Every year endless attention is paid to the players who are entering their NHL Draft seasons and are expected to go amongst the top picks. Whether it's your power forwards, your play-making centres, stud goalies, or flashy puck-moving defensemen, if you put up numbers, you'll be paid in press clippings and (eventually) a jersey.
But every year there are also countless kids who don't hear their name called and end up going home disappointed once the draft finishes. Some will hear that they're too small, others that their seasons weren't good enough, and some will get told flat-out that they aren't good enough.
But here's what we need to remember about these kids: They're 18. Take a look at your class pictures from High School, and you'll see plenty of differences: Some kids got a little taller, some finally filled out a couple of years later, and others (while the pictures won't show it) simply became more co-ordinated and athletic.
For some of those kids, the transition and advancement can take just a year. While they didn't have successful Draft seasons, their follow-up years were lights-out and enough to earn them draft consideration a second time around. For some, it's a third time around.
Dany Syvret, a Memorial Cup champion and former London Knight, had to wait for his third draft-eligible season to finally get selected before he went to Edmonton in the third round in 2005. Pearson, a Canadian World Junior and premiere scorer for the Barrie Colts, is experiencing the draft spotlight one year after he was eligible, and figures to hear his name called this year.
But Pearson isn't the only OHL'er who could crack a smile on Draft day after missing out the first time around. Each year there are a couple of players who, one year later, draw some hard-earned attention. Here are a few of them...
Starting Goalies: Both Michael Houser of the London Knights and Franky Palazzese of the Kitchener Rangers have had sensational seasons. Houser's has been almost too obvious, coming into the season dubbed as 'the best in the OHL' by his then-Head Coach Dale Hunter. Palazzese meanwhile, has captured the hearts of Rangers' fans with gutsy efforts night-in, night-out in place of John Gibson who has battled injuries. Both goalies rely on solid positioning, while Palazzese is willing to improvise from time-to-time. Houser is a 1992 birthday who was released from Philadelphia Flyers' camp during NHL pre-season this year (and has attended a Canucks' prospect camp), while Palazzese is a 1993 birthday, who went un-drafted and un-signed last year.
Seth Griffith, F, London Knights: Let's put it this way: What hasn't Seth Griffith done for the London Knights this year? After getting overlooked during last year's draft and getting cut from Tampa Bay Lightning camp and left contract-less, Griffith has made many look silly off, and on the ice. Griffith has shown a spectacular all-around offensive game, playing a pivotal role in the Knights' pre-trade deadline success. He leads league-leading London in goals, points, power play goals, and shorthanded goals, while he's fourth on the team in assists and plus/minus. Griffith's size may still scare some teams off, but it's hard to argue with the production over the last two seasons the '93 has put up: 66 goals and 80 assists in 130 games.
Ben Fanelli, D, Kitchener Rangers: It's never easy to step back into a lineup after an extended absence. It's even harder when you had barely experienced the league before that time away. That's the challenge that faced Ben Fanelli at the beginning of the season, as the Kitchener Rangers' defenseman looked to resume a normal hockey life after essentially missing the first two seasons of his OHL career. But after everything he's been through, Fanelli has quickly ascended the Rangers' depth chart, to the point that his lightning-quick development in both ends of the ice had the team confident in his abilities to take over for the recently-departed Julian Melchiori. Fanelli's injury and rehab kept the '93 out of his first draft eligible season, but the way he's performed this year would have had him drafted last year, and should be good for at least a camp invite this season.
Darcy Greenaway, F, Kingston Frontenacs: Not many people expected much out of the Kingston Frontenacs when it came to this season. With the re-shaping of a coaching staff and management underway, it was thought that this was a growing year for the team, and it has shown to be as much. One player that has grown leaps and bounds in a short time though, is diminutive forward Darcy Greenaway. Greenaway, the Wellington Dukes' Rookie of the Year following his lone season (2010/11) with the team, has become the Frontenacs' biggest weapon. A consistent performer all year long with the hands to score goals in bunches, Greenaway leads the Fronts in goals, assists, points, and power play goals. Greenaway, a former draft pick of the London Knights and '93 birth-year, is one of those players the puck seems to find, and with a little more exposure in the OHL this year, someone out there has probably taken notice of him.
Tanner Richard, F, Guelph Storm: Playing his draft season in Switzerland, Richard (like many of his countrymen) went un-drafted last year. In fact in the 2011 Entry Draft, just two Swiss-born players were selected with one of them (Sven Baertschi), coming out of the Western Hockey League. Now Richard has spent a season in the OHL, gained exposure at a much higher level, and has been able to show that he can compete playing the North American game. On a Guelph Storm team that needed a play-maker after losing their ‘Big Three’ in the off-season, Richard has provided just that. His 34 assists have him tied for second on the team, and that’s taking into consideration that he hasn’t played since February 7th with an ‘upper body injury’. It would have been nice to see if Richard could have finished out the season strong, but Richard showed that he’s got the hands and the hockey sense to compete at the OHL level and it wouldn’t be too surprising to see an NHL take a flyer on him.
Zach Hall, F, Barrie Colts: All of the talk has centered around Tanner Pearson in Barrie this year, but if you want big improvements from one year to the next? It’s hard to overlook what Zach Hall has done. Hall went from a 12-point player in 2010/11to a 60-point player this season. Beginning from the first game of the year when he had a five-point game on the top line with Pearson and Colin Behenna, to later in the season where he’s found himself alongside overager Daniel Erlich, Hall has produced. Like a couple of the others on this list, it's the size that may get him overlooked and leave a little to be desired, but Hall could find himself at a camp next year. Chances are with the scouts coming out to see Pearson, someone might have seen something out of Hall.
Bryan Thiel is a freelance writer for 'In the O' and follows Toronto Maple Leafs CHL prospects for Leafs Nation Network. He also does feature work for OHL television broadcasts. You can follow Bryan on Twitter at BryanThiel_88.