It’s not always the early picks that shape out great careers. Every once in a while, a spec of brightness shines through into the NHL. Today we’ll take a look at some recent picks who have given signs of that precious “gem” status.
Evan Barratt --> Chicago Blackhawks
Barratt was drafted 90th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2017. They had gotten 2 strong skating defensemen in the first 2 rounds in Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell, so it was time to look forward. Barratt is a left-handed playmaking center who played for the US Development Program in the USHL. The forward committed to Penn State University and had a solid freshman year. In 32 games, Evan put up 18 points with 11 goals. Now a sophomore for the Nittany Lions, Barratt leads the entire NCAA in points and goals as well as tied for 4th in assists. He is an early favorite to win the Hobey Baker as college hockey’s best player, an award that fellow Hawk prospect Dylan Sikura was a finalist for last year. Barratt is projected to be an important piece for Team USA at the World Junior Championship in December and is looking like quite a steal for Chicago. His father, Jeffrey, is a scout for the Bruins, so he certainly knows how to help the 19-year-old.
K’Andre Miller --> New York Rangers
K’Andre Miller was picked with the 22nd overall pick by the New York Rangers. He rose the draft rankings late last year as a defenseman at the US Development Program. K’Andre grew up playing the forward position up until several years ago, but his skating and size made it a quick transition. This change was very similar to Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, who became a Norris Trophy winner. While he was a 1st round pick, he has been nothing short of incredible as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, flashing Top 10-like potential. In just 18 games as a Badger, Miller has 17 points. The Minnesota native has quickly garnered a lot of attention and will be another huge piece for Team USA at the World Juniors.
Sebastian Aho --> Carolina Hurricanes
Sebastian Aho was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes as the 35th overall pick in 2015 but has shown that he really should’ve been a bonified lottery pick, even with how strong the 2015 draft was. The following year, Aho returned to Finland and played for Liiga’s Karpat. He had 45 points in 45 regular season games, and 15 points in 14 playoff games, prior to heading over to North America. Aho played all 82 games as a rookie in 16-17, putting up 49 points. He improved to 65 in 78 games the next year and is having a fantastic 2018-19 season with 34 points in only 32 games to this point. He’s easily been one of the most underrated players in the league, and he’ll be vital to the Canes for a long time.
Sebastian Aho --> New York Islanders
Oddly enough, we have back to back players with the same name. This Sebastian Aho was the 139th pick by the Isles in 2017. Sebastian’s first eligible draft was 2014, but he was passed on in 2014, 2015, and 2016. It took 770 picks before Aho would finally hear his name called. Although he was passed on by the NHL, he was drafted 6th overall in the 2016 KHL Draft. The Swedish offensive defenseman came over to North America immediately following the draft, after posting 30 points in 50 SHL games. Luckily for the Isles, he already had plenty of pro experience. In 2017-18, the 22-year-old had 29 points in 40 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders AHL affiliate. His season was good enough to earn him a spot as an AHL Allstar and eventually a shot with the big club. He ended the season with 4 points in 22 NHL games, but unfortunately didn’t make the team to start the 2018-19 season. Back down with the Sound Tigers, Aho is having another great year with 20 points in 26 games. He has the potential to be a Top 4 offensive defenseman in the NHL, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets another shot.
Alex Debrincat --> Chicago Blackhawks
This pick is another one that has made some scouts look foolish. Alex Debrincat was selected by the Blackhawks at 39th overall in 2016. The American would end up becoming ½ of the return when Chicago traded RFA Andrew Shaw to Montreal for 2 second rounders. The 2016-17 OHL Most Outstanding Player had an incredible career in the OHL, with 332 points in 191 games. He was considered a possible 1st rounder but fell off due to his 5’7, 165-pound frame. One scout even saying, “he’ll be a 40-45 point scorer in the NHL”. That scout is probably punching himself because as a rookie, Alex put 28 goals and 52 points. This year, he developed great chemistry with Patrick Kane at the World Championships and was reunited with best friend/junior linemate Dylan Strome. While playing primarily with those two since the Strome trade, Dylan has improved to 14 goals and 26 points in 35 games this year. Not too shabby for a 40 to 45-point scorer.