NHL Prospects Destined to Become Dynamic Duos

Franklin SteeleAnalyst IISeptember 16, 2013

NHL Prospects Destined to Become Dynamic Duos

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    We selected nine up-and-coming dynamic duos from the NHL's top young players, and an odd thing happened when trying to find a cover photo—not a single one of the pairings had been caught on film together.

    Not yet anyway.

    There was a time when Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk had never been captured out on the ice together. When Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews weren't in every other picture with each other. There was a point when zero photographic evidence of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin even knowing each other existed.

    Now even a quick Google image search will return all the evidence that is needed, but who will the dynamic duos be in the future?

    How long until Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko are recognized as the future of the St. Louis Blues? When will Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov begin to fill score sheets together?

    For the sake of this slideshow, a prospect is someone who hasn't yet played more than one full season in the NHL. A lot of these guys have carved out roles as professionals, but haven't reached their peak as players.

    All statistics appear courtesy of Hockeydb.com.

Peter Holland and Emerson Etem

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    Team

    Anaheim Ducks

     

    What's So Dynamic About Them

    Most duos have a passer-shooter relationship. There's the dangerous trigger man and the dynamic passer who is capable of opening up some extra space for the goal scorer. Think Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom here. Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby.

    While all those players are capable of dishing and finishing, there's a clear job description for each.

    That isn't the case with the combination of Peter Holland and Emerson Etem, who would need a smooth-skating and passing winger on the other side to do the most possible damage. Both of these youngsters are outstanding shooters and could eventually evolve into the yin to Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf's yang.

    Etem received 38 games worth of NHL experience while playing a minor role for the Anaheim Ducks in 2013. They like his ability to score goals though, and with spots opening up in the top-six over the next few seasons—Teemu Selanne has to retire eventually, right?—the Long Beach, California native will be in line for more ice time.

    Holland also spent some time in the NHL last season, seeing 21 games in the NHL while finishing third on the Norfolk Admirals in scoring despite only playing 45 games in the minors. While he's a capable shooter and loves to play with the puck on his stick, his vision and hockey sense make him an outstanding two-way threat in the offensive zone.

    The two have struck up an amusing friendship and room together while playing in Anaheim, according to the official site of the Ducks.

     

    Estimated Time of Impact

    With the impending retirement of Selanne, and Saku Koivu turning 39 this year, Anaheim will be able to initiate a pretty radical youth movement within the next two seasons. Look for Etem and Holland to command the attention of defenses around the league on the second line by the 2015-16 season.

Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko

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    Team

    St. Louis Blues

     

    What's So Dynamic About Them

    You'll be hard pressed to find two rookies on the same team from the same draft class who entered the NHL in more different ways.

    Vladimir Tarasenko was a Calder Trophy-favorite heading into 2013. He'd already piled up the points in the KHL, keeping the Blues and their faithful awaiting his arrival with baited breath. Then there is Jaden Schwartz, who many thought needed another year in the AHL to truly find his game.

    A year is a long time in the NHL. Even the lockout-shortened 2013 season produced a fair amount of ups and downs for these two players, and now they appear to be on an even keel for the first time since 2010 when both were drafted by the St. Louis Blues.

    Tarasenko and Schwartz are both electric offensive talents who are capable of shaping games with their immense talent level. Both are incredibly quick players who can make elite plays at top speed, and both have a high-level hockey IQ.

    Schwartz is an outstanding passer, and while he can also score some goals, he'd be feeding Tarasenko cross-ice, angle-changing passes that would be tough for goaltenders and defenses to adjust to in this setup.

    The Blues haven't had a dynamic offensive duo in quite some time. The top-six has typically been littered with sandpaper and two-way acumen, but lacked a threatening finishing touch. That could change sooner rather than later.

     

    Estimated Time of Impact

    St. Louis is in an enviable position in that they have seven or eight players in the lineup who are considered top-six forwards. With that in mind, it could be tough for the young pair to make any noise on a Ken Hitchcock-led, defense/veterans-first team.

    This won't be "their team" for a while yet, but once they both emerge in bona-fide top-six roles in St. Louis, watch out. Be on the lookout for them to do some damage over the next two seasons, coming around in 2015-16 as one of the top duos in the NHL.

Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist

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    Team

    Detroit Red Wings

     

    What's So Dynamic About The

    Few NHL squads are tougher to crack than the Detroit Red Wings. Tomas Tatar has been trying to make the lineup since he was drafted in 2009. Gustav Nyquist has been cranking on it since 2008.

    The two players would likely be top-nine locks on just about any other team, but the Wings love to over-season their rookies while milking their veterans to the very bone. Tatar has to make the team this season though, lest the Wings risk losing one of their best long-term projects on waivers, and Nyquist might be too good at this point to send back to the AHL while the team waits for Todd Bertuzzi to blow out his back yet again.

