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NHL Prospects: B/R's Official Updated Top 50 Prospects

Tom Urtz Jr.Contributor IOctober 15, 2012

NHL Prospects: B/R's Official Updated Top 50 Prospects

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    During the lockout, fans are deprived of NHL action, but at least the AHL, CHL, NCAA and European leagues are still up and running. Instead of feeling down about the lockout, get your hockey fix by keeping up with the sport's most exciting prospects.

    With the season underway, here is B/R's official top 50 prospects. Keep this page bookmarked, because throughout the season, Bleacher Report will provide updated rankings.

50. Derrick Pouliot

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Derrick Pouliot in the first round of the 2012 draft, and he is one of their top defensive prospects. Pouliot is a prospect with a lot of upside and should make his impact in the NHL in a few years.

    Another fun fact about Pouliot is that the Penguins drafted his former defensive partner, Joe Morrow, at last year's draft. That duo that could be united once both make the jump to the NHL level.

49. Ty Rattie

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    Ty Rattie is a rugged, physical forward who plays in the dirty areas of the ice. He has a solid on-ice presence and has the potential to be a physical, scoring forward at the NHL level.

    His tenacity and passion for hockey makes Rattie an exciting prospect.

    Rattie will likely make his debut at some point during the 2012-13 season.

48. Tyler Toffoli

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    Tyler Toffoli was a second-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings in 2010. Given the current makeup of the team, he will have to wait to make his debut.

    He is an offensive-minded player who has posted multiple 100-point seasons for the Ottawa 67's. This year should allow Toffoli to illustrate why he is NHL ready.

47. Tomas Hertl

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    Tomas Hertl is a talented, playmaking forward who will fit well in with the San Jose Sharks.

    He is from the Czech Republic, though, and will have to convert to playing a North American style of hockey before he can have a major impact with the Sharks.

    Hertl is a creative forward with a lot of talent and upside. He should be ready to make his debut once the Sharks decide to integrate younger players.

46. Jacob Trouba

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    Jacob Trouba was one of the top defenders in the 2012 NHL Draft, and the Winnipeg Jets were wise to select him when they did.

    Winnipeg's biggest need going forward was a big-name defenseman, and Trouba will fit the bill.

    He will take some time to develop, but when all is said and done, it will really pay off for the Jets and their blue line.

    Trouba will become a solid cornerstone piece for the Jets' blue line. He will fit in well with players like Zach Bogosian,Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien.

45. Teuvo Teravainen

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    Teuvo Teravainen was a huge steal for the Chicago Blackhawks at the NHL Draft this past June. He is a player with a lot of tools in his arsenal.

    Teravainen has the speed, skills and shot to make an impact with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013-14, and he could step into a top-six role. He is a player who could really benefit from sharing ice time with elite players like Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp.

    This young forward is going to be a star in the league once he makes the jump to North America.

44. Andrei Vasilevski

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    Andrei Vasilevski was drafted in the first round by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2012 NHL Draft and is one of hockey's top goaltending prospects.

    The young Russian netminder has international experience, and his performance at the 2012 World Juniors Championship was amazing. He kept his team in the game all tournament long and led Russia to a silver medal.

    Vasilevski has solid size, which allows him to take up a good chunk of the net. Tampa Bay's biggest need going forward is a dominant netminder, and he has the ability to fill that void.

    As Vasilevski grows and develops as a goaltender, the Lightning will flourish into a solid team as well. Expect him to join Tampa Bay between 2014-15 and 2015-16.

43. Joel Armia

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    Joel Armia is a soft-handed sniper with a big skill set, great legs and impressive wheels. He is yet to make jump to North America, however, and has slid in many different prospect rankings.

    Armia may be a late bloomer, but he still has a lot of talent.

    The Buffalo winger is a great two-way player with good vision and a laser-quick wrist shot. He loves to dig it out below the hash marks in the trenches and has shown that  he can play with skill in both ends.

    Armia really should be a member of the Sabres by the 2013-14 or 2014-15 season.

42. Robin Lehner

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    Robin Lehner is a promising young goaltender with solid size who will likely become Ottawa's starter in a few years.

