1 Player Who Is the Future of Each NHL Team

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2012

1 Player Who Is the Future of Each NHL Team

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    We have an optimistic nature at Bleacher Report.

    These are dark days in the NHL with a lockout preventing players from participating in training camp and the league getting ready to cancel regular-season games.

    But we retain hope that both sides will negotiate in earnest and that the regular season will take shape. 

    Then we will get on with the business of hockey and be able to watch many seasons without interruption.

    Once that happens, we will get a chance to see the development of many young players who will become stars. Here's a look at one player from each team who will likely be the face of that franchise in the future.

    Many thanks to HockeysFuture.com for help with the overall analysis of these outstanding prospects.

Kyle Palmieri, Anaheim Ducks

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    The Ducks believe they have a potential goal-scoring stud in Kyle Palmieri. He has good but not great speed, a quick release of his shot and the ability to go to the open spaces and take advantage of his opportunities.

    Palmieri scored 33 goals in 51 games for Syracuse of the American Hockey League last season and he scored four goals and three assists in 18 games with the Ducks. Palmieri is a high-motor guy who plays with relentless energy.

Dougie Hamilton, Boston Bruins

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    This is a tough call because the Boston Bruins not only have a potential superstar in Dougie Hamilton, they have a potential MVP in Tyler Seguin.

    When the 2012-13 season gets underway, Seguin will be starting his third NHL season. He is not a finished product by any stretch and there's no reason to think he can't develop into a 40-goal scorer.

    That tells you what kind of prospect Hamiltion is for the Bruins. The team that has the best group of defensemen in the league's history—Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Eddie Shore, Zdeno Chara—may have another name to add to that group by the time all is said and done.

    Hamilton has the size, strength, skating ability and shot to dominate from the blue line and become one of the game's icons.

Mikhail Grigorenko, Buffalo Sabres

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    The Buffalo Sabres have to be thrilled at the prospect of Mikhail Grigorenko joining the parent club and making a contribution.

    The first thing you notice about Grigorenko is the size he would bring to the Sabres' group of forwards. At 6'3" and 200 pounds, Grigorenko should eventually be a horse who can make plays because of his talent and size. Right now, he doesn't use that size on the ice the way he should, but he has made strides in the North American style of play.

    Grigorenko scored 40 goals and had 45 assists for the Quebec Remparts in 2011-12. He is a smooth skater and displays excellent patience with the puck.

Sven Baertschi, Calgary Flames

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    Sven Baertschi has a chance to be an explosive scorer in the NHL.

    Baertschi is a hardworking skater who is not afraid to go into the corners and play a physical game even though he's not a big man at 5'10" and 182 pounds.

    Baertschi had 94 points in 47 games last season for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. He was his team's most consistent player and that should work well on a team that needs production like the Calgary Flames. Baertschi scored three goals in five games with the Flames last season.

Ryan Murphy, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Murphy may or may not be ready to make a contribution to Kirk Muller's Carolina Hurricanes this season, but he will certainly be a big part of the team's game plan by the 2013-14 season. Murphy has the kind of vision and passing ability that will make him an impact player from the blue line.

    Murphy also has the kind of explosive shot that will make him dangerous at the next level. While he is not a big man at 5'11" and 176 pounds, Murphy can carry the puck and has some degree of elusiveness.

Teuvo Teravainen, Chicago Blackhawks

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    The Chicago Blackhawks have a fine set of young players in their system, but it's unlikely any of them will pass captain Jonathan Toews. He is likely to be the face of the franchise for many years to come.

    However, 2012 first-round draft pick Teuvo Teravainen has the look of a future star. He has a magnificent set of skills and he should be able to score when he gets to the NHL. He is fast, elusive and explosive and has soft hands. His biggest issue is a lack of size at 5'9" 159 pounds.

Stefan Elliott, Colorado Avalanche

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    While the Colorado Avalanche have several good young prospects in their system, nobody is going to eclipse Gabriel Landeskog.

    Landeskog won the NHL's Calder Trophy with 22 goals and 30 assists during the 2011-12 season. Landeskog is likely to build off of those figures for years to come.

    However, Landeskog knows that there are other young and talented players in the pipeline. The best of those may be defenseman Stefan Elliott, who has impressive offensive talent and should be able to give the Avs significant offense from the blue line.

    If he can become a bit more physical, there will be no stopping him.

T.J. Tynan, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    While the Columbus Blue Jackets suffered a substantial loss in talent when they traded Rick Nash to the New York Rangers, it was a move that had to be made because the Blue Jackets had the worst record in the league and they needed a complete makeover.

    If the Blue Jackets are going to climb the ladder, look for center T.J. Tynan to develop into an outstanding passer and playmaker. While Tynan is tiny at 5'8" and 168 pounds, he has the talent to become a star if he can get stronger and stand up the physical abuse he will almost certainly have to absorb.

Radek Faksa, Dallas Stars

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    The Dallas Stars are clearly a team that is going for it this year with veteran players like Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney, but look for center Radek Faksa to become the face of this franchise in the future.

