Once you get down to the fifth round, all bets are off. Rankings really don't matter as much, and you're just getting to the players that some teams for whatever reason still really like more than other teams. And the differences of opinion for that between teams is even greater than it is between different public outlets.

At that point in the draft, you're not talking about players with very obvious paths to the NHL with high floors and elite abilities. You're talking about guys playing in lesser leagues, and/or in lesser roles, with good but not outstanding production, with maybe one or two standout skills or just being an okay all-around player. They have more obvious flaws, and the amount of improvement required to become viable NHL prospects is much greater. Noah Chadwick is a good example of this. He had size and skill, but big problems with his skating and his production was just meh in his draft year.

So really, you're hoping to find some kind of hidden gem that for whatever reason didn't catch notice from other teams, or guys that turn into those big development hits and wins – guys like Andreas Johnsson, Pierre Engvall, Nikita Grebyonkin, and so on.

I'm looking at guys who have some combination of tools and skills that I can see potentially developing into something, even if that's more likely to be bottom six NHL depth at best – and not even an NHLer at all as the most likely outcome.

So, let's start with some forwards who seem more likely to wind up as 5th round or later prospects that I think could be good swings by Toronto.

Fyodor Avramov

  • Position: Right-shot winger
  • League(s): MHL
  • Height: 6'3"
  • Weight: 190 lbs
  • Birthdate: Nov 19, 2005

Avramov is a big and toolsy forward in Russia. He plays a fast and heavy game as a 6'3" wrecking ball, with a good and hard shot and potential for a good power game. He uses his size and physical ability to his advantage, and I've seen some scouting reports refer to him as a dual-threat offensively – shooting and passing. He's a versatile goal scorer, with a good shot but also the willingness and ability to get dirty goals around the net and just cause chaos. He killed penalties, played on their top powerplay, and played a lot (19:24 TOI).

He had 23 goals and 44 points in 49 games, and from what I had seen the majority of his assists were primary, on one of the worst teams in the league. They were so bad, he led his team in points by a 15, in goals by 8, and in shots on goal by 34. He was tied for 15th in the MHL for his age group in points, and was tied for 5th in goals. He is a lot of fun and I think has a lot more promise in his game than he's gotten credit for, even if he's still a bit of a project.

Honestly, I didn't originally have Avramov included in my full profiles but he came damn close. After looking into him more again for this I'm wishing I did. I really like him, and I'd take him with a fourth round pick if he's available – given almost no one ranks him at all as of now I think he very well could be. Here are some highlights of his, he's #56 in each one:


AJ Spellacy

  • Position: Right-shot center
  • League(s): OHL
  • Height: 6'3"
  • Weight: 200 lbs
  • Birthdate: Feb 24, 2006

Spellacy is an interesting one. He is from Ohio and made a choice between going the Division I football route in the NCAA, or hockey – and he chose hockey. He only started focusing on hockey seriously at that point, and has no Elite Prospects information before 2020/21. He was drafted by the Windsor Spitfires in the third round of the OHL draft. If you read my profile on Liam Greentree then you will recall they were the worst team in the OHL this year. By a healthy margin, too.

Spellacy finished fifth on the team in points (38) and goals (21). So pretty good production, but that's hardly top prospect production. However, only seven of his points came on the powerplay, and he actually finished with more short handed goals (5) than powerplay goals (3) – that was good for a tie for 3rd in the league for short handed goals, behind only Easton Cowan and Denver Barkey. He also had a much stronger second half – he had 13 points in his first 24 games, and then had 14 goals and 25 points in his final 33 games while getting more time at center. He started as a bottom six winger, and finished as the second sometimes first line center. He was reportedly playing through a knee injury recovery that lingered through the start of the season, which also likely helped.

The reason why his injury is crucial is because the central skill that Spellacy has is speed. He's not just fast for a 6'3" guy, he's one of the fastest skaters in this draft period. He has raw natural athleticism, one of the best in this draft – at the combine, he was among the best in horizonal and vertical jumps, shuttle run/agility test, pull ups, and wingate anaerobic test. That athleticism comes through in his skating, where he is arguably one of the very fastest skaters in this draft. Combine that with a 6'3" frame, and football background, a very high effort game off the puck, and you have a guy who is big, rangy, fast as hell, very hard working, and physically defensive minded.