    Lehner's biggest strength is his ability to move quickly from post to post and use his frame to challenge shooters from all angles. 

    Lehner is a top goaltending prospect, but he took a big slide in the power rankings after the influx of prospects from the 2012 NHL Draft.

41. Jakob Silfverberg

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    Jakob Silfverberg had an impressive season for Brynas of the Swedish Elite League in 2011-12.

    The speedy Swede notched 24 goals and assisted on 30 others, totaling 54 points before he joined the Ottawa Senators in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    The young Swede is an amazing skater with a great wrist shot. He also showed a lot of composure during the playoffs. Expect Silfverberg to impress once he joins the Senators for the 2012-13 season.

40. Brandon Saad

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    Brandon Saad is a physical winger who has decent size, at 6'1" and 208 pounds. Saad was a member of the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL before he joined the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL for the 2012-13 season.

    In 2011-12, Saad finished with 34 goals and 76 points in 44 games with Saginaw.

    Saad may be known for his physical play and speed, but he also has the potential to become a decent secondary scorer, which makes him a really solid prospect for the Chicago Blackhawks.

39. Ryan Murphy

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    Ryan Murphy is the Carolina Hurricanes' top defensive prospect and is a player who likely would have been given a shot to make the team out of training camp.

    Murphy has a lot of tools that will make him a great two-way defenseman, including his pinpoint accuracy and puck-handling skills. Murphy should be able to join the Canes at some point during the season and could become a solid power-play quarterback for Carolina.

38. Gustav Nyquist

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    Gustav Nyquist is a creative and dynamic forward who resembles Henrik Zetterberg in many ways. The Red Wings prospect recorded 57 points in 55 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL before he joined the Detroit Red Wings for a small stint in 2011-12.

    Nyquist added seven points in 18 games with the Red Wings and is now back in Grand Rapids because of the NHL's lockout

    Nyquist is an offensive-minded player who can put up points and also play defensively sound hockey. He is a player with a big future in Detroit.

37. Simon Despres

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    Simon Despres has bounced back and forth between the AHL and NHL, so this lockout should allow him to polish his skills. 

    Despres has showed signs of brilliance in both leagues, but consistency is something he needs to develop in order to become an NHL mainstay.

    He is continually growing into his 6'3", 215-pound frame, but he lacks grit to his game. A defender of his size should be a little more physical in order to control his own zone.

    Despres has an opportunity to be one of the AHL's top offensive-minded defenders in 2012-13. This could be a huge turning point for his young career.

    If Despres can make his offense visible at the NHL level, he should have no problem completing a power-play unit already featuring Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang.

36. Kyle Palmieri

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    Kyle Palmieri is a prospect who could have a great 2012-13 season in the AHL, which will ultimately help him become a better player in the NHL.

    The Anaheim Ducks have a bevy of prospects who could step in after the lockout to provide the team with much needed secondary scoring.

    Last season, Palmieri proved himself by scoring 33 goals and assisting on 25 others for 58 points in 51 games with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL.

    Palmieri would have likely made the Ducks' roster out of training camp ,so this AHL stint will help him develop. He won't lose any potential NHL playing time because of the lockout.

35. Jon Merril

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    Jon Merrill is a two-way defender who is going to spend another year in the NCAA. He can crack the New Jersey Devils' roster during the 2013-14 season at the earliest.

    He has the size to flatten opponents that infringe on Martin Brodeur's crease space and will benefit from spending another year at Michigan.

    The only negative for Merill is that he will miss the next six weeks with a back injury. Despite the injury, Merrill is the Devils' top prospect and is the future of the New Jersey blue line.

34. David Runblad

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    David Rundblad is an offensive-minded defenseman who has great on-ice vision and  likes to move the puck into the offensive zone with smooth stick work and finesse.

    The biggest critique of Rundblad to this point has been his inability to carry over his offensive game from the SEL to the NHL.

    Rundblad handles the puck with ease and is very confident in his ability and positioning. He is a great passer who finds his teammates with ease and also loves to throw his body around.