    Faksa has size and strength at 6'3" and 203 pounds, and he knows how to use that size to keep defensemen at bay. While he is not the flashiest player, Faksa understands the game and how to position himself. He sees the ice well and will make the proper pass to an open teammate and take the shot when the opportunity arises.

Brendan Smith, Detroit Red Wings

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    The Detroit Red Wings have a huge need on the blue line with the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, and Brendan Smith is the obvious candidate to fill his slot.

    Those are obviously huge skates to fill and we're not saying Smith is ever going to rise to Lidstrom's level, but he does have the potential to be an excellent offensive defenseman. Smith is a great skater who sees the ice well and excels as a playmaker.

    Smith will become a star but he will never reach Lidstrom's level.

Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers

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    The Edmonton Oilers have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to young talent. While the Oilers made Yakupov the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, he's got his work cut out for him to become the face of this franchise.

    Taylor Hall was probably an even bigger No. 1 selection in 2010, and he may become a better all-around player because he is somewhat bigger, but Yakupov has incredible speed, an explosive shot and overwhelming offensive skills. He may become one of the best finishers in the league and may remind hockey fans of former Russian star Pavel Bure.

Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers

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    General manager Dale Tallon knows that Huberdeau has the skills needed to become a star in the NHL.

    One thing that Tallon won't do is rush Huberdeau into the lineup so he can become an immediate savior for the franchise. The plan was to bring him to training camp this year and only bring him up to the big club if he had a dominant showing.

    The lockout took care of any strong preseason showing, so it's probably more likely that he won't get a chance to play in the NHL on a regular basis until 2013-14. He has great puck skills, soft hands, creativity and a solid work ethic. As soon as he adds more muscle, he will dominate on the ice. 

Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles Kings

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    Right wing Tyler Toffoli has the offensive skills to be a big-time scorer for the Los Angeles Kings. While he may never be as important to the team as Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar or Jonathan Quick, he eventually could become the face of the franchise.

    Toffoli has a sensational release and he should be a big-time scorer. When he was drafted in 2010, he had defensive liabilities. However, he has improved in that area and is a fairly well-rounded player.

Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild

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    The Minnesota Wild may be the most interesting and exciting franchise in the NHL. The 2012-13 season figures to be a good one with the additions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter through free agency, but future seasons should be even better for them.

    The Wild has two young stars who will almost certainly become the cornerstones of the franchise. Center Mikael Granlund is a brilliant skater who has the physical talent to become a regular All-Star. They also have 2012 first-round draft pick Matt Dumba to anchor the blue line.

    Of the two, Granlund is the one who you will notice each time he steps on the ice. He combines skating ability with excellent play-making and has an unlimited future..

Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens

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    Alex Galchenyuk should become the future face of the Montreal Canadiens. He has the stature and talent level to lift this team out of the doldrums so they can become a legitimate Stanley Cup contender in the future.

    Galchenyuk played with Nail Yakupov on the Sarnia Sting. While he is not the same kind of goal scorer as Yakupov is, he may be a superior all-around player. Galchenyuk has excellent moves with the puck, sees the ice well and is a dynamic playmaker.

Roman Josi, Nashville Predators

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    There is little doubt that the faces of the Nashville Predators are defenseman Shea Weber and goalie Pekka Rinne. They are likely to man those roles for a long time.

    However, the loss of Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild means Roman Josi will have the opportunity to step up and become a star. Josi played 52 games for the Predators last year and averaged 18:23 of ice time per game, which means that head coach Barry Trotz has tremendous confidence in him.

    Josi only had 16 points last year, but he has excellent offensive skills and always stays calm in the most pressure-filled situations. 

Stefan Matteau, New Jersey Devils

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    Stephane Matteau scored one of the most painful goals in New Jersey Devils history when he ended the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals with a wraparound for the New York Rangers in double overtime, but his son Stefan Matteau has a chance to pay dividends for the Devils.

    The younger Matteau appears far more talented than his father. He has a heavy shot and the quickness and instincts to move into the open areas where he will become a dangerous scorer. Matteau will not shy away from physical play and appears to have the characteristics needed to become the leader and the face of the franchise in the future.

Ryan Strome, New York Islanders

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    Make no mistake about it, the New York Islanders are John Tavares's team. They will likely remain his team for years to come.

    But he's about to get quite a bit of help from Ryan Strome. The 6'1", 183-pound Strome should become the Islanders' No. 2 center and that would give this long-dormant franchise quite a push forward in the years to come. Strome has an excellent release, remarkable speed and the ability to make slick passes to open teammates.

Chris Kreider, New York Rangers

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    Speedy left wing Chris Kreider had a chance to show Rangers fans his immense skill set when he came up last year and made a contribution during last year's playoff run that ended in the Eastern Conference Finals.

    Kreider is a big and powerful skater who regularly puts his impressive speed on display. He knows how to beat goaltenders with his impressive moves or his heavy shot. The Rangers have a boatload of talent and may be the favorites to win the Stanley Cup if (or when) the season starts. Look for Kreider to play a key role.

Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa Senators

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    The Senators surprised a lot of NHL observers with their showing last year as they made the playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. They pushed the Boston Bruins for the Northeast Division title and extended the No. 1 seed New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs.

