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Predicting the Next Star for Every NHL Team

Franklin SteeleAnalyst IIAugust 19, 2013

Predicting the Next Star for Every NHL Team

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    Depth wins Stanley Cups in the NHL, but few teams can go the distance without a little bit of star power. Where would the Pittsburgh Penguins be without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin? Or the Washington Capitals without Alexander Ovechkin?

    Do the Chicago Blackhawks return to relevancy without the emergence of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane? Probably not.

    Drafting and keeping your own top players is more important than ever in today's NHL. The days of being able to add a top-end player every other summer via free agency are gone, and building from within is clearly the best way to build a championship team.

    Considering that, which young player in each system has the best chance to emerge as a star at the NHL level?

    For the purposes of this slideshow, a star is a player who could eventually make the All-Star team, win personal NHL trophies and play important minutes for his team.

    All stats appear courtesy of Hockeydb.com.

Anaheim Ducks: Emerson Etem

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    Top-End Potential: Top-six scoring forward

     

    What He Brings to the Table: Despite possessing one of the stranger skating strides in the NHL, Emerson Etem is a quick winger with an outstanding shot. His wrister is remarkably accurate and the puck just seems to leap off of his stick.

    The most outstanding thing about Etem is that he's not just a one-dimensional scorer. He's capable of killing penalties and his speed typically makes him a threat to score short-handed goals.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 6.5/10

Boston Bruins: Dougie Hamilton

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    Top-End Potential: Norris-winning defenseman

     

    What He Brings to the Table: There's nothing not to like about Dougie Hamilton's game.

    He has an outstanding opportunity with the Boston Bruins to learn from a similarly sized defenseman in Zdeno Chara, and witnessing what it takes to play in the later rounds of the playoffs at such a young age will only make Hamilton better.

    His shot is outstanding and he's very good at getting pucks through traffic—think Chris Pronger when it comes to his capability to produce offense from the back end. Hamilton is very well developed in his own end as well and would likely be a top-four defender on a less-stacked team.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 8/10

Buffalo Sabres: Joel Armia

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    Top-End Potential: First-line scoring winger

     

    What He Brings to the Table: The Buffalo Sabres will receive a massive boost once Joel Armia joins their lineup. He's been plying his trade in the SM-liiga for three years now and is already a star in his native Finland.

    While his reputation isn't likely to follow him all the way to North America, it might not take long for fans of the NHL to become as familiar with Armia. The Sabres are in need of goal-scoring help, and they haven't had a young player capable of putting up points like this since Thomas Vanek.

    Armia plays a power game and could make an impact as soon as he lands in the NHL.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 7.5/10

Calgary Flames: Sven Baertschi

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    Top-End Potential: Top-line scoring winger

     

    What He Brings to the Table: With the Calgary Flames in full-on rebuild mode, Sven Baertschi will have more of a chance to succeed immediately than just about any other player on this list. While 2013 didn't go exactly according to plan for the outstanding Swiss import, he did finish out the year on an impressive seven-game point streak after struggling through most of the year.

    Baertschi scored 26 points in 32 games in the AHL before the lockout ended and he was dropped into an intense and grueling 48-game schedule with the Flames. A full training camp and another year of development should help catapult Baertschi to the level of stardom that Calgary has been hoping for since it drafted him in 2011.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom7.5/10

Carolina Hurricanes: Elias Lindholm

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    Top-End Potential: Selke-winning first-line center

     

    What He Brings to the Table: The Carolina Hurricanes had a rough season in 2013 but received an outstanding consolation prize in Elias Lindholm. One of the smartest players available in the draft, the 18-year-old forward has already played and excelled while playing against grown men in the SEL.

    Lindholm has awesome hands around the net, and his anticipatory skills are elite-level. He's difficult to hit and rarely makes a mistake with the puck in the neutral and offensive zones.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 8.5/10

Chicago Blackhawks: Teuvo Teravainen

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    Top-End Potential: Top-20 NHL scorer

     

    What He Brings to the Table: The word that scouts love to use when it comes to Teuvo Teravainen is explosive. His skating is elite-level, and his shot seems to erupt off of his stick.