    If Rundblad can fins his offense, he will be a major player on the Coyotes' blue line.

33. Tim Erixon

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    Tim Erixon saw limited action for the New York Rangers last season. He was traded this offseason in a deal that sent Rick Nash to Broadway. Erixon was a top defender for the Connecticut Whale, and will now become one of the Columbus Blue Jackets' top defensive prospects.

    The American born defender has a lot of potential. He will be paired with 2012 first-round pick Ryan Murray in the future.

32. Nick Bjugstad

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    Nick Bjugstad is a top center prospect for the Florida Panthers who opted to return to the NCAA this season.

    In hindsight, it was a great decision—because of the NHL lockout. This should be a formative final year as a member of the Minnesota Gophers for Bjustad. He should be able to make the jump to the NHL in April if the Panthers once again make the playoffs.

    Bjugstad is a two-way forward who is smart in his own end but can also chip in secondary offense. 

31. Ryan Ellis

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    Ryan Ellis is one of the NHL's top defensive prospects, and is another player who can use the lockout to his advantage.

    After the departure of Ryan Suter, the Predators lost defensive depth, and kids like Ellis were going to be looked upon to step up.

    Ellis had 18 points with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL last season and 11 points with the Predators once he was called up.

    With Ellis headed back to the Admirals, he should be able to gain some more experience and the confidence to embrace a larger role in the NHL.

    Ryan Ellis is a player you should definitely keep an eye on during the lockout.

30. Oscar Klefbom

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    Oscar Klefbom is a defenseman with a good offensive game. He is a top defensive prospect for an Edmonton Oilers team that will look to integrate talent and youth on their blue line in the years to come.

    If Klefbom can take the next step once he hits the AHL level, he can be a dual threat and a future power-play quarterback who would be comfortable from unleashing his shot from anywhere.

29. Jonas Brodin

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    Jonas Brodin is a Minnesota Wild prospect with very good skating ability. Brodin is a defensive-minded defenseman who could stand to improve on the offensive end.

    His ability to skate with the puck and move it quickly is a plus, but he is a few years away from joining the Wild.

    Brodin has the ability to be a top prospect for Minnesota, but he needs to continue to develop his all-around game.

28. Nathan Beaulieu

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    Nathan Beaulieu is a natural power-play quarterback who moves the pick with accuracy and ease. His speed helps to complement his great skating abilities.

    He is the type of defenseman the Montreal Canadiens need, and should make the team in a few years.

    Beaulieu will only get better with age and experience, but he has proved up to this point that he deserved to be a top draft pick.

    Montreal already has physical defenders like Josh Gorges and young talents like P.K. Subban, but Beaulieu will truly be something special for les Canadiens de Montréal.

27. Joe Morrow

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    Joe Morrow is a solid puck-moving defender. He had 64 points last season, 47 of which were assists.

    Morrow's strengths are his passing and skating abilities, which make him a dual threat on both sides of the ice.

    With tons of young NHL talent flocking to the AHL as a result of the lockout, the Pittsburgh Penguins organization was wise to have Morrow play for the WB-Scranton Penguins.

    This year will be an important year for Morrow. Don't be surprised if he is a midseason call-up. 

26. Filip Forsberg

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    The irony of this Washington Capitals first-round pick from 2012 is pretty uncanny.

    Had the Colorado Avalanche not dealt this pick in a trade for RFA Semyon Varlamov, they would have had the chance to add another dynamic player with the surname of Forsberg.

    While Filip may not be Peter, the younger Forsberg is a solid two-way winger who was drafted later than expected this year.

    Forsberg will be a solid pick for the Washington Capitals because of his versatility. He plays both wings, has a good-sized frame and has impressive speed and hands. 

25. Mikhail Grigorenko

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    Mikhail Grigorenko likely would have made the Buffalo Sabres' lineup out of training camp, but during the lockout he will skate for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. Grigorenko is a sizable two-way center with good offensive instincts.

    He was a prospect who really fell down the draft board because of the infamous "Russian factor." However, it appears that Buffalo found a real diamond in the rough—Grigorenko has a lot of talent.