    Detroit's core is aging rapidly. Pavel Datsyuk is 35. Henrik Zetterberg is 32. It doesn't seem like all that long ago that they were the youngsters scrapping for top-six roles before finding it with Brett Hull on the "two kids and an old goat" line.

    Look for a similar push out of the talented Tatar and Nyquist.

    The pair led the Grand Rapids Griffins to a Calder Cup last season, and they both played massive minutes down the stretch for the championship team. Tatar in particular kicked his game into high gear, posting 21 points in 24 games en route to the Cup.

    While they're both considered diminutive, they've proven that they have what it takes to hack it in the NHL. Now Detroit only needs to give them a chance. They are both outstanding offensive talents who are creative, puck-possession players.

     

    Estimated Time of Impact

    2013-2014 or never. Tatar has already threatened to bolt to the KHL should he not secure a spot with Detroit this season, according to Theleftwinglock.com.

Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov

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    Team

    Florida Panthers

     

    What's So Dynamic About Them

    The Florida Panthers passed over some outstanding young talent in Jonathan Drouin and Seth Jones to be able to select Aleksander Barkov. The top-ranked European player didn't receive nearly as much press in North America as Jones and Drouin, but that doesn't mean he's any less talented.

    He's NHL-ready now, and is likely to make the Panthers out of camp.

    The same wasn't being said about Jonathan Huberdeau last year, as many felt he was too small at this stage of his development to contend with larger NHL defensemen. A 31-point rookie year that led to the Calder Trophy silenced all but the staunchest of doubters.

    While the two of them will have only 48 games of NHL experience combined on opening night (all of it belonging to Huberdeau), the talent here is nothing short of game-breaking. Barkov proved that he was capable of keeping up with professionals through two seasons of play in the SM-liiga, and could open the season with Huberdeau from game one.

     

    Estimated Time of Impact

    Florida didn't pass over the likes of Jones and Drouin for a project, and will likely put a lot of responsibility onto Barkov's shoulders right out of the gate. The Barkov and Huberdeau connection is why the former is a Panther, and we'll see this duo from 2013-14 and for many years to come.

Teuvo Teravainen and Brandon Pirri

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    Team

    Chicago Blackhawks

     

    What's So Dynamic About Them

    The Chicago Blackhawks have been unable to do any wrong at the draft over the last decade. They nailed the back-to-back selections of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and have added pieces like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook along the way.

    With such a strong emphasis on drafting and home-growing stars, it should come as no surprise that another wave of ultra-skilled players are on the horizon for the 'Hawks.

    Brandon Pirri will receive his first shot at playing with the top-six this preseason. Brandon Saad will pop over from the wing to try center out, but if that doesn't work, the spot is Pirri's for the taking.

    He was dynamite for the Rockford IceHogs last season and lead the entire AHL in scoring. Pirri has the hands, speed and—most importantly—the defensive wherewithal to center a No. 2 line in the NHL. Regardless of how this particular training camp battle plays out, Pirri will be cemented in his role with Chicago before Teuvo Teravainen makes it as a full-time NHLer.

    Once he does though, the two could form a strong pairing for years to come with the 'Hawks. Teravainen is a smooth-skating two-way forward with plenty of offensive ability. He'd fit nicely alongside an equally talented and level-headed Pirri.

     

    Estimated Time of Impact

    Pirri will likely make the Blackhawks this season, but Teravainen is at least another year or two away from making his full-time NHL debut. There's no reason for Chicago to rush him along, so the 2015-16 season is probably a bullish guess.

Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton

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    Team

    Boston Bruins

     

    What's So Dynamic About Them

    If you had taken bets about which Boston Bruins defender had the best chance to become a folk hero prior to the playoffs, Torey Krug wouldn't have even been on the ballot. Dougie Hamilton might have been, but he wouldn't have received many votes, as he was considered a six-to-seven guy who was along for the ride.

    As we stated earlier, a year is a long time in the NHL, and few things can do more for the career of a young player than prove he has poise during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, especially the Final.

    Neither player is a lock to make the Bruins this season. There are two open spots on the blue line (if you include Hamilton's spot), and Matt Bartkowski has been impressive as well.

    In due time though, this duo has the potential to be all the rage in the NHL. Hamilton is a mountain of a man, built more like Zdeno Chara than just about any other 20-something in the league. Krug, on the other hand, is Paul Kariya-esque in size and is never going to be a physically dominating defender.

    Combine them on a pairing though, and incredible things could happen. Both players are capable of moving the puck up ice in a variety of means. Both players have rockets for shots, and neither one is a slouch in his own end.

    A Krug-Hamilton pairing could buck the usual trend of the defensive guy and the offensive guy playing together because they both excel at both ends of the ice. Consider Hamilton's point-per-game status from the back end during his final three seasons in the OHL.

    And anyone who watched the playoffs last season knows what Krug can do when given time and space.

