I've talked about and shared studies that point to re-entry prospects as something that the NHL, as a whole, underutilizes. I actually enjoy following and watching interesting prospects who are in their D+1 or D+2 seasons have a big breakout, or make good on the longshot promise they showed in their first draft eligible seasons.

The reason why I think they're just as valuable is because you have more certainty with them, by which I mean they are further along their development path. That's a blessing and a curse for them. Not all players develop at the same rates, and improvements are not made on a smooth, flat upward line on a graph. So the certainty thing is valuable because there will always be players who do not get drafted but have their big leap in improvement afterwards, and suddenly now you may consider them to be better than a bunch of prospects that were drafted.

And that's generally how I look at potential re-entry prospects and whether or not I'd want to draft them. I ask myself: "if I had drafted them when they were first eligible, would I be happy with where they are now as a prospect?". If a player became a top line guy, trusted in all situations, among the league (or age group) leaders in production, or anything where my answer is a more obvious 'yes', then I'd take him. Even if they aren't, I may see if they have a set of skills that are more valuable in some kind of NHL role, that I think can be further refined and improved like a Pierre Engvall.

So, let's talk about some of the top re-entry options that meet these criteria.

Ondrej Becher

  • Position: Left-shot defenseman
  • League(s): WHL
  • Height: 6'1"
  • Weight: 187 lbs
  • Birthdate: Feb 22, 2004

Becher became interesting to me when I started watching Terik Parascak, who has been ranked in the first round for this year's draft pretty much all season. But I kept noticing Becher as a 'glitter player', who was Parascak's center all year. Becher finished 13th in the entire WHL in points with 96 points (32 goals and 64 assists) in 58 games. He was 8th in the WHL if you go by points per game. 29 points of his points came on the powerplay, and 4 goals and 7 points were short handed. He was in a 1A/1B line center situation as one of their veterans, with top prospect Riley Heidt as the other part of the duo.

Becher added 19 points in 15 playoff games, good for 9th in the WHL despite being eliminated in the 2nd round. He was an all situations player for Prince George, who were one of the best teams in the WHL. He did everything, and was one of the best players in the league at everything. He was also Czechia's top center at the World Juniors, finishing third on the team in points with 10 in 7 games. On Czechia's U20 team for other international games, finished 2nd with 14 points in 13 games.

As far as his skills, offensively Becher does a bit of everything. He has a pretty darn good shot, but he doesn't use it that often – he only had 2.86 shots per game, which is a pretty low rate for a top junior player. He has a wicked one-timer that he uses to good effect, but he's definitely more pass-first and uses his playmaking very intelligently. He weaponizes quick give and go's to break down the defense, but is creative enough to manipulate defenders and create quality passing lanes for his teammates.

Defensively, Becher is smart but also a hard worker, which is a good combination to have. He is one of those guys who is solid at everything, but maybe not spectacular at any of them. Being a 200-foot center, all situations impact guy among the league leaders in points? That's what I'd want my D+2 prospect to be. He showed so much improvement from last year to this one, and I'd absolutely use a late round pick on him if he's available.

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

Kenta Isogai

  • Position: Left-shot winger
  • League(s): WHL
  • Height: 5'11"
  • Weight: 154 lbs
  • Birthdate: Aug 28, 2004

I actually mentioned Isogai as a late round option back in 2022, when he was first eligible for the NHL draft. One of his problems from back then still exists – he's still listed as just 154 lbs. He's now moved from the USHL to the WHL, joining the middle of the pack team, the Wenatchee Wild, where he had a huge offensive breakout. He has become more of a complete player. He finished with the team lead in goals (31) and points (88), and was a shot generation machine with 277. He had 22 points on the powerplay, and 4 points (3 goals) short handed. His points were good for 19th in the entire league. In the playoffs he was even better, with 4 goals and 8 points in only 5 games as Wenatchee was eliminated early – through no fault of Isogai, whose playoff point per game pace was 3rd in the WHL.

Isogai's skating is still his biggest strength, but he's added some new abilities and skills that are better for producing points and that seem more pro-ready: he uses his skating to play an aggressive, high intensity 200-foot game whether he has the puck or not. With the puck, he's started to cut into the middle of the ice and get it to more dangerous areas. If he shoots or passes it, or even if he loses it, he uses that skating to follow up and keep the pressure on. Get to open areas of the ice, keep the defense chasing him or threatening to lose them.