24. Braden Holtby

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    Braden Holtby went on an impressive run with the Washington Capitals during the 2011-12 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was an enigma who appeared to be unbeatable at times, and that gave the Capitals a huge advantage.

    He showed poise, composure and maturity beyond his years. His play really shook up the goalie dynamic in Washington, and there is no reason why he shouldn't be the team's starter in 2012-13.

    During the lockout, Holtby has returned to the Hershey Bears. He is expected to continue his success as he develops into one of the NHL's top young goaltenders.

23. Charlie Coyle

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    Charlie Coyle is a right winger with solid size and a good work ethic. Starting the season with the Houston Aeros of the AHL is going to really help his development.

    Coyle split his 2011-12 season in the NCAA and the QMJHL. He was a major contributor for the Saint John Sea Dogs in 2011-12, especially during the playoffs.

    Coyle's 38 points in 23 regular season games and 34 points during 17 playoff games were clutch for the Sea Dogs.

    With the NHL locked out, Coyle will adjust to more structured hockey in the AHL. Another benefit for Coyle will be that he gets to gain chemistry with Mikael Granlund.

    This duo has the potential to be successful in the future for the Wild, so keep an eye on the Aeros this season.

22. Justin Schultz

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    Justin Schultz is a defenseman who appears to have the complete package. He was an excellent offensive defenseman in college, and the Edmonton Oilers hope that translates to the NHL.

    He is a developed defender who is secure in his own zone. His skating ability also really helps his overall game.

    With the NHL locked out, Schultz will skate for the Oklahoma City Barons. This AHL experience will help him polish his skills so he is ready when the NHL begins the season.

21. Emerson Etem

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    Emerson Etem is one of the Anaheim Ducks' top prospects and was slated to make his NHL debut this season.

    He has lit it up at the WHL level the past three seasons, including an outstanding 107-point campaign in 2011-12.

    The AHL is closer to the NHL in structure and strategy than the WHL, so Etem will face tougher competition so he can adjust to the NHL with ease.

20. Jacob Markström

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    Jacob Markström was slated to be the Florida Panthers' backup last season before an injury derailed his year. After the Florida Panthers retained Scott Clemmensen, it appeared that Markström was going to earn some more AHL duty.

    However, a strong AHL showing during the lockout could prove to the Panthers' brass that Markström belongs in the NHL.

    Markström is a skilled goaltender with great mental prowess. It is hard not to make initial comparisons to a young Henrik Lundqvist, but Markström will ultimately make a name for himself.

19. Mathew Dumba

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    Mathew Dumba became the top defensive prospect for the Minnesota Wild after being drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft.

    Dumba has a booming shot and is a mobile defenseman who will really fit in with the current core of defenders that the Wild have on board.

    He is a few years away from hitting the NHL level, but when he does, it will really pay off for Minnesota.

18. Mark Scheifele

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    Mark Scheifele is quickly becoming a player who fans can't wait to see full time. He is a prospect who has been touted for quite some time, but he took a dip in the rankings after a poor showing in the AHL at the end of last season.

    Initially, the Winnipeg Jets sent Scheifele back to Juniors instead of keeping him for an entire NHL season. 

    Scheifele is a playmaker with skilled and agile hands. His speed and legs are also essential to his game. He is a smart, two-way forward who has the makings of a dominant power forward in the NHL.

    The return to Juniors saw Scheifele score 63 points in only 47 games. If Scheifele can impress with the St. John's Ice Caps, he may rise up in the prospect rankings later in the season.

17. Morgan Rielly

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    Morgan Rielly's stock has risen a lot over the past few months, and he is going to be the next big thing on the Toronto Maple Leafs' blue line.

    Rielly is a solid defensive prospect who will benefit from playing in Juniors, but he should be in the NHL in no time. His size will allow him to be a tough defender who dishes out punishing hits left and right.

    If Rielly can add some more offense to his game, he will really become the complete package for Toronto. He has produced in the WHL, but will it translate to the NHL level?

