In Torono's recent era of drafting – basically, since Shanahan took over – Toronto has been known to take re-entry prospects. From most recent to older, they include Malinoski, Hildeby, Grebyonkin, Peksa, Rindell, Fusco, Abruzzese, Holmberg, Korshkov, Brooks, and maybe some others but I'm tired of checking at this point.
There's good value to be found in taking a re-entry who may have had good reason for not looking good enough in their draft year. They could have been injured, buried down the lineup on a strong team, had some bad luck, or just further behind in their physical and skill development. Every player does not improve at the same steady rate, some are 'late bloomers' that have a bigger leap in their development come after their first draft year.
So, here are some of the best looking re-entry players so far this season:
As of right now, Pulkkinen feels like the most likely re-entry to be taken first in the NHL draft. He's only a D+1 re-entry, but he has a December 2004 birthday, making him on the older side for his draft year. But he is a 6'6", 207 lb left shot defenseman who has been playing in the Liiga more recently and has been looking pretty strong. Just the combination of size and his abilities that have started to come together will make him an intriguing player to take, even if he still is a bit of a long term project.
Elite Prospects recently had a good write up on Pulkinnen, which also touched on his remarkable growth from last year to this. Last season, he played the whole year in Finland's U20 junior league and had only 4 points in 43 games. This year, he started back at the U20 level but exploded for 28 points in only 18 games. After that, he was loaned to the Mestis league (second tier pro in Finland) for 6 games and had 4 points. Since then, he's been bumped up to the Liiga, where he has 2 points in 5 games and averaging 16+ minutes per game.
Hedqvist I am including because I really liked him when he was at Toronto's rookie camp as an undrafted invite. He's a 5'11", 170 lb forward who had 34 points in 41 games in Sweden's U20 junior league. His scouting reports talked about him being a smart two-way forward who lacked high end offensive skill. This year, he's maintained all the good energy, defensive, puck stealing ability but ramped it up and improved his offense. He leads the U20 level in points per game with 35 points in 22 games. The only reason he isn't the league leader in points is because he's played in 9 games in the SHL, where he's so far gone pointless while playing around 7-8 minutes per game.
Hedqvist still wouldn't project as a top offensive prospect, but has the making of an interesting depth forward who can be used in all situations and help drive a line with his defense, transitions, and playmaking. He would need to improve his skating most of all, not because it's terrible but because it could really help him make the most of his natural strengths at higher levels of hockey. If he was already on Toronto's radar to get invited to their rookie camp, they may like what they see this year enough to take him with one of their many late round picks that they (currently) have.
Will Scouch has been banging the drum about Kenta Isogai for a few years now, enough that I included him as a 7th round forward target for Toronto back in 2022. He's also been a very good skater with some good skill, but never seemed to generate as many points as you'd think when you watched him make plays. He is very much a scout/analytics darling despite managing only 39 points in 61 games in the USHL for his D+1 season.
But this season, Isogai has moved to join the WHL and the Wenatchee Wild and has been a sensation for them. Playing on their top lines, he has generated 43 points in 31 games, good for 15th in the entire league. He is also an August 28th, 2004 birthday making him as a D+2 re-entry only a few months older the Pulkkinen as a D+1 re-entry. His problem has always been that while he's quick, energetic and works hard, he's not that big (listed as 5'11" but 154 lbs) and his skill hasn't been enough to lead to a lot of points. I'd still be interested in him as a lower round swing if you can refine him and bulk him up some more and see if he can turn into a speedy, energy guy in the bottom six.
One of the top scoring re-entries and also a pretty young and most on his team with 49 in 31 games. He was an analytics darling from last season with North Bay, but his 43 points in 66 games. Scouts gave him good reviews for being a very well-balanced offensive threat, capable of carrying the puck, passing it, and shooting it at above average levels. He had one of the most even strength goals last year, playing behind a strong and veteran-heavy North Bay squad last year that didn't get a lot of powerplay time.
This year, he is on their top powerplay and while he has not been the most prolific powerplay producer in the league (15 PP points to the scoring leader's 20), it has helped him explode so far this season overall. The big question mark for him last year was that he didn't have a big standout skill, he was more of a jack of all trades but master of none kind of guy. That still feels like it's the case, but if he gets the level for everything up to just before elite, he may still be good enough to be a contributor at higher levels.
In one of my favourite articles I've written for PPP, I looked into how to find NHL goalies outside of the first round. One of the things I found when looking at the routes that many NHL and elite NHL goalies come from are Europeans who played at the pro level in their draft years. Even if it was just for a few games, even if their stats didn't look great – it was just a good sign that if they're good enough to be considered for top pro levels at such a young age.
Which brings me to the Belarussian goalie Pavel Moysevich. He's a D+1 goalie playing in Russia, with a September 29th, 2004 birthday – making him an older D+1 re-entry. He's got the size in goalies that NHL teams want (6'5"), and he's been stellar at the VHL and KHL levels this year. In 17 VHL starts he has a .931 sv%, tied for 9th in the entire league for goalies of all ages. He's also got into 5 KHL games (only one start), where he's stopped all 47 shots he's faced. In a draft year that is lacking any really hyped goalies, I wouldn't be surprised if he wound up going pretty high especially if he plays more in the KHL and continues to do well.