Each year, there’s one player that goes under the radar and surprises people. Sebastian Aho did it, as did Jesper Bratt. Who has flown under the radar so far in this draft class? Who are some of my favorites, and why do I think that they are underrated? Let’s talk about it.
He’s your typical Finnish center. Quick, good in all three zones, and a good stickhandler. Like most Finnish players, Ylonen needs to add some weight. Ylonen was almost eligible for the draft last season, but missed the cutoff by a few weeks. Still, his performance in Mestis this season should vault him into the third round. NHL Central Scouting ranked him as the 28th best European skater, which is a little low for him. A lot of scouts projected him in the second round, but NHL Central Scouting didn’t like what they saw in him. It could be that Ylonen had a great season in 2016-2017 with Blues U20, but was less productive for Espoo United in Mestis this season. Espoo was an underwhelming team in Mestis this season, which would explain the drop in production. Ylonen still has the ability to drive play and score goals. During the U20 playoffs this season, Ylonen scored three goals in four games. He is ready to play in Liiga next season for the Pelicans. Ylonen is strong on the puck, and has a quick release that can surprise goalies. His strength on the puck is a little surprising since he’s only 170 pounds. During the 2017 U18 tournamant, the Russian team had issues knocking Ylonen off of the puck, and he was able to get a tough shot off. The puck didn’t go in, but it was an impressive feat. Ylonen’s shot accuracy needs a little bit of work, however. He has the release and velocity, but his shot can be a little inaccurate at times. His passing is good, and I’d like to see him seek the pass option more.Once he learns how to distribute the puck effectively, he could be a dangerous player. Ylonen has great vision on the ice, and when he passes the puck, it’s almost always on the tape. He finds the open man really well, and his passes lead to good scoring chances. He’s got quick hands and can move around defenders with quick, simple dekes. Something else I’ve noticed from him is his netfront presence. He’s always hovering around the crease, allowing for him to score a greasy goal every now and then. The last thing I’ll say about him is that he excels in open ice, but struggles to separate himself from defenders. Often he’ll panic and hold onto the puck too long or take a weak shot that gets blocked or stopped. Still, Ylonen has NHL potential. He could be an effective NHL player someday. but it might take a little longer. He’ll need to spend at least two seasons in Liiga before turning pro.
Height shouldn’t be an indicator of a player’s skill, especially when you look at Dudas. He’s only 5’8, but is one of the quickest and craftiest players in this draft. He’ll fall down in the draft due to his size, and could come back to haunt scouts. Dudas had 31 goals for Owen Sound this season, and had a 65 point campaign. Dudas can dart through defenders, stickhandle in a phone booth, and has incredible hockey sense. He can find teammates for a quick goal, but his shot and stickhandling make him a threat for opposing goalies. Dudas’ biggest concern is his strength, however. He gets pushed around in board battles, and can get knocked off the puck a little easier than you’d like. Still, Dudas has a ton of talent offensively. He’s starting to get a little stronger on the puck, which makes him more of a pain to play against. He can crash the net and score a goal before defenders can react to him. Speed is his biggest asset, and he uses that effectively. Whether it’s darting through the zone or sneaking up on a play, Dudas can terrorize opposing defenses using his speed. His ability to create turnovers using his speed is fantastic, and he can turn a turnover into a scoring chance in a flash. NHL Central Scouting ranks him a little higher than other sites do, but he’s still a little underrated. Dudas could be picked in the later half of the second round due to his offensive capabilities and elite speed. His coach uses him on the power play and the penalty kill, showing a tremendous amount of trust in the smaller forward. Dudas could be another DeBrincat, but it may take a bit of time before he’s ready.
He’s a really tiny forward at 5’6, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in skill. Tanus has had a phenomenal U-18 tournament so far, scoring once and adding five assists in four games. He’s an extremely quick skater that’s made a name for himself as an effective playmaker. Tanus plays a fast-paced game that any NHL team would love. He excels as a quick playmaker, and the puck is never on his stick too long. His head is always up, and he always seeks the pass. His stats for Tappara U20 this season are solid for a seventeen year old, especially one of his stature. Tanus had 8 goals and 28 assists for 36 points in 48 games this season. The U18 tournament has shown me that Tanus has a lot of skill offensively, particularly with the puck. His hockey sense is good, but he needs to work on finding ways to get open for shots more often. It seems like Tanus’ game is fairly one dimensional right now, and that dimension is playmaking. He’ll have to work hard to improve his defensive play before making it to the pros, but that’ll come with age. Tanus is worth taking a flyer on because of his offensive skill. You can teach him how to play defense and how to score in a few years, and he’ll be dangerous. Right now, Tanus is ranked the 35th best European skater by NHL Central Scouting. He’s projected to go anywhere between the fourth and seventh rounds, but his U18 tournament might help his draft stock a good bit. NHL general managers and their scouts will probably pass on Tanus for a while due to his size, which is why I consider him underrated. Tanus has the skill, but the NHL is so focused on height that they sometimes forget about skill.
He’s becoming more of a riser in a lot of draft rankings, especially after he was traded to the Brandon Wheat Kings. Since that trade, Burzan has been getting top line minutes with Stelio Mattheos. He did well in that role, but it’s clear that he’s got a long way to go. Burzan is a reliable two-way forward that can play either left wing or center. He’s the kind of player that can create chances, but hasn’t quite learned how to capitalize on all of them just yet. He’s got decent hands, and can deke in close quarters. One of the things I like about Burzan is his speed. He’s quick, and it doesn’t take him too long to get to top speed. He’s fairly strong, and tends to hang around the net. Burzan is already pretty heavy for an 18 year old at 185 pounds, and will be even stronger once he adds a few more pounds. I like the potential in his game. He’s grown a lot this season due to the increase in ice time, and his stats have shown just that. His shot is quick, and the release time is right where you’d want it to be for a young forward. It’s fairly accurate, but could definitely use some work in close. He’s strong on the puck, and tough to knock off of the puck when he gets going. I’m not sold on his defensive play, however. He sometimes gets flat-footed, and it ends up hurting his team. His gaps could be a little better, and NHL training will help him out with that. Burzan definitely has potential to be a reliable bottom six forward, it’s just a matter of how he develops. If he works on his defensive zone play, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with on the Wheat Kings.
Next time there’s a 2018 draft article, it will be the first player profile of the year! The first one that I’ll be doing is one on Liam Kirk, a player currently playing in the EIHL. If you want a specific player that you’d like a draft profile for, please let me know! I’ll do player profiles up until May 30!