    Rielly has the tools to be a dominant all-around defender, and this will be an interesting year for the Leafs' 2012 first-round pick.

16. Griffin Reinhart

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    Griffin Reinhart has been described as the next Shea Weber, partially because the defender models his game after Weber.

    Reinhart is a very talented prospect who could eventually help the Islanders make the playoffs.

    When you consider that Ryan Strome and other top Isles' prospects will be making their debut soon, things should start to look up for the Islanders.

    Once this bulky defender makes his debut, he will be a very exciting player to watch.

15. Ryan Murray

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    Ryan Murray was selected No. 2 overall in the NHL draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets. He is a polished offensive defenseman with great all-around skills.

    He projects to be a solid puck-moving defenseman who can quarterback a power play. He will play for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL this season.

    His ceiling is so high that Scott Howson felt that he was worth drafting instead of taking all the New York Islanders' 2012 draft picks.

    No matter how you look at it, Murray is an exciting prospect who will make an impact soon.

14. Brandon Gormley

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    Brandon Gormley is a defenseman with a bright future, even though the Phoenix Coyotes' future is up in the air.

    Standing 6'1" and weighing 185 pounds, Gormley is a mid-size defenseman whose strengths include his shot, poise and puck play. Gormley is an offensive-minded defenseman who is also very sound in his own zone.

    In 2012-13, Gormley has a good chance to make the Coyotes' roster once his season in the CHL is complete.

13. Mika Zibanejad

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    Mika Zibanejad is a talented center who has the potential to become an above-average power forward because of his soft hands and great scoring touch.

    Zibanejad's biggest strength is that he is a great skater with good on-ice vision. During the lockout, the Sens' prospect will skate with the Binghamton Senators.

    The AHL will allow Zibanejad to acclimate to the ice-surface space and style of North America, and he should have a good impact in 2012-13.

12. Brendan Smith

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    Brendan Smith, a 6'2" defenseman, is a promising work in progress who may see his last AHL action during the NHL lockout.

    He is one of the NHL's top defensive prospects. The lockout has temporarily deprived Detroit Red Wings' fans from seeing this youngster make his full-time debut.

    Smith had 34 points for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL in 2011-2012 and showed signs of improvement that earned him an NHL call-up.

    Smith also has great vision and hands that complement his overall skating abilities. He joined the Wings for a brief stretch last year. After the lockout, he should be ready to play in the NHL for a long time.

11. Alex Galchenyuk

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    Alex Galchenyuk is a Montreal Canadiens prospect who has tons of potential. A knee injury limited his regular-season action, but he is a solid goal scorer with speed and offensive skill.

    In eight games with the Sarnia Sting, Galchenyuk has already tallied 10 points.

    He's going to be a piece that the Canadiens will continue to build around, and the franchise is in for some better days when he hits the NHL level. 

    Galchenyuk is dying to prove that he is a healthy player. Expect him to shine in Sarnia sans Nail Yakupov this season.

10. Ryan Strome

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    Ryan Strome is an extremely talented top player and New York Islander fans can't wait until he makes his debut. In 46 games last season, Strome had 68 points. This year, he already has 13 points in 10 games with the Niagara Ice Dogs of the OHL.

    Strome is an über-talented offensive forward with lightning speed and soft hands. He easily could be the OHL's top player this season.  

    Strome will make an impact on the New York Islanders very soon. He will be a star on Long Island along with John Tavares.

9. Sven Bartschi

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    Sven Bartschi is an explosive player with good hands, on-ice vision and speed. Standing at 5'11" and 185 pounds, Bartschi should be able to use his speed to create offense against players closer to his skill level.

    Bartschi is going to eventually become the Calgary Flames' top player by virtue of also being one of their youngest players. Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla are getting older and are no longer as dominant as they once were.

    An AHL stint during the lockout should help Bartschi improve his skills and increase his chances of being successful with the Flames in 2012-13 and beyond.

8. Chris Kreider

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    Chris Kreider is a speedy forward who made the jump to the NHL from the NCAA level during the New York Rangers' playoff run. He scored five goals and seven points overall in the postseason.

