Excluding the rookies who will be drafted in 2009, I want to highlight some other prospects from prior draft years or recent FA signings that could be ready to make the jump up to the NHL, and possibly make an impact right away.
To be considered a rookie, a player must not have played in 25 or more NHL games in any preceding seasons, nor in six or more NHL games in each of any two preceding seasons. Any player at least 26 years of age (by September 15th of that season) is not considered a rookie.
You may have forgotten about some of these players I'm listing, or maybe never even knew about them, so this is a good chance for you to catch up on the next wave of rookies who should be making it into the NHL.
This slideshow contains my choice of the 10 best NHL ready rookies outside of the 2009 NHL draft for you to keep an eye on.
Ht/Wt: 6.01/208 lbs
Drafted: 2008, 7th overall
Colin Wilson just signed a three year entry level deal with the Nashville Predators in April of 2009.
Wilson has played his last two season for Boston University. He led the BU Terriers in points in his sophomore season. He was recognized as one of the best players in NCAA Division I with his election to the Hobey Hat Trick, a group of three players nominated to win the Hobey Baker Memorial Award.
Colin also played for the USA World championships team this past Spring. He was the youngest player on the team. This could be a sign he is ready to make the jump up to the NHL level.
Scouting report: A solid two-way player that keeps the game simple. An excellent passer with good hands. Has a good hockey IQ, anticipation, and doesn’t get cute with the puck.
Prospect grade: B
Career potential: 2nd line two way center
NCAA stats: GP 80, Goals 29, Assists 61, Points 90
Weight: 185 lbs.
Drafted: 2008, 10th overall
Cody Hodgson signed a three year entry level contract with the Vancouver Canucks in October of 2008.
Cody has just about accomplished all you could accomplish at the Junior level. He won Gold with Team Canada at the World Juniors this past winter. He was also named OHL most outstanding player for 2008-2009.
The Canucks assigned Hodgson to their AHL affiliate the Manitoba Moose in May for their playoff run, where he tallied a total of two goals and four assists in 11 games played .
Unless Hodgson really impresses during training camp (which is not a long shot), he most likely will start the year in the AHL, and then join the Canucks a bit later down the road.
Scouting report: Cody has great speed and is very strong on his skates. He has an amazing first few strides that gets him to open ice fast!
His shot is above average and he is very accurate with it. He anticipates the play very well and gets turnovers because of it.
Prospect grade: B+
Career potential: 2nd line scoring center
OHL career stats: GP 184, Goals 106, Assists 117, Points 223
The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Tyler Bozak out of Denver University earlier this Spring to a two year entry level contract.
I have personally not watched the kid play, but what I have seen from him in video clips and read about him online how he projects to be a productive top six player all looks and sounds very positive.
I'm also basing this on how Brian Burke and co. have a great history of scouting and bringing up undrafted players, like Chris Kunitz, Dustin Penner and Andy Mcdonald when he was working for the Anaheim Ducks.
Scouting report: Universal centerman with striking intelligence and maturity in all facets of the game.The type of player that projects to play in all-situations and excel in all three zones in the NHL .. subtly skilled with great imagination, industry, and all-around awareness
Prospect grade: C+
Career potential: Two way 3rd line center with 2nd line upside
NCAA stats: GP 60, Goals 26, Assists 31, Points 57
James van Riemsdyk
Drafted: 2007, 2nd overall
The Flyers signed James to a multi year entry level contract in late March of 2009, which lead to him being sent down to the AHL soon after.
Prior to James' signing with the Flyers, he spent his last two seasons at the University of New Hampshire where he averaged better than a point per game.
James has also been one of the top US players during the World Juniors the last couple of seasons averaging nearly two points per game.
Because James wasn't all that impressive in his short stint in the AHL last season, it's looking like that's where he will start the up coming season, unless he impresses enough in camp to earn an immediate spot on the Flyers roster.
Scouting report: James Is a budding power forward with a great combination of size, speed and skill. Is fairly polished for his age and owns plenty of scoring potential.
Prospect grade: B+
Career potential: 1st line scoring and playmaking winger
NCAA stats: GP 67, Goals 28, Assists 46, Points 74
AHL stats (including playoffs): GP 11, Goals 1, Assists 1, Points 2
Birthdate: May 25, 1990
Weight: 172 lbs.
Drafted: 2008, 6th overall
The Blue Jackets signed Nikita Filatov to a three year entry level deal last summer.
Filatov played in eight games for the Blue Jackets last year and scored four goals, highlighted by scoring his first goal in his first NHL game played.
Filatov did not last on the Blue Jackets past his 10 game tryout because he looked over matched and too weak for the most part, and he still needed to adapt more to the North American style of hockey.
With the experience Filatov received in the AHL last season, combined with an offseason where he will get stronger, expect to see this supremely skilled winger on the opening night Blue Jackets roster, and definitely make a run at the Calder Trophy.
