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Top 5 Unexpected Undrafted Players in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft

Every year, several talented players go undrafted in the NHL, leaving many to wonder why certain players were overlooked. With numerous junior leagues and hundreds of eligible players, teams have to prioritize who they believe will benefit their team the most, often resulting in skilled junior stars being left out. This isn’t new, and often those with the necessary skills will eventually find their way into the league through training camp invites or post-eligibility contracts.

However, it can sometimes be puzzling why a highly regarded player wasn’t drafted while another was. Now that the 2024 NHL Draft has concluded, here are five of the most surprising undrafted players:

1. Daniil Ustinkov, LD, ZSC Lions (NL)
Daniil Ustinkov was viewed as a potential first-round pick for the 2024 Draft. Known for his intelligence and well-rounded game, he debuted professionally in Switzerland at 16 and played in top junior tournaments. Despite this, Ustinkov wasn’t drafted after 225 picks. His teammate, Leon Muggli, who also had flaws, was picked by the Washington Capitals in the second round. Ustinkov’s exclusion from the NHL Draft Combine, where Muggli got to interact with scouts, likely hurt his chances.

2. Thomas Desruisseaux, C, Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL)
The QMJHL had a weaker draft class this year, but Thomas Desruisseaux was expected to be a late-round pick due to his impressive performance. Despite scoring 16 goals and 60 points in 66 games, his size (5-foot-11, 154 pounds) raised concerns about his strength and ability to transition to the pro level. Only a few QMJHL forwards were drafted, and Desruisseaux wasn’t among them. If he can build muscle and maintain his performance, he might be drafted in 2025.

3. Alexander Zetterberg, C, Örebro HK J20 (J20 Nationell)
At 5-foot-8, Alexander Zetterberg faced an uphill battle to catch NHL scouts’ attention. Despite a stellar season in Sweden’s J20 Nationell, where he scored 21 goals and 58 points, his size was a significant deterrent. His concussion during the U18 World Juniors didn’t help his case. Although some smaller players were drafted, Zetterberg’s overseas location put him at a disadvantage. A season at Boston University could help him prove his worth.

4. Lukas Matecha, G, Tri-City Americans (WHL)
Second-year eligible goalie Lukas Matecha was surprisingly undrafted, despite a strong showing at the Kubota CHL Top Prospects Game and a solid season with a .912 save percentage. His SV% dropped to .901 by season’s end, and he lacked postseason appearances, which might have hurt his chances. Despite being ranked high by Central Scouting, Matecha remained undrafted, possibly due to a combination of factors including a late-season performance dip.

5. Tomas Galvas, LD, Bílí Tygři Liberec (Czechia)
Tomas Galvas, at 5-foot-10 and 152 pounds, was known for his strong defensive play and intelligence on the ice. Despite being highly regarded by scouts and earning a spot on Bob McKenzie’s Final List, his size seemed to be a barrier. NHL teams likely viewed his frame as too risky, despite his impressive play in Czechia’s top league and international tournaments. Analysts believe Galvas has the potential to become an NHL player if a team can overlook his size.

Honourable Mentions: Aidan Park, Jack Bodin, Topias Hynninen, Frankie Marrelli, Gabriel Frasca

Size Over Skill in the 2024 NHL Draft
The 2024 NHL Draft emphasized size over skill, influenced by the success of the Florida Panthers’ physical style of play. Many smaller, skilled players were left undrafted as teams prioritized bigger, stronger players. However, these prospects still have a chance to make it if they can continue to develop physically and maintain their performance. The NHL’s priorities may shift again, favoring small, speedy players in the future.

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