Every year it seems that there are high-quality prospects that end up cruising under the NHL draft radar to provide a fantastic value as a late first round pick.

Perhaps Pittsburgh’s most recent example of this would be the selection of Simon Despres in the 2009 entry draft.

Despres was ranked as high as 14 in some major rankings heading into the draft, but ended up slipping all the way to the final slot of the first round where Ray Shero & Co. were extremely happy to nab him.

In 2012, things are no different. Take a look at the short list below to get an idea of who else might follow in the path of a Simon Despres to provide some fantastic value as a late first round selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Tanner Pearson – LW – Barrie (OHL) – 6-0 – 198lbs. – August 10, 1992

It’d be remiss of me to not start this ranking off with Colts’ left-winger Tanner Pearson.

The first thing that ought to stand out to you in the above biography is the 1992 birth year. In Pearson, we find a guy that produced a mere 40 points in his CHL rookie year and was passed over entirely in the 2011 NHL draft.

Pearson rebounded this year to light the OHL on fire at the start of the 2011-12 season. Pearson has established himself as a front-runner for the league’s scoring title and put up an extremely solid show in the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championships.

To date, Pearson has played in 47 games, netting 33 goals and 46 assists for a 79 point campaign thus far, currently good for 2nd in the OHL scoring race.

Not bad for a 14th round selection in the OHL draft.

Pearson quieted one of his largest criticisms by showcasing one item thus far this season that scouts were clamoring for last year: consistency.

Pearson has now become a threat that you can notice on a game by game basis and hasn’t slowed down his chase for the OHL scoring title. Pearson has a nifty set of hands, a great scoring sense, and general knack for finding chemistry with whoever he finds himself on the ice with. He’s got a solid shot, his vision is top notch, and he’s not afraid to get to the dirty areas to score goals.

While Pearson has answered his critics in the consistency department, his skating is still an area that draws concern from NHL scouts. Also, his presence in the defensive zone leaves a lot to be desired as well. That being said, a team in search of a youngster with high offensive prowess might find a lot of value in Tanner Pearson despite his undrafted status from 2011.

Martin Frk – RW – Halifax (QMJHL) – 6’0 – 204lbs – Oct. 5, 1993

This season has been anything but kind to Martin Frk. After missing significant time to start the year with a concussion, Frk drew a lot of criticism when he decided to return home to the Czech Republic to rest rather than represent his team at the IIHF World Jr. championships.

Frk’s style of play places a high-demand on his body and his rebound from the early-season concussion might vault him back into the upper half of the 2012 draft class. For now, however, we’re still seeing most major rankings list Frk on the outside looking in, so we’re going to consider him a player that could be a major steal come draft day.

Frk is a very physical winger with a shifty set of a hands and a nose for the net. He might not be the most dynamite one on one player in the world, but his style of play takes a toll on opposing defenses and his ability to protect the puck along the wall and use his superb vision to find his teammates makes him a real dual threat.

The lost time from the concussion is frustrating in Frk’s case because his skating needs all the work it can get. While it certianly isn’t an eyesore, it could prevent Frk from playing the way he’ll need to in order to be successful at the next level of hockey.

Overall, it’ll be interesting to track Frk’s progress as the year goes on. He currently has 16 points (9+7) in his first 23 games, if he can elevate those levels you might see a team take a gamble on him in the early first round.

Nicolas Kerdiles – LW – USNTDP – 6’1 – 183lbs – Jan. 11, 1994

Nicolas Kerdiles might find himself ranked 28 and 27 in the ISS and Central Scouting rankings respectively because his game doesn’t scream flashy.

However, that being said, it’s tough to find things that Kerdiles does wrong on any given night on the ice. Kerdiles has a solid skating base, great presence in all areas of the ice, and a penchant for being a pesky guy to go against shift by shift.

He lacks the true breakout offensive skills of a traditional first rounder, but we’ve yet to see the true offensive ceiling that exists with this player. Kerdiles, regardless of anything else, provides a true presence in each zone and has the pedigree of a true first rounder.

Kerdiles currently has 2 goals and 5 assists in 13 games with the US National team, will that be enough to convince scouts he’s worth an early first round gamble?