Happening across the story of Mitchell Heard last year really caught my attention for some reason. The young a 6’1”, 190 pound center who played for the OHL Plymouth Whalers went undrafted in the first year of his eligibility but was invited to attend the 2011 Maple Leafs rookie camp that same year. What really made him stand out from the crowd during camp was not just his natural abilities (good hands, faceoffs etc.) but because he was in attendance without ever being drafted at any level of hockey since midget. Ok, I’ll admit it, I root for the underdogs, the long shot that just won’t give up no matter what the odds, perhaps because it easier to identify with someone who was never handed the opportunity to play at the next level and had to work impossibly hard to get there, proving many wrong in the process.
Heard was drafted at this year’s NHL draft in Pittsburg 41st overall by the Colorado Avalanche after a successful campaign with the Whalers potting 29 goals along with 28 assists, 111 pims and finishing with a +6. Not bad for a kid who had to try out for his OHL team as a walk-on. Here is more on his draft day: http://blogs.denverpost.com/avs/2012/06/25/mitchell-heard-talks-secondround-pick-avalanche/10885/
This particular story is played out countless times, at numerous NHL rookie camps across North America as young athletes that were not fortunate enough to be called down the stairs on draft day are granted another shot at making a good first impression. Most of the names that attended this year’s Maple Leafs rookie camp as invitee’s may not be so familiar to the average fan but there were definitely three that appeared to have made a lasting impression on those watching from above.
Charles Sarault – C
Sarault was mentioned a number of times as a stand-out not only by the local media but in various online social circles as well and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he receives an invite to the Leafs formal camp later on this year. A little on the smaller side at 5’11” and 187 pounds, the 20 year old left shooting center from Fournier, Ontario definitely made a strong impression. A possible late bloomer in the OHL saw him traded from the Kingston Frontenacs to the Sarnia Sting with Sarault making a significant statement that year finishing off the campaign with 20 goals, 67 assists, 32 pims and a +6. Even playing alongside the likes of Nail Yakupov whom some seem to think greatly assisted with his year, those are still impressive stats. Those 67 assists also landed him the ‘OHL Most Assists’ award this past year putting him in league with other award winners like Taylor Hall, Sergei Kostitsyn and Corey Perry.
Armchair and forum scouts alike agree Sarault has high end hockey skill with the only possible knock against him was abilty to score more goals.
“Sarnia’s Charles Sarault is an offensive sparkplug. Lots of energy and only really knows one speed. High high assist total was no fluke as he became one of the league’s premier set-up men this season. His size and two way game might scare NHL teams off though.” OHL Prospects
Adam Hughesman – LW
As a 20 year old over-ager playing for the Tri-City Americans in the WHL this past season, Hughesman and his line absolutely demolished any and all competition, walking away with 50 goals and 66 assists in 72 games. Those 116 points also went along with 42 pims and a +40 rating. The knock on Hughesman was actually the fact that he was an overager playing with overage linemates but the Winnipeg natives previous year points total of 81 (39g/42a) with a +20 still speaks volumes.
Although slight at 185 pounds on a 5’11” frame and considered from what we have heard to be an average skater you have to guess that he would be better prepared than most rookies to make a jump to the next level given his statistics. Hopefully those at camp were impressed enough with the left winger to offer him a main camp invite.
“Adam Hughesman (20, 406, 156-242-398) Unless something bad happens, in Game 4 he will play his 72nd career playoff game, a full season’s worth. Best Overage Player in Best of the West, which might say something more about Shinnimin than him, but never mind. 3rd in most accurate shot. He’s a great target for Shinnimin. The heart and soul of the team. “ Dylan Bumbarger, Community Blogger @ The Oregonian
” Kennewick Mayor Steve Young proclaimed May 1 as Adam Hughesman Day in honor of Hughesman’s community service contributions. Young also declared Hughesman to be an honorary resident of Kennewick and presented him with a key to the city.” Tri-City Herald
You get the feeling listening to the interviews with the Leafs head of scouting that although not drafted in Pittsburg, Palazzese was very much on their wish list and they were quite delighted to have him attend the camp on an invitee basis (almost like being handed a free pick). After Garrett Sparks the Maple Leafs have little in their goalie pipeline and this puts the Mississauga, Ontario native in a very favourable position. The 19 year old went 36 games while holding the fort with a 2.93 GAA with Sv % of 0.927 with 20 wins, 13 losses and 2 ties pushing his Aneheim Ducks draft pick counter-part John Gibson throughout the season. The reports out of Kitchener seem to have recognized Palazzese as a sure fire starting goaling in the OHL on a team that just happens to have two. Awarded with the OHL Goalie of the Month honors for November and being ranked one of the top goalies in the OHL, Palazzese also attended the NHL Draft Combine which in itself should be a vote of confidence in his abilities. He was ranked 9th by Central Scouting this year out of North American goalies.
Palazzese weights in at only 160 pounds but definitely has the desired height standing at a comfortable 6’1″. Here is a more in-depth scouting report on him: http://thehockeyhouse.net/2012-nhl-entry-draft/2012-nhl-draft-scouting-report-frank-palazzese/ Oh and he does things like this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8fq7WL-v7E
For more information on all 19 of the camp invitee’s please see the in-depth write up by Karl Faber over at Maple Leafs Central, it is definitely worth the read: http://thehockeywriters.com/mapleleafscentral/july-rookie-camp-the-unknowns/