Many of his goals came from him or his teammates just flipping or chipping the puck past the defensemen, and Spellacy blitzing by everyone to get a breakaway. Now, that isn't a super projectable skill on its own – even if it has worked at times for the likes of Grabner or Mikheyev. But he has shown flashes of having some good hands and a decent shot. His inclusion in the combine and his impressive results, combined with his physical tools make him less likely to fall to the later rounds. But being big, fast, physical and a potential center means he has a very clear path to being a depth player, potentially a higher end depth guy, who can play good defense and be disruptive with raw speed.

Spellacy's floor is pretty high just with his current profile, but he has that "late development" path that Toronto likes with a solid set of tools. I'm for the idea of taking him and seeing if you can develop his other skills with the puck (stick handling, passing, shooting, etc) and refine his skating to become more deceptive than full throttle every time. If he develops in any of those areas, it would make him a pretty interesting 'steal' candidate in the future.

From Mitch Brown's CHL tracking project: https://www.patreon.com/user/posts?u=13951676

Heikki Ruohonen

  • Position: Center
  • League(s): Finland U20
  • Height: 6'1"
  • Weight: 196 lbs
  • Birthdate: Jun 19, 2006

Ruohonen is a guy I've followed for a good chunk of the season. He has very strong tracking data, and had the highest point per game pace for his age group in Finland's U20 junior league with 47 points in 37 games. He did miss a chunk of the end of the regular season and the playoffs, but still finished with the team lead in points despite being one of their youngest players. He was the assistant captain and their clear best player, being used in all situations as their 1C.

Ruohonen did also play for Finland in 19 international games, though he also missed some of those while he was hurt. In the earlier tournaments, he was used mostly in a bottom six depth role and didn't get a lot of opportunity for offense – he had 1 point in 5 games at the Hlinka, and 3 points in 8 games in various mid-season games. But at the World U18s, he started in the same role but worked his way up to being their 2C. He had a point in every single game, despite playing fewer than 5 minutes in two of the games, finishing with 3 goals and 5 points in 5 games.

The thing is, most top prospects in Finland are not spending the whole season at the junior level. They're getting a bunch of time in their pro leagues – see Topias Hynninen above, and he's not that highly regarded a prospect either. That's why Ruohonen does not have a lot of draft hype so far. But he's a solid, but unspectacular, all around two-way center with decent skills but nothing that stands out as high level. His standout skill is likely his intelligence, he relies a lot on being able to anticipate play to be in the right place at the right time since his skating is not fantastic either.

On the other hand, it appears that Ruohonen didn't appear in any pro games to preserve his NCAA eligibility, and not because he had a perceived lack of ability. He was the top import draft pick in the USHL this spring. He will play there next year, and is reportedly committed to Harvard in the NCAA for the season after that. He's going to be a longer term project but for a guy who may be a later round pick, that's fine. It gives you more time to watch him develop and challenge him in new environments.

From Lassi Alanen's European tracking project: https://www.patreon.com/user/posts?u=13951676

Topias Hynninen

  • Position: Left-shot winger
  • League(s): Finland U20 / Mestis / Liiga
  • Height: 5'10"
  • Weight: 170 lbs
  • Birthdate: Dec 19, 2005

Hynninen is another unheralded guy who I like. He doesn't have the same set of physical tools that Avramov does – he's only 5'10" and can't rely on the same size – but what Hynninen does have is what the kids today are calling "that dog in him". Despite being on the smaller size, and not being someone with a dominant level of offensive skill, he played the vast majority of this season in the Liiga. He played 48 regular season games plus 5 playoff games in the Liiga where he had 9 points, then another 3 games loaned to the second tier pro league. He had 9 points in 8 games to start the season in Finland's U20 junior, league, where he also had some utterly dominant tracking data.

Hynninen is the puck carrier in the NZ and goes right to the net to put home the rebound.

Even in the Liiga, Hynninen had very strong defensive tracking data. He plays like a little waterbug version of John Wick, playing with a high level of pace and aggressively chasing down pucks and puck carriers. He has a good impact on transitions and possession as well because of his ability to steal pucks and carry it well. He could work on his skills and refine his decision making when he has the puck on his stick, but he has a very strong foundation of work ethic, speed, pace and being a little pest to build on. I like him as a bottom six energy guy who could be a strong penalty killer.