    Plus, the smallish American/towering Canadian angle will produce some awesome line nicknames.

     

    Estimated Time of Impact

    It would go against an organizational mindset to have these two mostly inexperienced youngsters out on the ice together any time soon. Once Hamilton settles in as a defensive cornerstone and Krug gets some more playing time under his belt, they could be united for an outstanding duo.

    The Bruins could flirt with the idea by 2014-15, but both players will really be entering their primes by the 2015-16 season.

Sven Baertschi and Sean Monahan

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    Team

    Calgary Flames

     

    What's So Dynamic About Them

    Someone has to score goals for the Calgary Flames. With all due respect to Matt Stajan and Curtis Glencross, they don't have the chops to be top line players in the NHL. At least not on a playoffs team.

    These are dire times for the Flames as they're fully committed to a rebuild. The light on the horizon is bright though, as Sven Baertschi and Sean Monahan are both talented players capable of becoming top-line threats relatively soon.

    The difference between their styles of play is remarkable. Baertschi likes to make things happen on the rush while using his speed and shot to beat defenders. If there's a knock on his game, it's that he can sometimes overcomplicate things in the offensive zone.

    Monahan is the exact opposite. He plays a simple game and makes the most out of what's directly in front of him. If an offensive play isn't evident, he'll dump and chase. If there's a slick pass to be made, he'll make it. Monahan forces nothing and is responsible in all three zones.

    While it could be tough imagining those two styles, there's something to be said about how successful centers that actually slow the game down have been in the NHL. David Krejci has quietly become a borderline-elite player because of his capability to make the game more deliberate.

    Could Monahan's pace bring out the best in Baertschi, who struggles to find consistency on a yearly basis?

     

    Estimated Time of Impact

    Calgary's depth chart isn't pretty, and the incumbent veterans aren't likely to be on a very long leash this season. Expect Baertschi and Monahan to be given plenty of playing time, ironing out the holes in their games and developing their chemistry during the 2013-14 season.

Mikhail Grigorenko and Joel Armia

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    Team

    Buffalo Sabres

     

    What's So Dynamic About Them

    If Mikhail Grigorenko and Joel Armia can overcome questions about their consistency and character—questions that caused them to fall in their respective drafts—then they could be a tough-to-stop duo for the Buffalo Sabres for years to come.

    Armia is an established goal scorer who loves to have the puck on his stick. He drives wide and is capable of dropping the shoulder on large defenders while taking the play to the net. Armia is as north-south as scorers come, and has spent the last three seasons honing his craft in the SM-liiga.

    The Sabres were not quite as patient with Grigorenko, and rushed him into NHL action in 2013. His play dropped off as his confidence sank, and he ended up being sent back to the QMJHL to find his game.

    2013-14 is an important season for Grigorenko, as Buffalo will be expecting him to do some heavy lifting in the offensive zone. The expectations aren't without merit though. When he's one his game, Grigorenko is capable of taking over games with his size and skill.

    Much like Armia.

    With both of them out on the ice together, the Sabres could have a very difficult duo for opposing defenders to stop.

     

    Estimated Time of Impact

    Both of these players have a lot to work on before becoming regular NHL contributors, much less stars. Still, if things align for both of them and the Sabres get a little lucky, they could be dominating defences as soon as 2014-15.

Derrick Pouliot and Simon Despres

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    Team

    Pittsburgh Penguins

     

    What's So Dynamic About Them

    The Penguins were able to move defenseman Joe Morrow at the trade deadline because of their embarrassment of riches on the blue line. On top of icing the likes of Kris Letang and the criminally underrated Paul Martin on a nightly basis, they have players like Derrick Pouliot and Simon Despres coming down the pipeline.

    Despres appears to have carved out a role for himself on Pittsburgh's crowded blue line. He played in 33 games last year while putting up seven points and a plus-nine rating along the way. Since his days in the QMJHL, Despres has been a dynamic defenseman who can play a massive amount of minutes.

    His instincts are top notch, and while he isn't a beast in the offensive zone, he can make an outstanding first pass out while playing it a little closer to the chest defensively.

    On the other side of that coin is Pouliot, who is just as capable of a skater as Despres, but is much more of a risk taker. He's aggressive in all three zones and isn't afraid to step up and make the booming hit if it's there.

    If paired together, the duo could cover just about every defensive base possible. They are both great skaters, are capable of passing the puck well and can join the rush when the opportunity is there. Despres would likely have to watch Pouliot's back a bit, but that's typically what makes great defensive combinations work.

     

    Estimated Time of Impact

    The Penguins have no need to rush either of these players into prominent roles. Despres will likely start the season in Pittsburgh, while Pouliot will spend some time in the AHL before making a home for himself with the Pens. Given the time is takes for defenders to progress, it wouldn't be surprising to see this pair really come to prominence in the 2015-16 season.