NHL Prospects Who Will be Generating the Most Buzz Next Spring
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There are many prospects who will be generating a lot of buzz next spring as players having fantastic rookie seasons in the NHL or getting ready for the 2013 NHL entry draft.
The amount of impressive young talent at the junior, minor league and NHL levels right now is astounding, and with a strong 2013 draft class, this isn't going to change anytime soon.
Let's look at eight prospects who will be making headlines in the spring.
Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL
Nathan MacKinnon is the top North American forward in his class and will likely be the No. 1 pick at the 2013 draft.
He has all the talent that teams look for in a No. 1 center, and whichever teams holds the first overall selection could receive several young players and/or picks if they choose to trade down instead of taking MacKinnon.
MacKinnon's patience with the puck and his offensive awareness have allowed him to shine as a playmaker with the Halifax Mooseheads. There are few players in his class who can skate as well as him, and his passion for the game is quite amazing.
There's no question that MacKinnon is a special talent and will be an exciting player to watch this season in the QMJHL.
If there was ever a year for a team to "tank" toward the end of the season in an attempt to improve its chances of winning the draft lottery, it's this year. MacKinnon is the real deal and a future NHL star.
Current Stats: 17 points (11 goals, six assists) in 10 games
Seth Jones, Portland Winterhawks, WHL
Seth Jones is the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones and will likely be the highest rated defenseman when the final draft rankings are released next spring by Central Scouting.
Jones projects to be an offensive machine in the NHL thanks to his impressive scoring ability and superior athleticism. His top speed is incredible, and his shot is powerful and accurate.
He's 6'4" and already over 200 pounds, so he definitely has an NHL body. This will help him adjust to the NHL game quicker than other defensemen who don't have enough size to be effective physically at the next level.
Jones is almost guaranteed to be a top-four pick next spring unless his game surprisingly worsens between now and April.
Current Stats: Six points (two goals, four assists) in 10 games
Sean Monahan, Ottawa 67s, OHL
As a potential No. 1 center at the NHL level, Monahan will be a coveted player at the 2013 draft. He can excel defensively and still put up impressive offensive numbers, which might cause teams to consider trading up for this all-around forward.
Even though Monahan is a solid playmaker, goal scoring is probably the best part of his game. He is a complete player who is effective at both ends and doesn't have many weaknesses.
A superb season for Monahan could drastically improve his draft stock in the eyes of scouts around North America and give him an opportunity to be one of the first forwards taken in next year's draft.
Current Stats: 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in nine games
Hunter Shinkaruk, Medicine Hat Tigers, WHL
Hunter Shinkaruk could challenge MacKinnon as the top North American skater in the 2013 class, and his season is off to a good start with over a point-per-game average.
Shinkaruk has great hands, an impressive wrist shot and uses his fantastic speed to create scoring chances. He's an amazing offensive talent, and projects to be a top-line player for many years in the NHL.
From watching highlights of him, he definitely plays a little like Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft.
Current Stats: 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 11 games
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers, NHL
Kreider's successful career at Boston College was quickly followed by an impressive performance in the 2012 NHL playoffs with the New York Rangers, but at the end of his team's postseason run, it was clear that the young winger was starting to run out of gas.
The Rangers will find ways for Kreider to showcase his offensive talents and further develop his skills at both ends of the ice.
Kreider will have to play well in his own zone and make a strong effort to continue improving defensively to earn the most ice time possible, but there's little reason to believe he won't be able to do this.
He will once again be an important player for the Rangers in the playoffs because he will add some needed depth to head John Tortorella's lineup, especially if a star such as Rick Nash or Marian Gaborik enters the postseason with some kind of injury.
Kreider might not be among the leaders in rookie scoring next season, but he will play well enough in other areas of the game to make himself a Calder Trophy finalist.
Dougie Hamilton, Boston Bruins, NHL
The Boston Bruins would have preferred top defensive prospect Dougie Hamilton to make NHL this month, but the team should be encouraged by his performance in junior hockey thus season.
Through 11 games, Hamilton has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) and is continuing to show why he will be an offensive force in the NHL for quite some time.
Boston will need Hamilton's offense during the playoffs because head coach Claude Julien didn't get the scoring that he needed from his blue line versus the Washington Capitals during last year's first round series.
Hamilton has a chance to make the biggest impact of any rookie on a championship caliber team in 2012-13 because of the offensive skill set that he will bring to the Bruins.
Vladamir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues, NHL
Tarasenko has the potential to be the missing piece in the St. Louis Blues' championship puzzle.
Even though the Blues are fortunate to have a roster with loads of defensive talent, they don't have a player who can consistently put the puck in the back of the net.
Tarasenko can be this type of player, and he's already shown in the KHL during the lockout (video above) that his ability to score goals is quite impressive. Only David Backes (24) and David Perron (21) scored 20 or more goals for the Blues last year.
The Russian forward will make St. Louis a tougher team to beat because of his offensive talents, and could lead all rookies in goals during the 2012-13 season.
Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets, NHL
Mark Scheifele is one of the top forward prospects in hockey and has the ability to be an elite playmaker at the NHL level.
He didn't make the NHL roster last season, but should definitely get another opportunity to prove himself this season once the lockout ends.
Scheifele's passing ability and offensive awareness are spectacular, and he also has the potential to be a quality goal scorer for a long time. He is a complete offensive player who could be the Winnipeg Jets' No. 1 center in the near future.
Scheifele is currently in the OHL with the Barrie Colts and has four goals and nine assists in 10 games this season.
The Jets only had three players score 20 or more goals last season and just two who racked up 30 or more assists, so Scheifele's offensive talents will certainly be a welcomed addition to the team in 2012-13.
After being a top 10 pick in the 2011 draft, Scheifele has had to deal with high expectations and the pressure to become a franchise player. Jets fans need to be patient with him, but Scheifele should have a strong impact in Winnipeg next season for a team that has a good chance to earn a playoff spot.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.
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