NHL: Get to Know Your Next Batch of Superstars
While the NHL lockout hasn’t been beneficial to most of those affected, this extended offseason has allowed many young players to compete professionally elsewhere and could help speed their development.
The No. 1 pick in recent drafts has produced some of the NHL's biggest stars. Players like Sidney Crosby have changed the game of hockey. Still, the wheel of stardom keeps turning.
Last season, it was Adam Henrique of the New Jersey Devils and Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche announcing their presence.
So, who’s next?
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis
Set to make an NHL debut next season, Vladimir Tarasenko's potential should excite Blues fans. The Russian is 20 years old and has spent the last few years in the Kontinental Hockey League.
He has amassed 91 points in the KHL since 2008-09 and should be prepared when joins the NHL.
The 16th-overall pick by the Blues in 2010, Tarasenko can be compared to a bigger version of Martin St. Louis. He is a strong skater with slick hands and strong offensive talent. Couple that with a solid work ethic and you have an exciting player.
Like St. Louis, Tarasenko is also a right winger and could soon be competing for a top-six spot in the Blues' lineup.
Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal
The Canadiens haven’t had a lot to cheer about in recent years. Alex Galchenyuk may change that.
Galchenyuk was the third-overall pick in the 2012 draft and has been playing with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League the last two seasons. Last season, he racked up 83 points in 68 games.
He is just 18 years old, but he is a solid play-making center and could soon solidify the Canadiens’ middle. He has a great hockey mind and solid offensive skill. His only limitation will be on defense, but at 18, he has time to learn.
The sooner he learns to play both ends of the ice, the sooner he will become an NHL superstar.
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
Chris Kreider is one of the only players on this list with NHL experience—though it is limited to 18 games. Even with that small sample, Kreider made quite an impression on the Rangers during the playoffs last season.
Kreider had seven points, including five goals, during their playoff run that was cut short by a surprise New Jersey Devils team.
Kreider is a big body at 6’2” and more than 200 pounds, making him an intimidating matchup for defensemen.
Big body? Check. Speed? Check. Quick shot release? Check. Powerful shot? Check.
If Kreider can build on his small taste of success, the Rangers could have the NHL's deepest group of forwards.
Brendan Smith, Detroit
Have no fear, Red Wings fans, Nicklas Lidstrom’s replacement is here.
A superstar doesn’t have to put up 100-point seasons. Sometimes it’s more about stopping other superstars and Brendan Smith could be the next great Red Wings defenseman.
Smith played in 14 games in 2011-12 and recorded seven points with a plus-3 rating—not bad for a rookie defenseman.
At 6’2”, Smith is a solid skater with a strong figure and has offensive skill to match. The Canadian defenseman can rush plays but should settle down with more NHL experience.
Teuvo Teravainen, Chicago
It seems as if the Chicago Blackhawks just seem to build outstanding centers. In the next few years, they may have another in Teuvo Teravainen.
Still just 18 years old, Teravainen is a pure skater. He’s a left-handed shot and has a solid offensive mind.
For Finland’s U-18 team in 2011-12, he scored 18 points in nine games and has been a consistent producer for Jokerit of Finland’s professional leagues.
Teravainen can also play wing, which makes him increasingly valuable on special teams. His biggest downfall is his size. At less than 170 pounds, it will be interesting to see how he handles the physicality of the NHL.
Mathew Dumba, Minnesota
Does any hockey fan not enjoy a great hit? Even the most offensive-minded fan can appreciate a clean, bone-rattling hit and Minnesota fans should get plenty of those from Mathew Dumba.
Surprisingly, this kid can do it all―and quite well. With Red Deer of the Western Hockey League, Dumba had 57 points in 69 games with 67 penalty minutes.
Known for a motor that never stops running, he will be a great addition to the Wild defense that gave up 2.65 goals per game in 2011-12. A big hit or two on opponents should provide ample protection for Zach Parise.
How about Dumba and Ryan Suter as a pair the next few years?
Nick Bjugstad, Florida
Possibly the best player in collegiate hockey, Nick Bjugstad will be a fun prospect to watch for the University of Minnesota this season. He decided to return to UM instead of heading to the NHL, a move that has paid dividends due to the lockout.
The junior has seven points in nine games to start the season. Two of his five goals have been game- winners, adding to the Minnesota native's reputation as a scorer of big goals.
At 6’5”, he is one big center and has skill and power to play to his frame. He is good on special teams and is aggressive on both ends of the ice. He should be a solid two-way player for the Panthers once he is done at Minnesota.
Dustin Tokarski, Tampa Bay
When people think of the recent years of the Tampa Bay Lightning, they seldom think of goaltending being a strength. That may change in a few years.
The Bolts brought in Anders Lindback from the Nashville Predators and have Mathieu Garon as the current No. 1. But that could all change if Dustin Tokarski continues to improve.
Tokarski is the goaltender for the Lightning's AHL team. Last season, he led the league in wins and helped the Norfolk Admirals win the Calder Cup.
He continues to improve, posting a career-best 2.23 goals-against average with 32 wins last season. In the AHL playoffs, Tokarski went 12-2 with a 1.46 GAA and three shutouts for the Admirals en route to the Calder Cup
He has less-than-stellar NHL numbers (1-3-1 record), but is known to be a consistent goaltender who rarely gets rattled. That's exactly what the Lightning need.
Jacob Markstrom, Florida
It's impossible to talk the future of goaltending without mentioning Florida Panthers' prospect Jacob Markstrom.
The 22-year-old Swede has an NHL-type frame. He's 6'6" and nearly 200 pounds. If he adds weight and keeps his quickness, that will make things even more difficult on opposing offenses.
The tall goaltender is a bit of a surprise since he favors the butterfly style, but he has found significant success using it. He's noted to be an intense competitor with a good glove.
Adjusting to the North American game will be one of Markstrom's bigger challenges. Once he is able to read the North American game, he could make his way into the NHL ranks.
Markstrom has a 2-5-1 record at the NHL level and a less-than-stellar 2.69 goals-against average. But that doesn't mean he's not the the best goaltending prospect in the league.
Eddie Lack, Vancouver
The 24-year-old Swede is 6'4" and even soaking wet weighs less than 190 pounds. With that said, he has fared well in his young career.
Lack was a backup to Florida Panthers' prospect Jacob Markstrom in Sweden for the 2009-10 season, limiting his appearances.
The year before, in Sweden's Allsvenskan, Lack played in 32 games and had the league's second-best goals-against-average (2.02), a .930 save percentage and four shutouts.
In 2010-11 with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, Lack went 28-21-4 with five shutouts. His 2.26 GAA caught the attention of the Canucks and some of the hockey world.
With Corey Schneider a fixture in Vancouver and Roberto Luongo's future in flux, the Canucks could be looking for a No. 2 tender.