Ranking the 10 Fastest NHL Prospects

Brad KurtzbergContributor IAugust 20, 2013

Ranking the 10 Fastest NHL Prospects

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    The old axiom in sports is that speed kills. With that in mind, here are the 10 fastest NHL prospects.

    To be included in this article, a player needs to be still eligible to win the Calder Memorial Trophy, needs to have been drafted and/or signed by an NHL team and needs to be fairly close to joining the NHL or be considered a legitimate prospect by most scouts.

    Obviously, skill plays a role in this determination as well. This measures hockey speed and skill, not just pure skating ability if these players lined up on a straight sheet of ice and had a race.

    It's always tough to limit these lists to 10 players, so feel free to add a player you feel may have been overlooked. Just say why you feel your choice belongs here.

10. Chris Kreider

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    It's hard to believe that Chris Kreider has played only 23 regular-season NHL games.

    The former Boston College star made his mark in the 2012 playoffs with the Rangers, scoring five goals and seven points during the Rangers' run to the Eastern Conference Final.

    Unfortunately, last season, Kreider quickly fell into John Tortorella's doghouse and was on the shuttle between Hartford and Broadway throughout the season.

    With Torts terrorizing players and reporters in Vancouver, Kreider should have a chance to establish himself as a full-time NHL player under the more offensive-minded Alain Vigneault.

    One scout told Steve Conroy of The Boston Herald that Kreider has "first-class speed, maybe the best in the draft" back in 2009. Look for that speed to be put to good use this season.

9. Matt Nieto

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    Matt Nieto left Boston University to turn pro, but he's probably still a year or two away from joining the San Jose Sharks.

    After three successful seasons in college, Nieto joined the Sharks' AHL affiliate for the final 11 games of last season and scored two goals and six points.

    Jack Parker, his coach at BU, said, "He's got dynamic speed and quickness. When he gets out of the blocks, he can be gone by you."

    That's pretty high praise for a kid from Long Beach, Calif., who dreams of playing for the Sharks.

8. Derrick Pouliot

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    Derrick Pouliot's speed and skating ability are two big reasons the Penguins grabbed him with the eighth pick in the 2012 draft.

    Pouliot's season was cut short by injuries last year, and he played only 44 games for Portland. He turned pro at the end of the year and played in one AHL playoff game for the Pens' top farm club.

    Last year, Pouliot scored nine goals and 45 points in 44 games for Portland of the WHL.

    He is expected to reach the NHL in 2014-15 when he matures a bit more physically.

7. Jacob Trouba

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    Defenseman Jacob Trouba has great speed and hockey sense. Those were two factors that helped make him the ninth overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft.

    The Jets prospect had a solid first year at the University of Michigan last year, scoring 12 goals and 29 points in 37 games for the Wolverines.

    McKeen's Hockey described Trouba as "an absolute beast on the puck" and added that he "can pump his powerful legs while protecting the puck well as he explodes up ice."

    Trouba will be given every opportunity to make the Jets in training camp this season.

6. Evgeny Kuznetsov

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    It's amazing that at 21, Evgeny Kuznetsov has already played four seasons in the KHL. As of now, he intends to remain in Russia for at least one more season.

    The scouting report on Kuznetsov before the 2010 draft described him as "fast, skillful and talented."

    He's backed up the scouting report by leading his KHL team in scoring for each of the past three seasons.

5. Morgan Rielly

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    The Maple Leafs made defenseman Morgan Rielly the fifth overall selection in the 2012 draft.

    The former Moose Jaw Warrior made his AHL debut last season, picking up a goal and three points in 14 games with the Toronto Marlies.

    Dave Morrison, the Leafs' director of amateur scouting, was quoted in the "Future Watch" issue of The Hockey News describing Rielly as having "NHL skill and he's got NHL speed and he's got an NHL head."

    He is probably one year away from joining the Leafs full-time because he needs to add a little more bulk to his frame to compete in the NHL.

4. Ryan Strome

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    Ryan Strome is considered the top prospect in the Islanders organization, and his speed is a big reason for that designation.

    Before the Isles made Strome the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft, Chris Edwards of Central Scouting said Strome "skates very well and has very good speed. He's a creative playmaker who sees the ice very well."

    Strome should have every opportunity to make the Islanders in training camp. In the long run, the coaching staff envisions Strome as their second-line center behind John Tavares.

3. Filip Forsberg

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    Filip Forsberg was a key acquisition for the Nashville Predators last year in a trade with the Washington Capitals.

    On a Nashville club that lacks snipers, Forsberg may have a chance to play in the NHL right away. In fact, he played five games with Nashville late last season and picked up his first NHL assist.

    Goran Stubb, the NHL's director of European scouting, described Forsberg as "a creative play-maker, good skater with fine straight-ahead speed."

    NHL fans will soon discover what that speed is all about.

2. Valeri Nichushkin

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    The Dallas Stars were shocked that Valeri Nichushkin fell to them with the 10th overall pick in the draft this summer. The big Russian has a lot of promise and plenty of skills, and speed is certainly one of them.

    Nichushkin spent last season in the KHL, so he's already played against adults.

    When discussing the talented Russian, International Scouting Services said, "He is very strong on his skates and also has the quickness to burn opponents the second he gets them off balance."

    The Stars will give their top pick a chance to make the big club in training camp this year, but if he doesn't stick in the NHL, he will likely return to Russia rather than play in the AHL.

    Whenever he arrives, he has the ability to become a big-time star.

1. Nathan MacKinnon

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    There are several reasons the Colorado Avalanche chose Nathan MacKinnon with the first overall pick in this summer's NHL draft, and his speed is certainly one of them.

    MacKinnon scored 32 goals and 75 points in 44 games for Halifax last season.

    Patrick King of Sportsnet.ca described what skills MacKinnon brings to the table. "His two-step quickness is superb and he reaches top gear with alarming quickness." He also added MacKinnon can "make high-end moves without breaking stride," so his speed is functional, not just good for winning skills competitions.

    MacKinnon is likely to start this season with the Avs.