I'm still not sure if he would get drafted, but he's still a pretty young player for a 2004 birth year. If he doesn't get a late round flyer, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get invited to someone's rookie camp and maybe surprise them to earn an ELC or an AHL deal after it. While he'd still be a long shot to make the NHL, what I'd have in mind with him is turning him into a speedy, energy two-way player in the bottom six and penalty killer.

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

Isac Hedqvist

  • Position: Left-shot center/winger
  • League(s): Sweden U20 / SHL
  • Height: 5'10"
  • Weight: 168 lbs
  • Birthdate: Mar 22, 2005

Hedqvist is a real interesting one. He may be a bit undersized, but he really impressed me at Toronto's rookie camp last year. When he didn't get a contract after, I made a note to follow his season – and he did very well. He played in 23 games in Sweden's U20 junior league and dominated. His point rate (36 in 23 games) was by far the highest in the league for players with at least 20 games.

After, Hedqvist was called up to the SHL in late November and never really looked back. He played in 33 SHL games averaging 9:18 of ice time, plus played in 7 more in the playoffs. He had 3 points in those 40 combined games, which is tied for 10th best in the SHL for U19 players. He also played in his first intentional games for Team Sweden, and had 7 points in 8 games, which was tied for the most on the team.

Hedqvist is still relatively young, and has more room to develop even though he took a big step this year. While he's only 5'10" and listed as 168 lbs, he has the skills that help make up for it – he's a very good skater, both in terms of speed and maneuverability. He uses his skating and body positioning to make it harder for bigger players to square up or shove him around with their size leverage. He's a good playmaker with the puck, though still not a great shooter/goal scorer. But he's a high intensity, high effort player and very smart, using good anticipation and positioning to have a real impact on the ice defensively. I think he'd be as worth a late round pick as other potential depth European guys I listed earlier this week.

Anthony Romani

  • Position: Right-shot winger
  • League(s): OHL
  • Height: 6'0"
  • Weight: 179 lbs
  • Birthdate: Jul 12, 2005

Romani has a pretty young birthday and showed some remarkable progress from last season to this one. He finished tops in the entire OHL in scoring with 58 goals in 68 games, and was 2nd in points with 111. He was a true weapon on the powerplay, with 14 goals and 14 assists. While his tracking data shows he was pretty good defensively, he was more of an offensive driver at even strength and on the powerplay and wasn't used much on the penalty kill.

As an offensive player, Romani is is a versatile goal scorer and playmaker with dual-threat offensive impacts. He has a good variety of shots (wrist, one timer, etc), but he's also willing to score the dirty goals around the net through deflections, rebounds, and tap ins by going to the front of the net. He has a good work ethic and willingness to battle for position physically, but he does it smart enough to also disengage so he can get open at the right moment.

I would draft him with a late round pick if he falls that far, considering his relative youth compared to most other re-entries, and his remarkable season. I think of it this way – if Toronto had drafted Romani in the late rounds last year, we'd be ecstatic that he had this season. Leading the league in goals and points with solid impacts in every part of the game? He may be still a long shot to make the NHL, but if he has another developmental leap in him before he turns pro, he could still wind up as a useful bottom six producer in the vein of a Daniel Sprong.

Noah Steen

  • Position: Left-shot winger
  • League(s): HockeyAllsvenskan
  • Height: 6'1"
  • Weight: 192 lbs
  • Birthdate: Aug 16, 2004

Steen is a player from Norway who played in Sweden's system the past few years. This year, he started at the U20 junior league where he had 10 goals and 22 points in 17 games. He was then promoted to their second tier pro league, HockeyAllsvenskan, where he had 14 goals and 17 points in 40 games. That was the most goals in the league for U20 players, and tied for the 4th most points. Funnily enough, he played with on a line with all Norwegian players including a guy named Michael Bransegg-Nygård – and watching him is how Steen got on my radar.

Steen was part of Norway's World Juniors and World Men's Championship rosters this year. At the WJC, he had 3 points in 5 games. At the World Men's Championship he still had 3 points in 7 games. He also added 12 points in 9 games for their U20 team in other international games, and 5 points in 8 games for their men's team in other games – this actually lead the team. In those international games, of all age levels, he had a more normal distribution of goals and assists, so I am not that worried by him having so many goals to so few assists in the HockeyAllsvenskan which seems more like an outlier for his production.