From Lassi Alanen's European tracking project: https://www.patreon.com/user/posts?u=13951676

Oskar Vuollet

  • Position: Left-shot center/winger
  • League(s): Sweden U20 / SHL
  • Height: 5'11"
  • Weight: 181 lbs
  • Birthdate: Dec 3, 2005

Vuollet is a slightly undersized forward who has a good amount of speed and skill at his disposal. He split his season between Sweden's U20 level, where he dominated to the tune of 61 points in 41 games in the regular season, which was 5th overall for the junior level in spite of age, and tops for points per game. He then added a league leading 14 goals and second best 21 points in only 9 playoff games. He also got into 15 regular season games and 4 playoff games for his SHL club, which is a good sign for a draft-year prospect even if he didn't have any points. What he didn't have was a lot of international experience, playing in only 5 games for Sweden's U19 team where he had 2 goals and 3 points.

Vuollet's tracking data for junior is good across the board, but none of it is great per se. But man... he looks like he can be a complete offensive threat, combining some pretty great speed and skating, with legit playmaking and shooting ability. He can really rip it with a pretty nice one timer on the powerplay. His issue is that he can be a bit too much of a perimeter player, and though he does have decent impacts off the puck it is something he seemed to struggle with a lot in his SHL stints. I'd use a 5th round pick on him, and hope that he can develop the rest of his game to make him a useful third line guy that can zoom all over the ice to cause the good kind of chaos with his speed and skill. Adding muscle will be a must.

Jacob Battaglia

  • Position: Left-shot winger
  • League(s): OHL
  • Height: 6'0"
  • Weight: 205 lbs
  • Birthdate: Mar 17, 2006

Battaglia is another guy who plays with a lot of energy, but has more size and more of a power game than Hynninen. He had 31 goals and 65 points in 67 games in the OHL for Kingston, who were one of the weaker teams that barely made the playoffs (13th of 20 teams by points percentage). He finished second on his team in points and first in goals. Among all U18 players in the OHL this year, he was 9th in points in 5th in goals.

Battaglia has some nifty mittens when handling the puck, and has some good speed and maneuverability – plus he always keeps his feet moving. It's a good combination that helps him drive a lot of transitions while carrying it into the offensive zone, and he's a good dual-threat offensive guy to score or set up his teammates. He's a bit of a lesser version of Avramov, with similar styles of play but lacking the same level of tools. He's not as big or as fast, but is perhaps similar in terms of other skills.

From Mitch Brown's CHL tracking project: https://www.patreon.com/user/posts?u=13951676

Herman Träff

  • Position: Right-shot winger
  • League(s): Sweden U20 / HockeyAllsvenskan / SHL
  • Height: 6'3"
  • Weight: 203 lbs
  • Birthdate: Dec 31, 2005

Träff is another interesting player that mixes size, skill and a good work ethic. He's got good all-around skills, though they aren't necessarily at a very high level. He uses his size well in some situations, and has room to add more muscle and get stronger on his feet. His skating in particular is okay to good, but could stand to get better. The biggest knock on him otherwise is that he doesn't necessarily use his size as much as he could, especially for things like getting to the net. He doesn't have a great cycle or board game either, in terms of getting it off the perimeter and into the middle of the ice. He actually seems to excel more with the puck already in the middle of the ice, but uses his size well to power through checks in open ice.

Träff's statistical performance, including his tracking data, is okay but not great. He had 21 points in 23 games in Sweden's U20 junior league, was loaned to the second tier pro league for 8 games and had 3 points, and had 10 games in the SHL with no points. He had 5 points in 8 international games for Sweden, but none of the major tournaments. He's ranked on very few public lists, and wasn't at all on Bob McKenzie's most recent full rankings at all – not even as an honourable mention. He seems like a guy that could go around the mid-rounds, and I'd certainly swing on him with one of their three 5th rounders.

From Lassi Alanen's European tracking project: https://www.patreon.com/user/posts?u=13951676

William Zellers

  • Position: Left-shot winger
  • League(s): US High School - Prep
  • Height: 5'11"
  • Weight: 170 lbs
  • Birthdate: Apr 4, 2006

Similar to the junior A leagues dotting Canada, the US high school circuit can also churn out some gems here and there but is generally not a major source of prospects. Anyone in their draft year who is worth their salt are usually playing most if not all of their season in the USHL. If they're still in high school leagues, even the top "prep" league, you look at the very top performers and even then they'll probably only be worth a later round pick. So it is with Will Zellers.

