3 Most Exciting NHL Prospects at Every Position
The abundance of exciting young talent among the NHL's best prospects is one of the many reasons why this is a great time to be a hockey fan.
The sport is full of electrifying players who make the high ticket prices bearable and keep us on the edge of our seats with dazzling displays of individual brilliance.
Today, we are going to focus on the NHL's next group of stars. Let's look at the three most exciting prospects at each position.
Note: Only prospects with no NHL experience were considered for this ranking.
John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
Gibson is the best goaltending prospect in the world and a future NHL star. He was the best player at the 2013 World Junior Championships, where he led the United States to a gold medal as the tournament's most valuable player.
He's also had a fine career with the Kitchener Rangers. The Pittsburgh native posted a 17-9-1 record with a .928 save percentage last season. Gibson's impressive athleticism, rebound control and ability to perform at a high level in playoff and international tournament games make him a prospect to keep a close eye on in 2013-14.
Jack Campbell, Dallas Stars
Campbell was a first-round pick in the 2010 NHL draft and is the future No. 1 goaltender for the Dallas Stars. He posted a 19-13-3 record with a .905 save percentage for the AHL's Texas Stars last season and took another step in his development.
The Michigan native has all the tools needed to succeed at the NHL level. He has good reflexes, composure in net, impressive athleticism and strong fundamentals. Luckily for the Stars, Kari Lehtonen's performance over the last few years has allowed the franchise to develop Campbell at the proper pace and not rush him to the NHL before he's ready.
Malcolm Subban, Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins have an enviable amount of young talent at the goaltender position at the NHL, AHL and junior levels. Subban is the most exciting of the bunch with great athleticism, good puck-handling skills and a fantastic glove hand.
He was spectacular for the Belleville Bulls last season by leading the OHL in save percentage (.934) and GAA (2.14), while also posting a 29-11-4 record. Subban also led the playoffs with a 2.00 GAA.
Depending on who plays the backup goalie role in Boston this year, Subban could be the starter on the team's AHL affiliate in Providence for 2013-14.
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs took a bit of a gamble on Rielly when they selected him with the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft because of the knee injury that forced the Vancouver native to miss most of the 2011-12 season.
But after a strong 2012-13 season in which he tallied an impressive 54 points (12 goals, 42 assists) in 60 games for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL, any concerns about Rielly's durability are no longer an issue.
The 19-year-old is a great skater, moves the puck well, is capable of quarterbacking a power play and creates scoring chances with his playmaking skills. Toronto needs to make sure it doesn't rush him to the NHL because he is an enormous talent with the potential to be an elite offensive defenseman.
Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets made a great choice in selecting Jacob Trouba with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft. He's a great puck mover, a smooth skater, has a powerful shot from the point and has excelled at international tournaments (most recently at the 2013 World Junior Championships for Team USA).
The Minnesota native tallied 29 points (12 goals, 17 assists) in 37 games for the University of Michigan last season, while also playing stellar defense.
Not only is Trouba going to make highlight reels for his offensive success, he will also make them for the bone-crushing hits he delivers as a physical defenseman who loves to play a heavy game. He's capable of shutting down opposing teams' best forwards and projects to be a top-tier two-way defenseman at the NHL level.
Seth Jones, Nashville Predators
Jones surprisingly fell to the fourth overall pick in this year's draft after being the first or second pick in most mock drafts last season.
He's an elite offensive talent with great skating ability, a powerful shot from the point, improving playmaking skills and a high hockey IQ. He's the type of offensive defenseman that fans pay high ticket prices to watch, which is one of the best compliments that a player can receive.
Despite being only 18 years old and needing to learn how to play more physical in the defensive zone, expect Jones to make his NHL debut this fall. Pairing him with superstar defenseman and Predators captain Shea Weber would be a great learning experience for Jones.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals
Kuznetsov is one of the most talented prospets in the world, but he has decided to remain in Russia instead of joining the Washington Capitals after the team selected him with the 26th pick in the 2010 draft.
In 51 games for Chelyabinsk Traktor of the KHL last season, the 21-year-old winger tallied 44 points (19 goals, 25 assists).
As one of the most highly-skilled forwards not in the NHL, hockey fans across North America will be in for a treat when Kuznetsov finally arrives to the Capitals. His skill set includes impressive speed, fantastic goal-scoring ability, good hands and polished stick handling.
He needs to become a better defensive player to take his game to the next level, but there's no question that Kuznetsov has the potential to become one of the NHL's most exciting goal scorers in the near future.
Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning
Drouin has the ability to score 40 goals consistently in the NHL and become the best player of the 2013 draft class.
His accurate wrist shot, stick-handling ability and great skating allows him to capitalize on scoring chances anywhere in the offensive zone. He tallied an astounding 105 points in just 49 games last season alongside No. 1 overall pick Nathan MacKinnon on the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL.
Playing with an elite offensive center in Steven Stamkos should expedite Douin's development as a top-six forward. He's a perfect fit in the Lightning's high-powered offense.
Tampa Bay is going to be one of the most exciting teams to watch next year if it decides to put Drouin on the NHL roster and not send him back to junior for another season.
John Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames will be expecting a lot from Gaudreau in the next few years because he's one of the top players in a prospect pool that lacks elite talent and depth.
Gaudreau is a fun player to watch because of his quickness, playmaking skills and ability to score clutch goals in NCAA tournament games or during international competitions. He was one of the most important players on Boston College's national championship team in 2011-12, and he tallied 51 points (21 goals, 30 assists) in just 35 games for the Eagles last year.
Gaudreau plays an exciting brand of hockey that includes goal scoring, physical play and plenty of intensity on each shift. It won't take him long to be a fan favorite in Calgary.
Valeri Nichushkin, Dallas Stars
The Dallas Stars will quickly realize they made the right choice with the 10th pick in this year's draft by selecting Russian forward Valeri Nichushkin. He plays a power-forward style of hockey that combines exquisite skill, speed and physical play.
The 18-year-old is the type of player who can take over a game with his aggressiveness in the attacking zone and ability to stick handle through multiple opponents. If he plays alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn on the Stars' top line next year, they would likely be one of the highest-scoring trios in the league.
There's no question that Nichushkin has superstar potential, but the challenge for him in the NHL is to be consistent, which is something he wasn't in Russia last season for his KHL teams.
Joel Armia, Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres desperately need offense after finishing 22nd in goals scored last season, and the arrival of top prospect Joel Armia should help address several of the team's weaknesses offensively.
He's a great goal scorer with his offensive awareness, quick release, accurate wrist shot and willingness to drive hard to the net. The 20-year-old also tallied 33 points in 47 games in SM-liiga last season.
The Finnish winger uses his impressive size and strength to win puck battles in front of the net and score dirty goals. He should also excite fans with his ability to punish opponents with huge hits.
As Buffalo continues its rebuild, expect Armia to be an important part of the team's future over the next few years as a prospect with the talent required to be a franchise cornerstone type of player.
Ty Rattie, St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues' lack of a top-tier goal scorer has hurt them in recent postseason appearances when they didn't have enough offensive firepower to score on Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
One prospect capable of shouldering much of the offensive burden over the next few years is winger Ty Rattie, who tallied 110 points (48 goals, 62 assists) in 62 games for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL last year. In fact, the 20-year-old has scored an average of 44.3 goals over the last three seasons in Portland.
As a player with exceptional speed, skating, goal-scoring skills and offensive awareness, expect Rattie to make a strong impact on the Blues' success in the coming years.
Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks
As the San Jose Sharks transition into the post-Joe Thornton era, expect 2012 first-round pick Tomas Hertl to play a huge role in the team's future success.
The 19-year-old center tallied 30 points in 43 games last year playing professionally in the Czech Republic, where he polished his skills to the point where making the NHL roster this fall is a very real possibility. One reason why Hertl will excite fans and make an immediate impact in San Jose is his ability to excel in all three zones.
He's good on faceoffs, has a high hockey IQ, puts up points consistently and shows a willingness to defend and fight for loose pucks in the dirty areas. Hertl is a complete player and will make a great 1-2 punch at center with current Sharks superstar Logan Couture after Thornton retires or leaves the team.
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
MacKinnon will face high expectations in his rookie season as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, but he's playing on an Avalanche team that will surround him with lots of offensive talent.
The former Halifax Mooseheads center is an elite playmaker with the vision, passing skills and stick handling to elevate the performances of his teammates. He makes the difficult plays look easy and rarely turns the puck over because of his high level of hockey intelligence and awareness.
The most impressive part of MacKinnon's game is his consistency. He's a reliable point producer and will quickly make a positive impact in the NHL this fall.
Ryan Strome, New York Islanders
Islanders fans already cheer for one of the world's best centers in John Tavares, and they will soon have another elite playmaker to enjoy when Ryan Strome make his NHL debut this season.
The former fifth overall pick is a complete offensive player, evidenced by his 268 points (97 goals, 171 assists) in 164 games over the last three years for the Niagara IceDogs. His ability to score goals consistently and make his teammates better with superb playmaking skills are why he projects to be a 30-goal, 50-assist per season kind of center at the NHL level.
As an electrifying player with enormous talent, expect Strome to be one of the league's most exciting rookies next season and a top candidate for the Calder Trophy.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Final, as well as the 2013 NHL draft. All salary information via CapGeek.
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