Steen to me is more like Becher and Hedqvist. The points are nice but not what I care the most about. I like his profile of skills and strengths in ways that I think give them a more obvious path to the NHL as role players. Steen is a bit bigger than the others, at 6'1" and 192 lbs. But he is a good skater, especially in terms of north-south speed. He is a supporting winger who can use his speed and physical intensity to be an annoyance on the forecheck for the defenders, and could have an almost Mikheyev-like ability to create rush chances out of nothing. I like him as a potential supporting winger in the bottom six, who could help kill penalties and bring a speed-physical combination.

Jesse Pulkkinen

  • Position: Left-shot defenseman
  • League(s): Finland U20 / Mestis / Liiga
  • Height: 6'6"
  • Weight: 216 lbs
  • Birthdate: Dec 27, 2004

Pulkkinen, without a shadow of a doubt, will be the first re-entry player taken in this year's draft. He may even be taken in the late first round – Bob McKenzie had him ranked 33rd in his January rankings – which is a wild thing to consider. Though he's a 2004 birthday, he is technically only a D+1 player this season thanks to his December birthday. But he absolutely exploded this season and did all the things that help a prospect get hype.

He started the season in Finland's U20 junior league, and had a hilarious 11 goals and 28 points in just 18 games. For reference, the previous season in the same league he had a total of 4 points in 43 games. He was loaned to Finland's second tier pro league, the Mestis, and had 4 points in 6 games. He was then promoted to the Liiga where he had 8 points in 29 games. He also played for Finland at the World Juniors, and had 3 points in 7 games. He added 8 points in 12 games for their U20 team in other games as well. This year was the first time he represented Finland on the international stage.

Pulkkinen as a player likely projects more as a defensive guy than offensive, despite the point production. He has an issue with inconsistency in executing offensive plays. He's a bit of a wild cowboy, trying absolutely crazy things and sometimes getting away with it, but often times not when he was in the pro levels. I'd be more forgiving of the inconsistencies if he was a 2006 born first time draft eligible player this season, but he's a D+1 and darn close to being a D+2. So he's at an age where I would like to see defense prospects already fixing issues with decision making.

I'm still including him because who knows, teams might cool on him a bit from his big hype around the World Juniors. He's still a 6'6" defenseman who can skate and pull off some neat moves, and projects well defensively. In the end, I think he'll be taken before Toronto has picks in the mid to late rounds where I'd be more comfortable selecting him, but I still wanted to include him here because he is a lot of fun to watch.

Nate Misskey

  • Position: Right-shot defenseman
  • League(s): WHL
  • Height: 6'3"
  • Weight: 198 lbs
  • Birthdate: Jan 12, 2005

Misskey is a D+1 re-entry for this year's draft, after just an okay draft eligible season last year in the WHL. Part of the problem may have been him playing for Victoria, who had the second worst record last year and the 8th worst this year. Not a lot of support either from other players or from coaching. But he was arguably their best overall defenseman last year.

Misskey had 14 points in 65 games, but was third on the totem pole for PP time. This year he was still the second unit guy, and he more than doubled his production to 34 points in just 44 games. Only an injury kept him from basically tripling it. He also greatly improved his defensive play, but honestly I'll just quote Joel Henderson who is one of my favourite public scouts who specializes in the western Canada prospects and leagues:

Misskey has made huge strides in his game this season, with much of his finesse as a defender blossoming for a player with size and patience with the puck. In this game, he was quick to pucks in the defensive zone and had a calculated plan to make defense-to-defense passes under control or circle with the puck to drive play as a passer in motion. His small puck touches, even on the backhand or with a lead pass, are excellent—weighted and soft. Misskey often cuts and curls to look up ice and spur the offense, showing comfort and calculation in his transition passing by rehandling and waiting for well-timed passes. He displays the same instincts in choosing his shot timing in the offensive zone, delaying to find an open lane or shoot around a screen.
For a player of his size, I would like to see Misskey use his physicality more to establish his position in one-on-one battles down low or when winning puck battles. He is physical when stepping up into gaps off pinches to keep the offensive zone or defending the blue line against a stationary player, but he sometimes relies too much on his stick strength to break up plays or corral loose pucks, losing battles by not establishing positioning first.

Mitch Young

  • Position: Left-shot defenseman
  • League(s): OHL
  • Height: 6'1"
  • Weight: 170 lbs
  • Birthdate: Apr 29, 2005

Young is a defenseman that has followed the kind of later development path that Toronto talked about when they took Hudson Malinoski last year. In his draft year, he split time between the OJHL and only got into 25 games in the OHL with Sarnia, then 7 playoff games. So this year was his first full season in the OHL, and he did quite well. Sarnia went all in on last year's playoff run and emptied the cupboards, then lost all of their best players to aging out and turning pro. This year, Sarnia had the fourth worst record in the league, and didn't have a single player who finished at a point per game.

