When Zac Dalpe was rated No. 16 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting for the '08 entry Draft, most figured he would be a first-round pick. Instead, he lasted until the Carolina Hurricanes selected him at No. 45.
This wasn't the first time Dalpe had a draft-day disappointment. When he was 15, Dalpe knew he was small, but still figured he would be selected in the 2004 Ontario Hockey League draft.
"As I was going in to get weighed at camp I stuffed some rocks in my pants," Dalpe told the Columbus Dispatch. "I went up from 110 pounds to about 112 pounds, but I was still only 5-foot-5 with heels on."
It didn't work, as Dalpe went unselected.
"I was devastated," said Dalpe. "Even though I was small, I had heard there were teams interested. It was a good lesson about not getting your hopes up."
Dalpe went west to continue his hockey, playing with the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League. Despite missing 14 games last season, Dalpe grew into a star, scoring 27 goals and 63 points in just 46 games.
In the BCHL playoffs, he continued his torrid pace, totaling 8 goals and 17 points in 15 playoff games as Penticton completed a four-game sweep of the Nanaimo Clippers in the BCHL Final.
NHL Central Scouting's Blair MacDonald noted that Dalpe constantly thinks offense, but manages to remain defensively responsible.
"Zac had a very good year," MacDonald said. "He has a really quick release on his shot, he is a very busy player and he plays with a lot of energy out there. He is a player that is constantly in motion. He is offensive minded, but plays well defensively, too, and has made huge improvements from last year -- he developed out of nowhere and had a really good year in the BCHL."
Penticton coach Fred Harbinson recognized Dalpe's potential to play professionally and notes his speed and vision are his strong suits.
"He's got a high ceiling," Harbinson said. "I don't see much derailing him. I think he's going to put himself in a position to take a very good crack at being a professional hockey player ... he possesses very good speed. He sees the ice well and he's one of those kids who knows what he wants, and he wants to be a hockey player and he works at it every day."
"He has a really quick release on his shot, he is a very busy player and he plays with a lot of energy out there. He is a player that is constantly in motion. He is offensive minded, but plays well defensively, too, and has made huge improvements from last year -- he developed out of nowhere and had a really good year in the BCHL."
-- NHL Central Scouting's Blair MacDonald
He'll continue that work this season at Ohio State University.
Not only did Dalpe improve his game, but he also grew four inches and gained 50 pounds in one year, going from 5-foot-8 and 120 pounds in 2006-07 to 6-foot and 170 pounds last season. Dalpe appreciates his newly formed larger frame and thinks it is helping him with the physical aspect of the game.
"It was obviously frustrating as a little guy," Dalpe said. "But I patiently waited it out and now that I'm a bigger guy, I can start showing people what skills I have and start proving some people wrong who maybe in the past didn't believe in me."
Dalpe always took pride in his defensive play, but recognizes it is his offensive capabilities that have got him to where he is today.
"I like playing defense but I was always an offensive threat," Dalpe told the Brantford Expositor. "I had a lot of skill, just not a lot of size. I had a lot of heart."
While Dalpe has grown to be an average-sized NHL player, he still embodies the determination of the scrappy, small player that he was, which may be enough to earn him a job in the NHL.