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by Kris Baker / Buffalo Sabres

There’s no exact science to the NHL Draft; just ask Sabres GM Tim Murray and his 29 other counterparts. Scouting staffs put a lot of time and effort into finding the best players, but every so often, some of them can fall through the cracks for a variety of reasons.

Kris Baker of has his eye on six players that could be selected earlier than expected, later than they’d hoped, or maybe even not at all this weekend in Philadelphia.


D, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
6'5", 229 lbs.
Central Scouting final ranking: 191st North American skater

Wood overcame an early knee injury to put forth a strong second half and eventually shine in the OHL playoffs with 10 points (2+8) in the Troop's run to the league final.

He has the desirable size and intriguing offensive package that teams look for in a rearguard, but it was his all-around smarts and confidence that served as the greatest factors in his late-season surge. Wood’s playoff performance was a revelation to many scouts, and it may very well be enough to get him selected as early as the third round.

C, Skelleftea AIK (SHL)
6’0”, 194 lbs.
Central Scouting final ranking: 90th European skater

Holmstrom is a powerful, gritty forward that shined in his final audition at World U18s, where he paired with William Nylander to snag three goals 11 points in the tourney’s seven contests.

Injuries hampered his start of the year, but he eventually got it firing with 15 goals and 38 points in 33 junior contests to cement his status as a middle-round candidate. Holmstrom recently signed a three-year extension with Skelleftea, giving any interested suitor plenty of developmental flexibility while allowing the talented pivot time to improve his footwork.

RW, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
6’6”, 210 lbs.
Central Scouting final ranking: 39th North American skater

Possessing a September 11 birthday, Smith made it into the class of 2013 by just four days but went unclaimed. That won’t be the case in 2014, as the 6-foot-6 forward made waves this past season with his power style and willingness to defend his teammates while skating on the Generals’ top line.

Skating may be a concern moving forward, but hands down low are not. Smith collected 16 goals, 40 points and 100 penalty minutes (including seven fights) in regular season action to vault up draft lists. It all could add up to him sneaking into the tail end of round one.


LW, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
6’1”, 196 lbs.
Central Scouting final ranking: 134th North American skater

A barreling power forward with a wicked shot, Clarke burst on to the scene two years ago with 19 goals, 51 points, and the honor of a Second Team All-Rookie selection. The inaugural effort put him on the map as a potential top-10 pick, but then 2013-14 happened.

Clarke suffered a shoulder injury in September at the All-American Prospects Game in Pittsburgh, and it was downhill from there, with the Missouri product lighting the lamp just twice in 54 games split between North Bay and Saginaw. Clarke did score off a nice wrist shot at the CHL Top Prospects Game, and he later potted one goal in two playoff outings. You’ll have a hard time finding a greater stock plunge in the last 12 months.

D, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
6’5”, 214 lbs.
Central Scouting final ranking: 112th North American skater

A hulking defender, Vanier generated some first-round buzz early in the season with 13 goals and 29 points in his first 35 games. The story changed when the calendar flipped into January.

The all-situations big man producing just seven points (2+5) the rest of the way before getting shut down due to injury. The offensive skill and powerful shooting displayed early in the campaign could be enough for a team to invest early, but his choppy, slow skating could see teams back off until the later stages.


D, The Rivers School (US HS)
6’2”, 174 lbs.
Central Scouting final ranking: 74th North American skater

It’s no surprise when a player takes time to learn a new position, and such is the case with Gendron, a converted centerman who is still learning the finer points of playing on the blue line. While some shifts in his own end can be negatively classified as “adventurous,” the word takes on different meaning when he gets room to carry the puck up ice.

Gendron is an explosive skater who can wheel and deal, and for that reason alone, many New England-based scouts left rinks raving about his size and range. Committed to the up-and-coming University of Connecticut program, Gendron will play a developmental year with the highly regarded Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League before joining the Huskies in 2015-16.

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