Young started the season on the second pair, and not getting any powerplay time. He finished the season on more of a 1B pairing than second pair, and was getting a smattering of powerplay time. He finished second on the team in points by defensemen with 30 in 65 games, including leading the team in goals by defensemen with 11. This is despite him only having four points on the powerplay, and just one of them was a goal.


Mitch Young - #5 in white/yellow

Despite having so many goals, and looking to have a pretty darn good wrist shot and one timer for a defenseman, I'd say Young's strength lies more in moving the puck and playmaking than primarily being a shooting/scoring defenseman. He's very skilled and adept at carrying the puck – that strong transitions data you're seeing below is from him carrying it through the neutral zone himself, thanks to some very strong skating and nifty mittens. But he's a good passer too. His assists come from him jumping into the rush, either starting it off a turnover or simply making himself an option by getting up the ice hard.

Young has his warts, mind you. He is willing to jump into a rush at the drop of a hat, but that can lead him to being not in a defensive position if his team turns it over. When he is actually in a position to defend, he does it pretty well. He is such a good skater and has decent size, so junior opponents do not have an easy time getting by him. He needs to bulk up a good amount, though he is already more than willing to play physical – he landed some big hits out of nowhere a few times that I saw. Most importantly, he'll need to work on his judgment so he can better pick his spots. The fact that he's already at D+1 age means I'm not as forgiving of these issues, since he should be a year further along in development. But boy he is a lot of fun, and I think he has a good foundation of skills to build on as a later round pick.

Philippe Blais-Savoie

Position: Left-shot defenseman

  • League(s): USHL
  • Height: 6'0"
  • Weight: 185 lbs
  • Birthdate: Jun 10, 2005

Blais-Savoie is an average sized defensive-defenseman. He's played the last two seasons for the Tri-City Storm, with a commitment to Colorado College in the NCAA. Last year, he had 11 points in 61 games and then had 15 points in 55 games this season – suffice to say, offensive production is not his strong suit, though there is some evidence he deserved more points than he got. He also got zero time on the powerplay, which didn't help. He was named to Team USA for the World U19 Junior A Challenge, and was named to the All-Star Team for the tournament as one of the two top defensemen despite having only one point.

Even last season, Blais-Savoie had earned a reputation for being a solid "lockdown defender". He had a very good stick, but also played a surprisingly effective physical game for his average size. He is a good but not great skater, and gets by thanks to good positional awareness and intelligent reading of the play as it develops.

Watching Blais-Savoie, you can see that he has solid abilities in moving the puck. His biggest improvement this year came in becoming one of the top defensemen in the league at transitioning the puck up the ice, especially his zone exits. That ability to move the puck is still present in the offensive zone, but he's not a dynamic puck handler that can break defenses down and create passing lanes for his teammates to have dangerous scoring chances. He's more good at keeping the puck moving and not turning it over. His underlying tracking data and eye test seems to indicate there's bigger offensive impact than the point production would indicate. I'd take a flyer on him as a late round guy, with the hope he turns into a useful third pairing PK guy who you can rely on to move the puck.

Easton Hewson

  • Position: Left-shot defenseman
  • League(s): AJHL
  • Height: 6'4"
  • Weight: 200 lbs
  • Birthdate: Jul 8, 2005

Easton Hewson is another guy who followed a similar path as Malinoski, just as a defenseman and without the traumatic spine injury as a teen. He didn't play above AA until he was 15 years old, or above AAA hockey until last year when he joined the AJHL and had 5 points in 41 games. This year he improved quite a bit, and had 29 points in 54 games. He also grew two inches and added almost 20 lbs, and that seemed to help everything click for him. He's now committed to joining Minnesota State in the NCAA, which is one of the better programs of the past several years.

The important parts of Hewson's game is that he has a lot of size and reach, and yet is marked as an "impressive mover". He stays involved in the play often, including jumping into an offensive opportunity if the situation calls for it. He has a lot of very intriguing physical tools and is now learning how to make use of it. The risk for him is that, already a D+1 guy, he still needs to work a lot on harnessing those tools and only seems to have started putting it together this season. But as an NCAA commit, he likely will spend another 4-5 years there and as a late round swing, I like betting on a defenseman who has size and skating and seeing if he figures out the rest.

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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