Scouting report: Nikita has an excellent attitude and work ethic. Very good skater. A pure goal-scorer in the making. He needs to add some bulk to his frame, and once he does, watch out.
Prospect grade: B+
Career potential: 1st line scoring winger
AHL career stats: GP 39, Goals 16, Assists 16, Points 32
Weight 190 lbs
Drafted: 2007, 13th overall
Lars has yet to sign a contract with the Blues, but Andy Murray said a few months back that Lars will be coming over to North America to play next season, and probably with the Blues to start off.
Lars had an impressive 29 points in 48 games played for Vastra of the Swedish Elite League last season.
Lars has the size and skill to compete at the highest level right now as long as his adaptation process to the North American game goes along smoothly, which I expect.
Scouting report: A uniquely skilled forward that has good mobility and break-away speed that sees the ice well. Controls the puck well and uses his size and strength to his advantage to compete for the puck. He possesses an excellent shot with a quick release.
Prospect grade: C+
Career potential: 2nd line scoring and playmaking winger
SEL stats: GP 62, Goals 12, Assists 19, Points 31
Weight: 210 lbs
Drafted: 2006 - 2nd round (60th overall)
Jesse signed a three year entry level deal with the Islanders in the Spring of 2008.
Jesse is one of my early underdog rookie sleepers for next season.
What I like most about this kid is he competes. Combined that with his above average skill, size and determination on an Islanders team in major rebuild mode and Jesse should be getting his work in.
Jesse should have a very good shot to make the Islanders roster out of camp.
Scouting report: Jesse is a fast skater for such a big player. His strength makes him effective along the boards and adaptable to the North American style of physical play. He has shown flashes of good puck skills.
Prospect grade: C
Career potential: Top nine two way scoring winger.
AHL stats: GP 71, Goals 20, Assists 19, Points 39
NHL stats: GP 7, Goals 1, Assists 2, Points 3
Weight: 206 lbs
Drafted: 2008, 4th overall
The St. Louis Blues signed Alex to an entry level deal prior to training camp last season.
Alex made the team out of camp but almost immediately suffered a setback just three games into the season when Ryan Hollweg checked him into the boards causing a head injury.
The Blues then sent Alex back to his junior team to finish off the season once he became healthy, where he appeared in 36 games in the OHL tallying 29 points.
As long as Alex stays healthy, he should have no problems making the team again out of camp.
Scouting report: Alex is so smart with and without the puck. He is one of those players that seems to slow the game down, his vision on the ice is outstanding. He makes great reads on when to hold the blueline and has a knack for keeping the puck in.
He makes great reads on the powerplay and like all great players, he makes players around him better. Petro's top end potential ceiling is very high, so expect him to be a top end NHL'er for many years.
Prospect grade: A
Career potential: Top pairing all around defenseman
OHL stats: GP 155, Goals 28, Assists 106, Points 134
NHL stats: GP 8, Goals 0, Assists 1, Points 1
Height: 6 ft 3 in
Weight: 193 lbs
Jonas "the monster" Gustavsson has yet to be signed by an NHL team, but is in the midst of talking to four teams right now. The Toronto Maples, Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks. Two of the four teams in immediate need of a goalie.
I have only seen Jonas play two times, and it's very hard to give my complete thoughts on him, so this pick is based on his hype and buildup within the hockey media.
Jonas has put up phenomenal numbers in the Swedish Elite League, and he has been getting better and better since 2007.
Some analysts believe Jonas is just as good as Henrik Lundqvist, and potentially even better.
Scouting report: A large butterfly goaltender that fills the net and can make athletic stops. Gustavsson’s bread and butter is stationing himself near the top of the crease, taking away most of the net from the shooter before hitting his compact butterfly. Effectively plays the middle of the net and can snap pucks out of the air with his trapper.
Prospect grade: B
Career potential: Number one goalie.
2008-2009 SEL stats: GP 42, GAA 1.96, Save% .932
Weight: 185 lbs
Drafted: 2006, 23rd overall
Simeon signed a three year entry level deal with the Capitals in the summer of 2007.
Anyone who watched the 2009 NHL playoffs knows that Simeon Varlamov saved the Capitals post season single-handedly, so it's no surprise he makes the list.
The young goalie is likely one of the better goaltending prospects potential wise to come out of Russia since Anaheim’s Ilya Bryzgalov.
Scouting report: He has a fairly unique style – not a pure butterfly nor a pure stand up goalie. Possesses a quick glove hand, which is one of his strengths…not active enough with his stick and rarely leaves the net to play the puck, but he does neutralize one timers through the crease effectively. Plays well positionally.
Prospect grade: B
Career potential: Number one goalie
2009 NHL playoffs stats: GP 13, GAA 2.53, Save% .918, Shutouts 2