    Kreider is currently skating for the Connecticut Whale of the AHL. He will gain a lot of needed experience from this time spent in the minors.

    At 6'3" and 230 pounds, Kreider is built like a typical power forward. The rookie forward could be paired with Rick Nash or Marian Gaborik on the right wing and Brad Richards or Derek Stepan at center.

    Kreider's skill set, maturity and experience in the NHL playoffs make him one of the NHL's top prospects.

7. Evgeny Kuznetsov

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    Evgeny Kuznetsov is one of hockey's top prospects not currently in the NHL, and his unwillingness to come to the NHL is surprising given his immense talent.

    Skills-wise, Kuznetsov is a speedy skater who will be working alongside Ovechkin and company in a few years. He has proven himself internationally and in the KHL against players much older than him.

    He was even paired with players like Pavel Datsyuk and Evgeni Malkin at the World Championship. It was evident that this kid would be a star—he has the tools to play with almost any linemate.

    The only question surrounding Kuznetsov is when he will make it to the NHL. He is currently content in the KHL with his young wife in his home country.

6. Jaden Schwartz

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    Jaden Schwartz is a scoring prospect who will be skating for the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL while the NHL is locked out. Schwartz is a talented forward who likes to skate the puck into the zone before targeting an open man to pass to.

    He has a lot of talent, and pinpoint accuracy on a solid shot that he will continue to develop once he is with the St. Louis Blues in the NHL.

    Look for Schwartz to be on of the AHL's top scorers in 2012-13.

5. Mikael Granlund

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    Mikael Granlund is another top center prospect who has a big upside. He will suit up for the Houston Aeros in 2012-13.

    Before the 2012 Draft, Granlund was one of hockey's top prospects, but other players have already proven themselves on North American ice.

    Granlund has worked hard, and he has illustrated that he has the tools to be one of the NHL's next top playmakers. He has the speed, skill and finesse to be successful, so expect him to tear it up in the AHL during the 2012-13 season.

4. Dougie Hamilton

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    Dougie Hamilton is a sizable two-way defender who has a booming shot and good hands. 

    Adding him to the Boston Bruins makes them an impressive defensive team. He joins a team already stacked with players like Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.

    Hamilton is a 6'6", 193-pound, physical defender whose hands make him able enough to run a power play.

    This should be Hamilton's last season in Juniors, as he is dying to make an impact at the NHL level.

3. Jonathan Huberdeau

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    Jonathan Huberdeau was The Hockey News' pick for Rookie of the Year in their most recent magazine release, and it is hard to disagree with them.

    The Florida Panthers' top prospect has a lot of potential, and many fans are counting the days until he finally makes his NHL debut.

    Huberdeau has a lot of the tools required to be a top center in the NHL, and he also can line up on the wing if necessary.

    This top prospect is gifted with a great skill set which is complemented by his agile hands and excellent size.

    When Huberdeau is at the top of his game, he uses his frame to drive to the net. When he isn't crashing the next, Huberdeau uses his speed to skate into open ice before he picks a corner to snipe a shot past the goaltender.

2. Nail Yakupov

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    Nail Yakupov is a player with tremendous overall skill. He has the potential to be the next big thing in hockey. He was an undisputed top pick for the 2012 draft, and his amazing tool set should allow him to take the league by storm.

    With the Sarnia Sting, Yakupov put up some impressive numbers. He displayed a well-rounded skill set that included speed and a goal scorer's touch.

    With the Edmonton Oilers, he will be surrounded with like-minded players and will be given every opportunity to succeed.

    During the lockout, Yakupov is skating for Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik of the KHL, and he currently has a point-per-game average through six games.

1. Vladimir Tarasenko

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    Vladimir Tarasenko is a top prospect who could have played in the AHL this season but opted to return to the KHL.

    Tarasenko is a natural goal scorer with a great shot that is complemented by his quick hands. What is impressive about Tarasenko is that he has proven himself against older players during his time in the KHL.

    Tarasenko will thrive when he has his opportunity with the St. Louis Blues after the lockout ends, and the Blues will love his competitive attitude. 

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