Ranking the NHL's 10 Most Promising American Prospects
As USA Hockey continues to medal at international events, American prospects continue to increase their collective NHL draft stock value. Yet these prospects don't see their values rise only on an NHL level, but also on an international level.
At the USA Hockey Olympic orientation camp, there were some American prospects who crept their way into the list of 48 invitees. Some of these prospects have not played an NHL game yet and are already being considered for Team USA in Sochi 2014.
But which American prospects have the brightest future as of now?
Here are the top 10 most promising American prospects.
Most promising in this instance means most likely to help their teams win over the long term.
10. Chris Kreider
Chris Kreider came straight out of his senior year with Boston College (where he had just won a National championship) and was fairly prolific in the 2012 playoffs.
His five goals and two assists led the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Final, but they met their match in the New Jersey Devils.
Kreider is still listed as a prospect because of his limited number of NHL games played. With just 49 regular-season and playoff games combined, Kreider has never really materialized into the big power forward that most thought he would be after the 2012 playoff display.
The 22-year-old should do better in New York this season, however, as a lot of his struggles related to former coach John Tortorella benching him for seemingly nothing.
If Alain Vigneault can manage to get better results out of Kreider, he has a very promising future with the Rangers.
9. Emerson Etem
Emerson Etem had a bit of a slower year in his first full season with the Ducks in 2012-13. Although he played in 38 games, Etem had just three goals and 10 points, despite averaging 11:27 of ice time per contest.
In the playoffs, however, Etem unleashed the animal inside with five points in seven games against the Detroit Red Wings.
Although the Ducks lost Game 7, the 21-year-old Etem is a promising young forward for the Ducks. While the talk in Anaheim generally centers around stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corry Perry, Etem has the potential to be the next breakout star in Anaheim.
If he can build on what he took from the playoffs this year, Etem could hit 30-40 points next season.
8. Nick Bjugstad
Nick Bjugstad should be ranked higher than No. 8 on this list. So why the low placing if he is ranked No. 39 on the top prospect list on Hockey's Future?
Well, despite his invitation to the USA Olympic orientation camp, Bjugstad plays for the Florida Panthers.
Although the Panthers have the strongest class of prospects according to Hockey's Future, Bjugstad and Florida's other prospects have no current team to build around once they make the NHL level.
While Bjugstad may dazzle in the future on an international stage, the immediate and five-year future for Florida still look pretty bleak.
7. Jake Gardiner
Jake Gardiner is another prospect who had limited regular-season experience in 2012-13, but stepped up in the playoffs. Gardiner was stuck in the AHL last season when the Toronto Maple Leafs had eight healthy defensemen at the NHL level.
Although he played in just 12 games in the regular season and put up four points, Gardiner was called upon in the playoffs to step in and performed admirably with a goal and four assists in six games.
It was Gardiner's second season in the league, as he put up 30 points in 75 games the previous season.
This season he should be a lock to at least stay in the NHL for the entire season, meaning he could potentially return to the 30-point season he had two seasons ago.
With his skating abilities and offensive-defenseman nature, Gardiner shows true promise to be a top-four defenseman at some point.
6. Jacob Trouba
Jacob Trouba is another player who has yet to play in the NHL, but still got the call to the USA Hockey Olympic orientation camp.
Trouba has showcased a solid two-way style on defense while playing for the U.S. National Development program. He will be on the Winnipeg Jets' NHL roster this coming season, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
Trouba is ranked as Hockey Future's No. 37 prospect overall (the list doesn't include the most recent draft class).
But the 19-year-old defenseman is with a rebuilding Winnipeg Jets team. If Trouba had more to work with in terms of players around him who could make him better, he might be more promising in the long run.
Nevertheless, getting a call to an Olympic orientation camp is a big step for Trouba. He has previous experience at the international level, both with the World Junior Championship and the World Championship.
That experience should prove invaluable heading into this coming season.
5. John Gibson
John Gibson is the most promising American goaltending prospect who is not playing in the NHL.
He has played for the USA on an international level, both on the U.S. National Team Development Program and for Team USA in the World Junior Championship and IIHF World Championship.
At the WJCs, Gibson led Team USA to a gold medal and was named the most valuable goaltender in the tournament. The 20-year-old would later go on to backstop the U.S. to a bronze medal in the IIHF World Championships.
Gibson was ranked No. 48 on Hockey's Future prospects list (again without 2013 prospects taken into consideration), but he is a couple years away from challenging for an NHL roster spot.
If Gibson stays in the Anaheim Ducks organization, he will be hard-pressed to make the roster as Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth seem to have the NHL roster spots locked down for the immediate future.
4. Dan DeKeyser
Dan DeKeyser signed with the Detroit Red Wings in March 2013. Although DeKeyser had just 13 games to prove himself in the regular season and playoffs, he still got the call to be at Team USA's Olympic orientation camp.
He is an extremely smart defenseman, with his ability to make the easy play separating himself from the rest of the Red Wings' defensemen.
Although DeKeyser's ranking might appear fairly high on this list at No. 4, he showed how much of a difference he can make in all three zones, despite playing only a handful of games.
The rookie defenseman has more promise than a lot of other teams, given his situation with the Detroit Red Wings. He might have had to be one of the go-to guys on another team, but with the Red Wings, DeKeyser can enjoy time on the second or third pairing.
3. Seth Jones
Seth Jones was a gift to the Nashville Predators at No. 4 overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Jones is a very mobile defenseman who loves jumping into the rush and can take over games offensively.
While Jones may not be happy with falling to No. 4 overall, he could inevitably end up being placed with one of the best defensemen in the NHL at some point in Shea Weber.
Although Jones has a lot of adjusting to do if he is going to start in the NHL this season, playing with a solid defensive partner would alleviate a lot of the stress and adjustment.
Jones has not played in the AHL, so there is no real telling how good he actually is. Although he has put up numbers in juniors in the WHL, those numbers are meaningless if they don't translate over to the NHL at some point.
The sky is the limit for Jones, but it will be interesting to see how he gets acclimated to the NHL, assuming he makes the roster this season.
2. Brandon Saad
Brandon Saad may have lucked into the best linemates he could have asked for last season.
With Patrick Sharp out with an injury, Saad took advantage of the playing time he received on the first line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.
Saad put up 27 points in 46 games, averaging anywhere from 17-21 minutes per night later in the regular season. At one point in the season, he also managed to put up 18 points over 16 games.
Saad was later demoted back down to the third line in the playoffs, but he should still be considered a player to keep an eye on going forward. This is because Saad showed that he is capable of producing when playing on a scoring line.
The 20-year-old was invited to the U.S Olympic orientation camp, but he might struggle to get significant ice time next season if the top-six group of forwards stays healthy in Chicago. Nevertheless, he comes in at No. 2 on this list for the most promising American prospects due to the talent he is playing with right now in Chicago.
1. Alex Galchenyuk
Galchenyuk has all the tools to be a No. 1 center in the NHL. Unfortunately, Galchenyuk is likely a couple years away from attaining that goal with the Montreal Canadiens.
But the young Milwaukee native showed last season that he is more than capable of rising to the challenge. The former third-overall selection put up nine goals and 27 points in 48 games, helping the Canadiens to claim the Northeast Division title last season.
Although the Canadiens were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, Galchenyuk seemed to improve drastically toward the end of the regular season, finishing with six points in his last seven games.
As losses in the playoffs don't sit particularly well with players, expect Galchenyuk to be even more motivated in 2013-14 to do better than last season.
The 19-year-old fittingly caps this list of most promising American prospects as one of the best young forwards in the game today.