    As if the Chicago Blackhawks weren't loaded enough at forward already, they'll receive another scoring boost from Teravainen. He's ready for a top-six role in the NHL after spending the last two years playing for Jokerit Helsinki in the SEL.

    The 'Hawks drafted him as a winger, but over the last two seasons, Jokerit has utilized him as a center. As it turns out, Chicago needs a second-line center, and it wouldn't be at surprising to see him start the season in that No. 2 spot.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 8.5/10

Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon

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    Top-End Potential: Hart Trophy-winning top-line forward

     

    What He Brings to the Table: Arguably the most hyped prospect since Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon is an electric scoring talent with elite-level skills across the board. He'll be one of the quickest skaters in the NHL as soon as he plays his first game with the Colorado Avalanche, and he'll only get faster as he continues to mature and train.

    MacKinnon is equally adept at passing as he is scoring, and his hockey IQ is through the roof. All the pieces are there for the 2013 No. 1 draft pick to be one of the most recognizable faces in the NHL within the next few seasons.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 9.5/10

Columbus Blue Jackets: Boone Jenner

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    Top-End Potential: Top-six two-way center

     

    What He Brings to the Table: Boone Jenner is the kind of player that will become more well known for his intangibles than his scoring prowess. While he's clearly a capable point producer, as evidenced by his 82 points in 56 games in the OHL last season, where Jenner can really leave an impact on a game is on the physical side of things.

    You may be able to beat Jenner with skill, but you're never going to outwork the guy. His grit is noticeable on every shift, and players that can change the game without scoring and without the puck are invaluable to teams at the NHL level.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 6/10

Dallas Stars: Valeri Nichushkin

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    Top-End Potential: Top-20 NHL scorer

     

    What He Brings to the Table: Bullishly compared to Evgeni Malkin heading into his draft year, Valeri Nichushkin plays a similar style to his countryman and could end up being the same type of All-Star player as well.

    Despite playing out his junior-level days in Europe, Nichushkin plays a very North American-style of hockey. He drives to the net with ferocity and is fearless when it comes to heading into the corners. His hockey IQ is solid, and if he adds a stronger passing element to his game, he'll be even tougher to contain.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom8.5/10

Detroit Red Wings: Gustav Nyquist

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    Top-End Potential: Pavel Datsyuk-like puck magician and top-six scorer

     

    What He Brings to the Table: The Detroit Red Wings have allowed Gustav Nyquist to acquire all the confidence in the world since drafting him in the fourth round in 2008. After spending most of the last three seasons in the AHL, he's outgrown that level of competition and doesn't seem out of place in the NHL at all.

    Slick with the puck and capable of embarrassing defenders one-on-one, Nyquist could very well be the next draft-day steal gone All-Star for Detroit.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom7.5/10

Edmonton Oilers: Nail Yakupov

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    Top-End Potential: Top-10 NHL scorer

     

    What He Brings to the Table: Saying that the Edmonton Oilers possess an enviable stable of young players would be a drastic understatement. After consistently finishing in the basement of the league over the last several years, they've accumulated an embarrassing amount of top-end talent.

    Although the likes of Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Justin Schultz are all outstanding players, Nail Yakupov just seems to have that little something extra that could make him the biggest star on the team.

    He started and finished his rookie season in 2013 well, and despite scoring droughts through the middle of the campaign, Yakupov really seemed to come on at the end of the year.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 9/10

Florida Panthers: Aleksander Barkov

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    Top-End Potential: Consistent All-Star and top-line forward

     

    What He Brings to the Table: It takes something special to hack it in any professional league as a teenager. Aleksander Barkov has actually spent most of the last two seasons doing just that as a 16- and 17-year old in the SM-liiga.

    There's little doubt that Barkov is NHL-ready now, and he'll be tough to beat out for the Calder Trophy this year.

    He's built like a power forward but possesses the hands of a finesse player. Barkov is a unique hybrid that can beat defenders and goaltenders in various ways. He's a dangerous scorer and noticeably intelligent passer, and he makes the players around him better.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Ceiling: 9.5/10

Los Angeles Kings: Tyler Toffoli

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    Top-End Potential: Team scoring leader and top-line talent

     

    What He Brings to the Table: After putting up 100 points in 65 games during his final year in the OHL, Tyler Toffoli wasted no time dominating the AHL to the same degree as a rookie last season. He posted 51 points in 58 games while learning to adjust to the rigours of professional hockey and could take another big step in 2013-14.

    The Los Angeles Kings are one of the more properly constructed teams in the NHL, and Toffoli will have the opportunity to learn how to win from some outstanding competitors.

    Keep an eye out for Toffoli's name to start filling up stat sheets in the NHL within the next two seasons.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom7.5/10

Minnesota Wild: Mikael Granlund

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    Top-End Potential: Top-six center with All-Star potential

     

    What He Brings to the Table: Many expected Mikael Granlund to be able to jump into the NHL right away. Like Aleksander Barkov, he played a considerable amount of hockey against grown men in the SM-liiga before making the jump to North America.

    2013 didn't go all that well for the youngster, and he ended up spending some time in the AHL to work on his confidence while he continued to adjust to the more physical game on this side of the pond.

    With a year under his belt and a full training camp to truly get acclimated to the systems of the Minnesota Wild, Granlund has the talent to have an outstanding bounce-back year in 2013-14.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 6.5/10

Montreal Canadiens: Alex Galchenyuk

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    Top-End Potential: Top-10 NHL scorer

     

    What He Brings to the Table: After surprising most onlookers by making the Montreal Canadiens for the shortened 2013 season, Alex Galchenyuk showed why it was impossible to send him back to the OHL by scoring 27 points in 48 games. Not too shabby for a player who wasn't considered NHL-ready when drafted.

    After impressing with his rapid transition to the NHL, Galchenyuk could be set to take another big step in his evolution in 2013-14—a step that could propel him all the way to the level of All-Star by the end of the year.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom9/10

Nashville Predators: Filip Forsberg

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    Top-End Potential: Team-leading scorer and consistent All-Star

     

    What He Brings to the Table: Filip Forsberg might have been a bit surprised to hear that the Washington Capitals had dealt him since the franchise is remarkably thin down the middle, but he'll receive every opportunity to succeed with a Nashville Predators squad that desperately needs scoring.

    He made his NHL debut in 2013, skating in five games for the Preds after finishing his season with the Leksands IF. This season will likely be his first as a full-timer in the NHL, and Nashville could use him on the second or third line as he continues to adjust to the North American brand of hockey.

    Incredibly intelligent and a constant offensive threat, he'll be a welcomed addition to Nashville's roster.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom7.5/10

New Jersey Devils: Jon Merrill

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    Top-End Potential: Top-pairing offensive defenseman

     

    What He Brings to the Table: Jon Merrill is a bit older than a lot of the players on this list, as his road to the NHL has been paved unevenly. After finishing his season at the University of Michigan, the ultra-talented defender didn't skip a beat upon transitioning to the AHL for 12 games.

    He scored eight points in those contests, and it will be incredibly difficult for the New Jersey Devils to keep Merrill off of the main roster for the upcoming season. He's too good on the power play and seems poised to attack his fresh start as a pro head-on after several trying years at Michigan.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom8/10

New York Islanders: Ryan Strome

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    Top-End Potential: Top-10 NHL scorer

     

    What He Brings to the Table: Ryan Strome plays a game very similar to that of fellow New York Islander John Tavares, and that is in no way a bad thing. He's uncommonly smart on the ice and is the kind of forward that makes everyone around him a better player.

    Whether he's setting up a teammate or finishing off chances on his own, Strome is dangerous anytime he crosses the blue line and gets into the offensive zone. New York has wisely been patient with its top prospect since drafting him in 2011, and he's now more than ready to make an impact at the NHL level.

    He posted 94 points in only 54 games during his final season in the OHL and is an offensive talent that people will actively pay to see.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 9.5/10

New York Rangers: Chris Kreider

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    Top-End Potential: Top-six scoring forward

     

    What He Brings to the Table: Forget everything you think you know about Chris Kreider.

    There may not be a player that will benefit from the regime change in New York more than him, and he'll benefit greatly from the clean slate that new coach Alain Vigneault will provide for him.

    Kreider has shown that he's capable of putting up solid numbers in the NHL. It's just that he did that during the playoffs, and the added pressure in 2013 seemed to negatively affect his game. No one is expecting big things from him this time around, and he'll be allowed to adjust to being a full-time pro on his own terms now.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom6/10

Ottawa Senators: Mika Zibanejad

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    Top-End Potential: Selke-winning two-way forward

     

    What He Brings to the Table: There may not have been a more surprising player for the Ottawa Senators last season than Mika Zibanejad. When the team lost its best three players, the rookie was downright impressive in his sudden top-six role.

    He posted 20 points in 42 games for the Sens and posted a solid plus-nine rating to boot.

    Not just an offensive threat, Zibanejad is an outstanding two-way player that is responsible in his own end. He backchecks hard, rarely loses battles for pucks and is willing to sacrifice his body to make a play. The future in Ottawa is a bright one, and Zibanejad is a big reason why.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 8.5/10

Philadelphia Flyers: Brayden Schenn

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    Top-End Potential: Top-six scoring center

     

    What He Brings to the Table: Two years ago, there wasn't a more heavily hyped player outside of the NHL than Brayden Schenn. He was the cream of an impressive crop of youngsters with the Los Angeles Kings and widely considered the top prospect in all of hockey.

    He was the centerpiece of the deal that sent Mike Richards to the Kings, and the Philadelphia Flyers coveted Schenn throughout the entire process. While he hasn't dominated the way some had hoped, he's grown and matured a lot through 110 games of NHL action while scoring a respectable 46 points during that span.

    Schenn will be 21 years old this season and Philly is likely expecting bigger things out of him this go-round. He's impressed at every level so far, and there's little reason to think he can't produce in the NHL as well.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 6.5/10

Phoenix Coyotes: Brandon Gormley

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    Top-End Potential: Top-pairing offensive defenseman

     

    What He Brings to the Table: Offensive defenders are important to success in the NHL these days, and the Phoenix Coyotes are arguably the richest team in the league in this regard. Keith Yandle has already emerged as one of the top puck-movers in the NHL, and Oliver-Ekman Larsson isn't too far behind.

    Behind those two is Brandon Gormley, who has developed into an outstanding power-play quarterback since being drafted in 2010. Aside from the excellent offensive aspects to his game, Gormley is also responsible in his own zone and knows how to take care of business in his own end.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 7.5/10

Pittsburgh Penguins: Derrick Pouliot

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    Top-End Potential: Top-pairing offensive defenseman

     

    What He Brings to the Table: Bringing everything to the table that you'd expect from an offensively talented blueliner, Derrick Pouliot will eventually be the guy running things from the back end for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    His presence and impressive development allowed the Pens to trade similarly talented Joe Morrow last year, and Pouliot will only continue to improve as he seasons in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks. Last season, he scored 45 points in 44 games with the 'Hawks and posted an outstanding plus-35.

    Pouliot is quick and agile, and his shot from the blue line can only be described as incendiary. 

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 7/10

San Jose Sharks: Tomas Hertl

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    Top-End Potential: Top-six two-way forward

     

    What He Brings to the Table: Impressive in just about every situation, Tomas Hertl is a do-it-all forward with great size (6'2", 196 pounds) and a solid scoring touch. While he's never going to blow anyone away with his skating, he's capable of distributing the puck from all three forward positions and isn't out of place on either side of special teams.

    The San Jose Sharks are in the middle of a slow identity transition as players like Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture take center stage away from Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, and Hertl could be part of the next phase of this youth movement.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 6/10

St. Louis Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko

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    Top-End Potential: Top-10 NHL scorer

     

    What He Brings to the Table: If not for a midseason concussion, Vladimir Tarasenko might have run away with the Calder Trophy last season. After spending six seasons in the KHL, he finally made his NHL debut last season and electrified St. Louis Blues fans early in the campaign.

    He seemed to struggle upon returning, but a summer of shaking off the cobwebs and regaining physical form should boost Tarasenko back to his elite level for 2013-14. The Blues are chock-full of players with a physical edge, but they lack outstanding scorers. Tarasenko will have the chance to emerge as the team's points leader as soon as this season.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 8.5/10

Tampa Bay Lightning: Andrey Vasilevskiy

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    Top-End Potential: Vezina-caliber starting netminder

     

    What He Brings to the Table: The only goaltender to make this list—as it requires yeoman's work to predict the curve of goaltending careers, and ours is out of town for the week—Andrey Vasilevskiy is one of the top goaltending prospects in all of hockey and possesses a nearly unnatural combination of size, speed, athleticism and competitiveness.

    The Tampa Bay Lightning made him the first netminder selected in 2012 with the 19th overall selection, and a glance at Vasilevskiy's track record and skill level make it easy to see why.

    The Lightning have a shaky situation in goal at the moment, so barring a big improvement of Anders Lindback or the emergence of Ben Bishop as a lights-out starter, Vasilevskiy could have a crack at the starter's job within the next two years.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 8/10

Toronto Maple Leafs: Morgan Rielly

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    Top-End Potential: Top-pairing offensive defenseman

     

    What He Brings to the Table: Considered the best puck-moving defenseman in the 2012 draft, Morgan Rielly is incredibly comfortable inside of the offensive zone. He scored 42 points in 60 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors last season before getting his first taste of professional action in the AHL.

    He managed three points in 14 games while playing a limited role with the Toronto Marlies and could make the jump to the Maple Leafs with a strong training camp. With time, Rielly will be able to iron out the wrinkles in his defensive game, but as it stands right now, he's probably the top offensive defenseman prospect outside of the NHL.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 9/10

Vancouver Canucks: Bo Horvat

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    Top-End Potential: Top-six two-way forward

     

    What He Brings to the Table: Bo Horvat is all about the hustle and the details. It isn't very often that a player can crack into the top 10 in a draft as a known energy guy that is outstanding in the faceoff circle, but that's exactly what Horvat managed to do.

    He plays the game with abandon and with zero regard for his body or well being. Horvat does whatever it takes to win on a nightly basis and backs down from no challengers. While he would be out of place on a top line, he has the talent needed to be a solid second-liner or an outstanding third-line player.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 6.5/10

Washington Capitals: Evgeny Kuznetsov

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    Top-End Potential: Top-line scorer and perennial All-Star

     

    What He Brings to the Table: There's a good chance that Evgeny Kuznetsov would already be a star in the NHL if he wasn't biding his time in the KHL. In Russia, he's already one of the game's more famous players because of his offensive explosiveness and the candid way he handles relations with the media.

    It's unknown if Kuznetsov will join the Washington Capitals after his KHL season ends this year, but if he does arrive, it'll mark one of the most heavily anticipated debuts in recent memory. Like Vladimir Tarasenko, Kuznetsov would be able to jump right into a top-six role with the Caps and make an immediate impact.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom: 9/10 

Winnipeg Jets: Jacob Trouba

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    Top-End Potential: Physical top-pairing defenseman

     

    What He Brings to the Table: One of the most exciting defensive prospects around, Jacob Trouba is a player that can affect the outcome of a game in a variety of ways. He's offensively talented and posted 29 points in 38 games with the University of Michigan last year.

    Trouba is also noted for his mean streak and desire to increase the physicality of the game every time he touches the ice. He hunts for the big hits, thrives on the physical aspect of the defensive position and will pay the price to win battles in front of his own net.

     

    Likelihood of Reaching Stardom8/10

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