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NHL Draft 2013: Carter Verhaeghe - 3rd Round, 82nd Overall

What drove the Leafs to select unheralded youngster Verhaeghe in the 3rd round?

Listed at 6'1" and 181 lbs, Verhaeghe is a bit of an off the radar selection at 82 by the Leafs. He ended the season ranked 102nd by NHL Central Scouting amongst North American skaters, jumping up from 122nd at mid-term. Another Centre, this seems to again be a slight shift in positional focus for a team that has drafted so many Defenders in recent years.

Verhaeghe is somewhat of a seemingly late (or early depending on how you look at it) bloomer, posting 18 goals and 44 points as an OHL sophomore after a relatively unimpressive 4 goal and 16 point rookie season. He added a further 2 goals and 4 points in 5 playoff games for Niagara, giving him a total of 20 goals and 48 pts in 72 games on the season. Part of this trend in his development would stem from his relatively late Aug 18th birthday, meaning he is still only 17 years of age. This compares to another recent Leaf prospect of note, Josh Leivo, whose birthday falls on May 26th. In fact, Leafs head scout Dave Morrison made direct reference to this point when discussing the selection of Verhaeghe at the draft.

Here's where things get interesting. Verhaeghe has already played 153 games in the OHL if you combine his regular season and playoff games. At the time of his last game he was 6437 days old (or 17.63 years). Very very few CHL players have played that many games before the age of 18. Even John Tavares - who entered the OHL a year early as an exceptional case - had only played 215 games by the time he reached Verhaeghe's age. Those extra games will go a long way to helping Carter's developmental progress.

Additionally it should be noted that Verhaeghe also attracted the notice of Hockey Canada, suiting up as the 3rd line C at the IIHF World U-18 tourney, posting 4 assists in 7 games on a team featuring fellow Leaf draft pick Gauthier as well as top prospects Connor McDavid and Sam Reinhart.

Next year should be a big one in Verhaeghe's development, and it will be interesting to see how an increased role and more playing time work out for the youngster. He's playing on a Niagara Ice Dogs side that likely loses top prospects Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Strome, Brett Ritchie, and Steven Shipley to the pro-ranks next year. That means it will be up to Verhaeghe and fellow youngster Anthony DiFruscia to lead the way next season. Seeing Verhaeghe in a leading role going forward means he should get ample ice time to develop further.

Verhaeghe has room to develop his upper body strength significantly. He skates reasonably well and has a quick shot with good hands in and around the crease. Expect him to step up his production next season significantly after a summer of off-season workouts under the guidance and tutelage of the Leafs training staff.

Here's a clip of him finishing off a nice give and go along the half boards for a goal against Mississauga earlier this past season: