The NHL is currently on the verge of canceling the Winter Classic, and there is a lot of reasons for fans to be down in the dumps. On the other hand, there are tons of reasons in the minor leagues for fans to be happy.
The AHL and CHL are currently in full swing, and tons of prospects are showcasing their talents and abilities. As the month comes to a close, here are the 50 most exciting NHL prospects currently in the minors.
* This list will exclude any player currently in Europe playing for leagues like the SEL, SM-liiga and/or the KHL.
Jacob Trouba is currently playing with the U.S. National Team Development Program, and he should be a member of the Winnipeg Jets very soon.
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.
Morgan Rielly is one of hockey's most exciting prospects, and he is off to an amazing start for the 2012-13 season. Through 16 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors, Rielly has 19 points.
Rielly is a solid defensive prospect who will benefit from playing in Juniors and 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.
Braden Holtby made his name famous during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he is still considered a prospect because of the amount of games he has played.
Holtby showed poise, composure and maturity beyond his years, and a return to the Hersey Bears will only help him develop his game.
Once the lockout ends, Holtby will take command of the starter's job in Washington.
Ty Rattie had 121 points with the Portland Winterhawks last season, and he is already off to a hot start in 2012-13.
Rattie is a rugged, physical forward who plays in the dirty areas of the ice, and he has 18 points through 12 games.
Once the lockout ends, Rattie is a player who could be a solid midseason call up because of what he brings to the table.
Emerson Etem is one of the Anaheim Ducks' top prospects and was slated to make his NHL debut this season.
After lighting it up in the WHL, Etem was finally assigned to the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL. Etem is an exciting prospect with a great shot, and he should be in the NHL in no time.
Robin Lehner is a promising young goaltender currently with the Binghamton Senators of the AHL. He is a quick goaltender who challenges shooters from all angles, and he arguably would have had a good chance at competing for the starting role in Ottawa if the NHL wasn't currently locked out.
Brandon Saad is a physical winger who has decent size at 6'1" and 208 pounds. Saad is a member of the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL for the 2012-13 season and is looking to rekindle the success he had in the CHL.
In 2011-12, Saad finished with 34 goals and 76 points in 44 games with Saginaw, and duplicating those numbers in a full season in the AHL should be a doable task for Saad.
Gustav Nyquist is a creative and dynamic forward who is back with the Grand Rapids Griffins because of the current lockout.
Nyquist 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, and he has a point-per-game average through seven AHL games this season.
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.
Tim Erixon saw limited action for the New York Rangers last season, but he will get a lot more playing time in Columbus. Erixon was a top defender for the Connecticut Whale and will now become one of the Columbus Blue Jackets' top defensive prospects.
He is currently playing for the Springfield Falcons of the AHL, where he has two points in seven games. The American-born defender has a lot of potential. He will be paired with 2012 first-round pick Ryan Murray in the future.
Ryan Murray was selected No. 2 overall in the NHL draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets, and he projects to be a solid puck-moving defenseman who can quarterback a power play.
Murray is playing for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL this season, and he has 14 points through 15 games. The future Blue Jackets defender has a ton of upside, and he should be making his NHL debut in a year or two.
Jacob Markström was slated to be the Florida Panthers' backup last season before an injury derailed his year.
However, the season is currently in a lockout, and the young netminder is back in the AHL.
Markström is a skilled goaltender who has tons of promise, and he has the potential to be one of the league's next big-name goaltenders.
Jaden Schwartz is a scoring prospect who is skating for the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL.
Schwartz is a talented forward with a lot of promise, and his pinpoint accuracy and solid wrist shot give him the opportunity to be one of the AHL's top snipers in 2012-13.
Justin Schultz is currently playing for the Oklahoma City Barons, and this AHL experience will help him polish his skills so he is ready when the NHL begins the season.
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, and his skating ability also really helps his overall game.
Charlie Coyle is a right winger with solid size and a good work ethic who is currently skating for the Houston Aeros. Through seven games, Coyle has six points and is still showing that he is one of the league's top prospects.
With the NHL locked out, Coyle gets to gain chemistry with Mikael Granlund, and that will ultimately help the Minnesota Wild in the future.
Nathan Beaulieu is a natural power-play quarterback who moves the pick with accuracy and ease, and he is seeking to showcase these skills with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Last season, the top-notch defender had 53 points in 52 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs—an output that really helped him make a name for himself.
With the Montreal Canadiens, Beaulieu has the ability to become a solid top-four defender in the future.
Joe Morrow made the move to the AHL for the 2012-13 season, and it is a move that makes sense given the current NHL lockout. Morrow is a solid puck-moving defender who had 64 points in the CHL last season.
With Morrow honing his skills in the AHL, he will have the ability to showcase his talents and make a case for becoming a midseason call up once the season eventually starts.
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. He is currently playing for the Kitchener Rangers, where he has 10 points through 14 games.
Murphy is a solid two-way defender who is also a decent puck-handler. In a few years, Murphy will have the skill to QB a very skilled Carolina Hurricanes' power-play unit.
Simon Despres is a 6'3", 215-pound defender who has a lot of offensive talent and upside.
Despres has an opportunity to be one of the AHL's top offensive-minded defenders in 2012-13, and it is also his chance to finally cement a spot in the NHL.
When you look at the star-studded names on the Pittsburgh Penguins' roster, adding another offensive defender would really put them over the top.
Kyle Palmieri is a prospect who is off to a great start with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL. Through six games, Palmieri already has six points. He should obliterate the 58 points he had with the Crunch last season.
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.
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.
He has seven assists in seven games so far with the Portland Pirates, and he continues to showcase his great passing abilities.
Rundblad handles the puck with ease and is very confident in his ability and positioning. He is a great passer who finds his teammates exceptionally well, and he should be an NHL mainstay once the lockout ends.
Mikael Granlund is currently skating for the Houston Aeros of the AHL.
Granlund is one of hockey's top prospects,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.
The Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Derrick Pouliot in the first round of the 2012 draft, and he is one of the NHL's top defensive prospects.
Pouliot is a prospect with a lot of upside and should make his impact in the NHL in a few years. Currently, Pouliot is a member of the Portland Winterhawks, where he has 10 points through 13 games.
The lockout doesn't have a major impact on Pouliot because he is at least a year or two away from making his NHL debut.
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 15 games with the Sarnia Sting, Galchenyuk has already tallied 21 points.
Galchenyuk is a top-notch talent who is proving that he is a skilled player even though Nail Yakupov is no longer on his wing.
Brendan Smith is a promising work in progress who may see his last AHL action during the NHL lockout.
Smith had 34 points for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL in 2011-2012, and he has four points through seven games in 2013-13.
Smith also has great vision and hands that complement his overall skating abilities. He is the future of the defense for the Detroit Red Wings.
Griffin Reinhart is a defender who has been described as the next Shea Weber, and he is going to be a future star for the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Through 15 games, Reinhart has five points, but he still has a lot of time to pick up the pace.
Once this sizable defender makes his debut, he will be a very exciting player to watch on what should be a very talented New York Islander team.
Brandon Gormley is a defenseman with a bright future, even though the Phoenix Coyotes' future is up in the air. Through six games with the Portland Pirates, Gormley has two points.
Standing 6'1" and weighing 185 pounds, Gormley is a mid-sized defenseman whose strengths include his shot, poise and puck play. Gormley has some more developing to do, so a 2013-14 debut should be in the cards for the young defender.
Mathew Dumba is off to a solid start of the 2012-13 season with the Red Deer Rebels. Through 16 games, Dumba has 11 points.
Dumba became the top defensive prospect for the Minnesota Wild after being selected in the first round of the 2012 draft. His high selection was mainly because of his mobility and his booming shot.
He is a few years away from hitting the NHL level—but when he does, it will really pay off for Minnesota.
Chris Kreider is a speedy forward who made the jump to the NHL from the NCAA level during the New York Rangers' playoff run.
Kreider is currently skating for the Connecticut Whale of the AHL, and he has four points through six games. The young forward stands to gain a lot of needed experience from this time spent in the minors.
The lockout is one of the best things for Kreider because he is getting conditioned for a professional league, which will allow him to show John Tortorella that he deserves top-six minutes with the Rangers.
Ryan Ellis is another prospect who is using the lockout to his advantage.
Ellis is back with the Milwaukee Admirals, a team Ellis scored 18 points with last season.
With Ellis back on the Admirals, he should be able to gain some more experience and the confidence to embrace a larger role in the NHL.
J.T. Miller was a pick that turned heads for some at the 2011 draft, but now he is starting to look like a good pick by the New York Rangers.
After posting 62 points in 61 games last season, Miller decided to join the Connecticut Whale of the AHL.
Through seven games, Miller has a goal and three assists while skating on the Whale's first and second lines.
Miller plays both the wing and center positions, so he has the ability to be a creative playmaker and a solid two-way player.
Jonas Brodin is a Minnesota Wild prospect with very good skating ability. Brodin is a defenseman who is playing with the Houston Aeros of the AHL, and he has four points through seven games this season.
His ability to skate with the puck and move it quickly is a plus, and the lockout could give Brodin a chance to accelerate his eventual NHL debut.
With Brodin playing with a ton of Wild prospects during the lockout, he will have an advantage fitting in with the team when he does finally make the varsity squad.
Cody Eakin was traded to the Dallas Stars in a deal that sent Mike Ribeiro to the Washington Capitals. Eakin is a solid center prospect with good offensive skills and solid speed.
He is currently skating with the Texas Stars, and he has four goals and three assists through seven games.
The trade initially seemed to be one-sided, but Eakin has the potential to be a solid top-six performer who could crack the lineup in 2012-13.
Zac Dalpe is a solid center with a good shot. He has bounced between the NHL and the minors twice, but many players have done that in the past.
Dalpe scored 18 goals and had 13 assists for 31 points in 56 games last season, and he has six points through seven games this season.
He is a talented player and could see some playing time in 2013-14 when you consider the new depth of the Hurricanes. This will give Dalpe another year to develop his craft, and he will become a better player for it.
Mikhail Grigorenko is back with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, and he is currently tearing it up. Through 14 games, Grigorenko has 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points.
Grigorenko is a sizable two-way center with good offensive instincts, and his hot start may be his way of making teams who allowed him to slide down the draft board very sorry.
He fell down the draft board because of the infamous "Russian factor," but he didn't bolt for the KHL like Nail Yakupov did once the lockout became official.
Nonetheless, Grigorenko is going to be a tough player to defend against once he is in the NHL.
Mark Scheifele could have suited up for the St. John's Ice Caps of the AHL, but he is back with the Barrie Colts for the 2012-13 season. Through 15 games, Scheifele has 23 points and is on pace to have a big season.
Scheifele is a playmaker with skilled and agile hands. His speed and legs are also essential to his game. Last year, he had 63 points in 47 games, so there is a good chance he will surpass this plateau in 2012-13.
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.
He may have only two points so far through nine games with the Binghamton Senators, but he is still adapting to a smaller North American ice surface.
Zibanejad will be an Ottawa Senator in a year or two, so this lockout is really allowing him to play on borrowed time.
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 21 points in 16 games with the Niagara Ice Dogs of the OHL.
Strome is an explosive forward who could make his debut very soon.
Jonathan Huberdeau was The Hockey News' pick for Rookie of the Year in its season predictions issue, and he is off to a solid start with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL.
Through 15 games, Huberdeau has 19 points, and he is proving to still be a dual-threat passer and scorer.
The Florida Panthers' top prospect has a lot of potential, and many fans are counting the days until he finally makes his NHL debut.
Boone Jenner is a talented prospect of the Columbus Blue Jackets who is off to a great start with the Oshawa Generals this year. Jenner has 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 16 games.
The Blue Jackets prospect has the potential to be a top offensive threat, and, in a few years, hopefully he can help fill the void left by the departed Rick Nash.
Tomas Jurco has some impressive puck-handling skills, and he is going to learn a lot of things from future teammate Pavel Datsyuk.
Jurco's most impressive attribute, other than his puck-handling, is his speed, which allowed him to register 68 points in 48 games last season.
This season, Jurco is with Gustav Nyquist on the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL, and he has two points through seven games.
Sven Bartschi is currently skating for the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL, where the young forward has eight points through seven games.
Bartschi is an explosive player with good hands, on-ice vision and speed, and he is arguably the future of the Calgary Flames.
The team's current face, Jarome Iginla, is in the last year of his contract, and he could choose to ask for a trade so he can realize his dream of winning a Stanley Cup.
An AHL stint for Bartschi will allow him to improve his skills and increase his chances of being successful with the Flames in 2012-13 and beyond.
Jakob Silfverberg had an impressive season for Brynas in 2011-12, when he scored 24 goals and assisted on 30 others, totaling 54 points.
Silfverberg is currently skating for the Binghamton Senators of the AHL and has two points through seven games.
The young Swede is an amazing skater with a great wrist shot. He also showed a lot of composure during the playoffs.
Vladislav Namestnikov had a solid sophomore season in the OHL, but he decided to make the jump to the AHL for the 2012-13 season.
Namestnikov was second on the London Knights with 71 points last season, but he now skates for the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL.
He has been touted as a solid two-way player with a great wrist shot. He will continue to develop in the AHL before cracking the Tampa Bay Lightning roster.
Radek Faksa is a very talented and determined player who is looking to build off his 67-point campaign from last season
Faksa has tons of offensive skill, and he will make his impact with the Dallas Stars very soon. So far, Faksa has 11 points through 14 games with the Kitchener Rangers.
Faksa will take a year to develop, but it will pay off in the long run because he has the skills required to succeed at the NHL level.
Malcolm Subban could become the starting goaltender for the Boston Bruins very soon. Tuukka Rask will adjust to life as the No. 1 man in town for the time being, but there are no guarantees on what will happen a few years from now.
Currently, Subban is 7-3-1 with a 2.17 GAA with the Belleville Bulls of the OHL.
Subban has the skills, but the Bruins will likely be patient during his development. He is a player who could hit the NHL level in 2015-16.
Jamie Oleksiak stands at an impressive 6'7" and weighs over 240 pounds. He is currently skating for the Texas Stars of the AHL, and he three points through seven games.
He is a big guy who could be compared to players like Zdeno Chara and Tyler Myers because of his sheer size.
This monster defender is going to be a force once he hits the NHL, and the AHL will be a nice challenge for him this season.
Dougie Hamilton had an amazing season with the Niagara Ice Dogs of the OHL last year, with 72 points in 50 games.
So far, Hamilton has 17 points through 16 games and the top defensive prospect should join the Boston Bruins once the NHL lockout ends.
Hamilton is a sizable two-way defender who has a booming shot and good hands.
When you factor in that Hamilton could be paired with Zdeno Chara, the Bruins power play could be very effective during the next few seasons.
Tanner Pearson was selected 30th overall by the L.A. Kings after being skipped over in both the 2010 and 2011 NHL drafts.
He had a monster 91-point season in the OHL last year, but he decided to suit up for the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL for the 2012-13 season.
Pearson currently has three points through five games, and he will likely crack the Kings' roster in 2013-14.
Brendan Gallagher, a prospect in the Montreal Canadiens system, has impressed the past few seasons. For three straight years, the talented and skilled winger has scored 40 goals or more.
Gallagher was a fifth-round draft pick, and he has really proved to be a diamond in the rough. With the Hamilton Bulldogs, Gallagher will get a chance to prove himself as one of the Canadiens' top prospects.
Mark McNeill is a very smart and creative hockey player with loads of talent and skill. He currently is skating for the Prince Albert Raiders, and he has 16 points through 15 games.
McNeil is at his most dangerous in close quarters inside the slot when he uses his body to his advantage.
His quick hands also allow him to get off a quick shot. If he can surpass his totals from last season, he will likely spend some time with the Rockford IceHogs before the AHL season ends.
Olli Maatta is a solid player who will require a year or two in the minors to continue his development before he can hit the NHL level.
Maatta is a key cog in a Penguins prospect group that is chock-full of defensemen. Currently, Maatta has 13 points through 14 games with Dale Hunter's London Knights of the OHL.
Maatta is a solid all-around defender, and he will complete a well-rounded defensive group in due time.