 games.
To draw attention as a Junior B player, those are the kind of numbers Leveille needed to produce.
Once the scouts started coming, Leveille said, "I knew there was no such thing as having a bad game anymore. You've got to play like it's your last game every game."
"At that level you have to be dominant every night," said Edwards. "You have to be the best player every night if you're coming out of Junior B or Tier II. One night I saw him, it was Game 2 of the playoffs, he had two goals and two assists. And obviously he was the best player on the ice. He was on the power play and very productive."
He'll take that production next season to Michigan State University, choosing an education over the allure of playing major-junior hockey. Getting an education is a major reason he stayed home in St. Catharines rather than try his hand at major-junior, or even Junior A hockey -- where he could have played and kept his NCAA eligibility.
"I wanted to possibly go to (college) and I wanted to finish Grade 12 and graduate in St. Catharines," Leveille said. "That's when the schools came into play. I went to a few different schools, and I went with Michigan State. It seemed like the place for me. I didn't play Junior A because Junior A and Junior B are the same around where I play, pretty much, so there was no point moving away from home just to play somewhere else as good as where I did.
"I wanted to graduate where I started high school. I've been through school with the same people, all my friends. There was no point in leaving for one year and not getting to graduate with everyone I had been with."
Leveille said he never worried about scouts finding him.
"The beginning of the year all I was worried about was getting a scholarship," he said. "I wasn't really thinking about the NHL at all. This came as a shock."
It started when Central Scouting released its mid-term rankings in January, and Leveille was rated No. 89.
"After I got onto the draft list, I was still in shock," he said. "After the mid-term rankings, I thought OK, maybe I can take this to the next level, and I worked that much harder to pursue my dream in life."
Making that dream a reality starts with showing he can replicate his Junior B numbers at a higher level, which isn't always easy.
"Daultan is easily one of the best skaters eligible for this year's draft." -- Chris Edwards, NHL Central Scouting
Not many players have gone from the Golden Horseshoe to the NHL. Florida Panthers
forward Nathan Horton
spent one season in the league when he was 15 (2000-01) before moving on to the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League. Prior to that, former New Jersey Devils
enforcer Krzysztof Oliwa
spent his draft year, 1992-93, in the league.
Both put up outstanding numbers in their GHL careers; while Horton has had success in the NHL, Oliwa was a journeyman, playing 410 games over 10 NHL seasons with New Jersey, Columbus, Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers
, Boston and Calgary.
So how is a scout able to tell what players will excel against stiffer competition?
"You've got to be able to see through some of that stuff," said Edwards. "You go to the high school games and most of the guys we go to watch are dominant, but you have to decide how are they going to be -- can they do that at the college level or the major-junior level. It's a difficult thing to do."
For Leveille to continue to improve, there are facets of his game he'll certainly need to improve. Scouts rave about his skating ability and vision on the ice, but at 5-foot-11 and just 163 pounds, he needs to hit the gym.
"He's got to get bigger and stronger," Edwards said. "The GM down there tells me he's really making an effort in the gym. I met his brother down there, he's a pretty good-size kid, so if the family genes have anything to do with it, he should fill out and get bigger. When he goes to Michigan State they'll get him on a weight program. They don't have too many out-of-shape athletes at Michigan State."
For his part, Leveille isn't too concerned with how he'll handle the step up in competition.
"I don't worry about that too much at all," he said confidently. "If the scouts see that I can play at the next level and the school thinks I can play at the Division I level, then I think I'll be able to. When you go in, it's just a whole new chance to prove yourself."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.