Zellers is a bit undersized, but he is the most prolific scorer in the US High School Prep circuit from this season. He had 57 goals and 111 points in 54 games for their regular season, then had 23 points in 12 games combined at various US tournaments, then had 22 points in 14 games during the "Prep Hockey Conference" tournament against top prep school teams from across North America. He also played for Team USA at the Hlinka Gretzky tournament last summer before the regular season began, with 5 goals and 7 points in 5 games, good for a tie of 9th in the entire tournament and 2nd on Team USA. So he's a strong offensive producer.

Some scouts definitely like his offensive skill, but question how well it projects to the NHL. He has a good shot, good off puck movement to get himself open to receive a pass in dangerous areas, and good puck skill. The big question for him is his play when his team does not have the puck. Especially since he's a bit undersized, and while he has good skating it's not really elite. He's another guy I'd be interested in with a 7th, though I can see him going a bit before that.

Ilya Protas

  • Position: Left-shot winger
  • League(s): USHL
  • Height: 6'3"
  • Weight: 183 lbs
  • Birthdate: Jul 18, 2006

Protas is a relatively young player in this draft who is from Belarus but played in the USHL this year. He finished with 51 points in 61 games, but he really came on in the second half of the season. Playing on one of the worst teams in the league, he finished second on the team in points, and eighth in the league for U18 players. Because of the ban on Belarus from any international tournaments, he has no real record of play in major tournaments. So we're going basically just on his USHL play this year.

Protas has an interesting mix of size and skill, but there are two big issues with his game. First, his skating needs to be better. It's not terrible but definitely not good enough. Second, his skill is mostly involved in playmaking. He has good vision and is definitely tall enough to be able to see most of the ice around him. The other issue is he's pretty lanky, and doesn't really use his size that much. He definitely needs to fill out with more muscle to get stronger, which would also help his skating a bit.

From Mitch Brown's USHL tracking project: https://www.patreon.com/user/posts?u=13951676

Alexander Zetterberg

  • Position: Right-shot center/winger
  • League(s): Sweden U20
  • Height: 5'8"
  • Weight: 159 lbs
  • Birthdate: Apr 27, 2006

Zetterberg is a weird one to write about. He's the kind of player I would have believed in a lot more in years past, back when I was in my "size doesn't matter when you have enough points!" phase. So there are two important but not related facts about him – he is arguably the most prolific offensive point producer in Sweden's junior league and for Team Sweden internationally, and he's only 5'8" and 159 lbs. He has 58 points in 45 games in the U20 junior league, but also had a combined 58 points in 38 international games for Team Sweden.

What bridges the gap between his production and his height is some concerns about how well his game projects to the NHL. The fact that he's 5'8" is a problem but it isn't insurmountable – the problem is he's no Logan Stankoven. He doesn't have an elite shot, or elite skating, or elite smarts, or elite puck handling or playmaking. He's good at a lot of those, but he doesn't have the skills or tools that are usually very important for smaller players to succeed at the highest levels. I'm still including him as a potential 7th round pick because I don't mind betting on his skill so late and hoping he has the magic sauce needed to make it all work.

From Lassi Alanen's European tracking project: https://www.patreon.com/user/posts?u=13951676

Thanks for reading!

I put a lot of work into my prospect articles here, both for the draft and Toronto's prospects. I do it as a fun hobby for me, and I'd probably do it in some capacity even if PPP completely ceased to exist. But if you like reading my work, some support would go a long way! I pay for a few streaming services (CHL, NCAA, USHL, the occasional TSN options for international tournaments that are broadcast) to be able to reliably watch these prospects in good quality streams. I also pay for some prospect-specific resources, such as tracking data and scouting reports from outlets like Elite Prospects, Future Considerations, McKeen's Hockey, The Athletic, and more.

Being able to get paid for this helps me dedicate more time and resources to it, rather than to second/third jobs. And whatever money I make here, a lot of I reinvest back into my prospect work through in those streaming and scouting services. Like I said, I'd be doing whatever I can afford for this anyway, so any financial help I get through this is greatly appreciated!

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