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Wild weekend (cont.)

Posted: Thursday June 21, 2007 12:43PM; Updated: Friday June 22, 2007 6:34PM
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The Unknown Great

Russian forward Egor Averin (left) could be a knockout sleeper pick.
Russian forward Egor Averin (left) could be a knockout sleeper pick.
Matti Bjorkman/Getty Images
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While much of the focus will be on the consensus top talent at this weekend's draft, the long-term success of any team could be impacted by a virtual unknown who emerges from the late rounds to become an exceptional player.

Fair to say at this point that no one knows who those steals will be. With a crop as question-filled as this one, anyone approaching a certainty will be off the board in a hurry.

But that doesn't mean there won't be a gem or two unearthed in the late rounds. Some past examples: Luc Robitaille (171st overall, 1984), Dominik Hasek (207th, 1983) and Dave Taylor (210th, 1975). Drafting teenagers is an inexact science. Most of these picks won't pan out, but odds are some team is going to get lucky late.

It's an especially weak year for goalies, but there are a couple of potential sleepers who've caught the eye of at least a few scouts.

Scott Darling played in the Tier 2 EJHL this past season, a level of competition that doesn't bring out the best in an NHL prospect. But he has caught the eye of at least two teams thanks to his size (6-5), quick feet and technical understanding of the game. Darling will get a better test next season when he heads to the University of Maine to back up another behemoth, St. Louis prospect Ben Bishop.

Andrew Engelage of the Windsor Spitfires is just as big (6-5, 195), but he's more athletic than Darling. He's got a lot of work to do on the technical part of his game, but that's a coachable matter. He's a battler, very similar in that sense to Ray Emery.

A couple more names to watch:

Egor Averin: This 5-11, 172-pound left winger is the prototypical Russian forward. Great hands, great wheels, very creative with the puck. He's also burdened by the standard Russian questions: Can he maintain that performance level in North American traffic, and does he have the desire to contribute on a nightly basis?

Will Weber: Michigan high-schooler wasn't even seen by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau and thus didn't make it on their final rankings. Still, the 6-4 forward is expected to be tabbed some time on Saturday by a team willing to overlook his lack of experience and focus on his hockey sense, strength and competitiveness.

Adam Bezak: Smallish Slovakian winger (5-10, 170) plays a great two-way game based on his speed and willingness to go to the hard areas.

Paul Thompson: Another EJHL grad whose game will be tested next year at the University of New Hampshire. He's got good size (6-0, 212) and a knack around the net.

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