NHL Trade Deadline 2014: Top Prospects Most Likely to Be Used as Trade Bait

Carol Schram@pool88Featured ColumnistMarch 4, 2014

NHL Trade Deadline 2014: Top Prospects Most Likely to Be Used as Trade Bait

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    The NHL's doomsday clock is ticking down to the 2014 trade deadline at 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

    For the moment, most of the attention is being directed to the tantalizingly talented players who could be available to help bolster a team's playoff run or boost its chance of making the dance.

    Let's not forget about the youngsters. Those under-the-radar prospects that get moved in return for immediate dividends can sometime blossom into stars that will lead their new teams for decades to come.

    Here's a look at seven NHL franchises looking to improve their playoff prospects, along with the talented young players that they might be willing to move if the right deal comes along.

    All stats courtesy of NHL.com, through Mar. 2.

Emerson Etem: Anaheim Ducks

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 21 

    Drafted: First round, 29th overall, in 2010

    NHL Stats: 10-11-21 in 66 NHL games

    Player Profile: Etem's best asset is his explosive speed. The 6'1" left winger can generate scoring chances in a hurry, especially in short-handed situations.

    Why He's Trade Bait: As the No. 1 team in the NHL, Anaheim is looking to mount a serious run for the Stanley Cup. To get there, the Ducks could use more veteran depth at defense. With plenty of offensive talent in their system, they can afford to swap Etem's upside for some shutdown help this spring.

Tomas Tatar: Detroit Red Wings

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    Age: 23 

    Drafted: Second round, 60th overall, in 2009

    NHL Stats: 19-15-34 in 78 NHL games

    Player Profile: Tomas Tatar has shown good speed and great hands during his second season with the Detroit Red Wings. The young Slovak winger has the talent to be a consistent offensive producer.

    Why He's Trade Bait: The Red Wings are on the playoff bubble and may need to trade for help down the middle: Pavel Datsyuk continues to struggle with his knee issues, Henrik Zetterberg's out for the season and Stephen Weiss remains sidelined.

    The Wings are stocked with young talent, and Tatar has garnered a good deal of attention this year. He'd be an attractive trade chip for teams looking to move out veteran players.

Tyler Toffoli: Los Angles Kings

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 21 

    Drafted: Second round, 47th overall, in 2010

    NHL Stats: 12-14-26 in 52 NHL games

    Player Profile: Toffoli's a skilled right-winger who can put the puck in the net. He's not the best skater, but makes up for it with good offensive instincts and decent size. Beginning with a late-season call-up in 2012-13, Toffoli has shown that he can get the job done at the NHL level. He's currently playing on the Los Angeles Kings' top line with Anze Kopitar.

    Why He's Trade Bait: During a season when they've had a tough time scoring goals, the Los Angeles Kings should be among the bidders for top offensive talents like Thomas Vanek, Matt Moulson or Marian Gaborik. They won't be alone, but a package that includes Toffoli could be very attractive to teams like the New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres or Columbus Blue Jackets.

Matt Dumba: Minnesota Wild

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    James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 19

    Drafted: First round, seventh overall, in 2012

    NHL Stats: 1-1-2 in 13 NHL games

    Player Profile: Matt Dumba's just 19, but he comes from a draft class from which fellow blueliners Ryan Murray, Morgan Rielly, Hampus Lindholm and Jacob Trouba have all quickly become established NHLers.

    Dumba spent 13 games with the Minnesota Wild earlier in the season, but has since been returned to juniors, playing for the Portland Winterhawks. It feels like he's lagging behind his peers.

    Why He's Trade Bait: After scrambling to find enough bodies to play goal during their first-round playoff loss to Chicago in 2013, the Wild could be facing a similar situation this year if they don't add another goaltender. Darcy Kuemper has been playing very well, but once again, both Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding have health issues that make their status uncertain.

    It's unusual to see a team trade a top prospect so early in his development, but it's not unheard of. Dumba's fellow 2012 draftee Filip Forsberg was shipped off to Nashville by Washington at the 2013 deadline in exchange for Martin Erat.

Derrick Pouliot: Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Age: 20

    Drafted: First round, eighth overall, in 2012

    NHL Stats: none

    Player Profile: At 20 years old, Pouliot continues to ply his trade in the Western Hockey League because the Pittsburgh Penguins have a plethora of young defensive prospects ahead of him on the depth chart. Pouliot has talent as an offensive defenseman, but has yet to get a real chance to show that he belongs at the NHL level.

    Why He's Trade Bait: Class of 2013 draftee Olli Maatta jumped in and grabbed a spot on the Pens' blue line out of training camp—and has been fantastic.

    The Penguins have lesser prospects like Simon Despres or Brian DeMoulin that they'd prefer to move at the deadline, but they need veteran replacements for both injured RW Pascal Dupuis and defenseman Kris Letang. Pouliot may be the trade chip that's required if Pittsburgh gets into a bidding war for the players it covets.

Freddie Hamilton: San Jose Sharks

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    Age: 22

    Drafted: Fifth round, 129th overall, in 2010

    NHL Stats: 0-0-0 in 11 NHL games

    Player Profile: One year older than his brother Dougie Hamilton of the Boston Bruins, Freddie is best-known as a shutdown center. He had a cup of coffee with the San Jose Sharks earlier this season, but has had a productive year in the AHL with Worcester.

    Why He's Trade Bait: Freddie Hamilton may not have made the same impact as his brother at the NHL level, but he has strong leadership skills, a terrific athletic pedigree and has been solid at the AHL level. With Raffi Torres back in the lineup and a chance that Tomas Hertl could start skating soon, the Sharks should be more focused on blue-line help for their playoff push.

    San Jose won't move one of its best prospects this year, but a player like Hamilton could be a useful part of a package.

Jake Gardiner: Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Age: 23 

    Drafted: First round, 17th overall, in 2008

    NHL Stats: 12-39-51 in 147 NHL games

    Player Profile: Jake Gardiner skates well and has good offensive instincts, especially on the power play. He has obvious hockey talent but has remained on the outs with Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, leading to endless trade speculation.

    Why He's Trade Bait: The Leafs are looking to shore up their back end and put an end to their reputation as one of the most porous teams in the league for shots allowed. Gardiner would be a tasty proposition for a team looking to move out an established stay-at-home defenseman and get younger.