2021 NHL Draft: Late-Round Sleepers

Nick Richard


The top of the draft gets all the hype, but a quick look around the  NHL serves as a solid reminder that there is always value to be unearthed in the draft’s later rounds. In the fifth and deciding game of the Stanley Cup Final between Tampa Bay and Montreal, there were a total of nine players that were drafted in the fifth round or later – including a few that weren’t drafted at all. Hitting on early-round picks is paramount to building a winning franchise, but the final rounds are where having a great scouting department can really pay off.

The DobberProspects Draft Scouting Team has been hard at work all season, watching game tape and discussing prospects at length. Though most of these players didn’t crack our Top 100 Ranked Prospects for the 2021 NHL draft, they all bring something to the table that could see them outperform their prospective draft slot. Here are some of our favorite late-round sleepers:

Ruben Rafkin | RHD | TPS Turku (Liiga)

January 8, 2002 (OA) | 6-0 | 190 lbs

TPS Turku (Liiga) | 48 GP / 4G 12A 16PTS / 36 PIM / +10

Finland (WJC-20) | 1 GP / 0G 0A 0PTS / 0 PIM / 0

Eetu Siltanen: Rafkin, a bit surprisingly, wasn’t selected in last year’s NHL draft, but it seems unlikely that he will go undrafted again this year. Even though Rafkin was included in our scouting team’s top-100, I highly doubt he’s going to go in the first 4 rounds of the draft. So, why would drafting him in the later rounds be good value? Rafkin had a really good season in Liiga for a D+1 aged player, recording 16 points and a plus-10 rating in 48 games, averaging over 17 minutes of ice time per game. He was also one of the leading defensemen in his team’s playoff run for the silver medal.

Rafkin doesn’t shine in any particular area, but he is versatile and balanced without a notably weak area in his game. He skates pretty well, can keep up with the pace of the game, and has good hockey sense. He brings a hard physical presence to the game even though he’s not the biggest player as well. He is a two-way defender without much offensive upside but still has solid puck skills and a heavy slap shot. He also showed some good vision with strong breakout passes in my viewings. He could potentially be a really solid bottom-four defender with penalty killing ability, supporting a more offensively inclined partner at even strength.