    The Senators should get even better when they bring up center Mika Zibanejad on a permanent basis. Zibanejad has excellent offensive skills like skating, shooting and passing, but he also has the subtle skills to win faceoffs and make plays along the boards.

Jason Akeson, Philadelphia Flyers

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    The Flyers have a number of young prospects who should be able to make solid contributions like Scott Laughton, but they don't appear to have a lot of players with superstar potential.

    One who does is Jason Akeson, who is a boom-or-bust pick for becoming the face of the franchise. Akeson has certain defensive liabilities that he is going to have to improve in the very near future if he is going to make it up to the big club. However, he has the speed, vision, passing ability and scoring skills to become a dominant player.

    Akeson also plays a tough, physical style (see video above) that Flyers fans will appreciate.

Brandon Gormley, Phoenix Coyotes

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    There are a lot of questions about the future of the Phoenix Coyotes franchise, such as where they will be playing when the 2013-14 season begins. It seems quite likely that they will remain in Phoenix if the ownership situation gets finalized, but nothing is guaranteed.

    However, the Coyotes have some outstanding young defensive talent in the system, and Gormley is probably the best of the bunch. He is a mature and disciplined player who is responsible on the defensive end. He also has the kind of offensive skills that can upgrade the power play, and his alert play and awareness on the ice allows him to transition from defense to offense quickly.

    There is very little doubt that Gormley will become a future star.

Derrick Pouliot, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Talented defenseman Derrick Pouliot is not going to supplant Sidney Crosby as the face of the Pittsburgh Penguins as long as Crosby is healthy enough to play. Crosby will probably go down as the Penguins' second-best player ever behind Mario Lemieux.

    But Pouliot has a chance to become a star in Pittsburgh. He is an excellent skater who can go from defense to offense quickly and do it by making excellent passes to his teammates. He has superb hands and knows how to finish when he gets the chance.

Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks

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    The veteran San Jose Sharks could use a dose of new talent to keep their team fresh and they should get just that from Tomas Hertl.

    The young Czech looks like a future star because he has all the skills needed to become a go-to player. Hertl can play defense, win faceoffs and make the passes that will set up teammates and get fans out of their seats.

    Hertl also plays a physical style and that puts him a step or two ahead of many European prospects.

Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues

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    Jaden Schwartz has a chance to develop into one of the outstanding offensive stars in the league in the next decade.

    He made it up to the big club last year and scored two goals and an assist for the St. Louis Blues in seven games. When Schwartz is operating at full speed, you will see him go behind the net, retrieve the puck and make scintillating passes to his teammates.

    At this point, he's more of an assist man than a scorer, but he could develop in that area as well.

Slater Koekkoek, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning will be associated with one player over the foreseeable future. That's high-scoring center Steven Stamkos, who is coming off a 60-goal season.

    If anyone has a chance to supplant a healthy Sidney Crosby as the face of the NHL, it's probably Stamkos. Nobody's about to pass him with the Lightning.

    However, No. 1 draft pick Slater Koekkoek has a chance to be the perfect complementary player to Stamkos. Koekkoek has patience on the blue line, sees the ice well and will make the effortless pass or shot that defines a star.

Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    A year ago, we would have been writing about Nazem Kadri as the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it appears that the organization has not helped this potential star develop his ability (source: TSN.ca).

    Perhaps they won't screw it up with defenseman Morgan Rielly, who was taken with the first pick of the 2012 draft. Rielly is already a very solid-looking offensive player. He can carry the puck, make a stellar pass and shoot with power and accuracy.

    While he is coming off a knee injury and needs some work on his defensive game, he is a future star with unlimited potential.

Zack Kassian, Vancouver Canucks

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    Zack Kassian is the kind of tough and gritty offensive prospect that the Vancouver Canucks can use if they are ever going to reach the championship level that they have aspired to for so long.

    Kassian is a solid power-forward prospect whom they acquired last season in a trade with Buffalo for Cody Hodgson. Kassian can play it tough, but he also has the hands to become a consistent scorer on in-close opportunities.

    Once he gets close to the net, it will be quite difficult for opposing forwards and defensemen to knock him out of the prime scoring areas.

Filip Forsberg, Washington Capitals

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    The Capitals were thrilled that they were able to select Filip Forsberg with the 11th pick in the June draft. They thought a player of Forsberg's skill level would have been gone long before that spot.

    Forsberg may be a year or more away from being able to contribute consistently at the NHL level, but he is a creative player with soft hands. He knows how to protect the puck, get in the prime scoring areas and then fire the puck with excellent timing into the upper corners of the net.

    He still needs a bit of work on the defensive aspects of the game.

Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets

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    Jacob Trouba is the kind of defenseman that will be able to give his team a major upgrade in the foreseeable future.

    The Winnipeg Jets organization and fans should get a lift from his tough and physical style. He is not shy about overpowering opponents and sending them to the ice. He is also a skilled defenseman who can block shots and get in the passing lanes to break up plays.

    While he hasn't always demonstrated it, he also has the offensive skills that will make him a valued performer on the power play.