NHL Predictions: 15 Minor-League Prospects to Get Excited About Watching
With the NHL season around the corner here are 15 prospects of all positions that you may be seeing on the ice within the next few years. The prospects range from the 2009 draft class to this years draft class.
These picks are in no particular order and I may have not included some players who are better players or went higher in the draft. I chose 15 players and wrote about what pick they went on, the team who drafted them, where they were ranked by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau (CSB), some general stats about the player, what they are doing this season and improvements that they could make.
I hope you enjoy getting a glimpse of some of the players of the future.
Selected as the first pick in the first round in this years draft by the Edmonton Oilers, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins looks to break into the NHL this season.
Nugent-Hopkins is very fast and has a surprisingly quick release. Nugent-Hopkins speed will help him break away from opponents which will give him the time he needs to show off his play making ability and shooting ability.
Nugent-Hopkins played in the WHL for the Red Deer Rebels where he scored 31 goals along with 75 assists totaling 106 points. Nugent-Hopkins was ranked first overall for all North American Skaters by NHL Central Scouting. If Nugent-Hopkins was able to put on some more muscle, which was one of his only weaknesses, he will be ready for the NHL and should make a big impact.
Adam Larsson was selected fourth overall in the 2011 draft by the New Jersey Devils.
Larsson has already signed his entry-level contract so look for him on the ice this season. Larsson was the first defenseman drafted and was also rated the top European prospect available in the 2011 entry draft by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau (CSB).
Larsson has the size, skating skills, and solid positional play that will allow him to contribute on offense and be a solid defender.
Selected second overall in the 2011 entry-level draft by the Colorado Avalanche, Gabriel Landeskog was the most NHL-ready player selected in the draft.
Swedish-born Landeskog was the first European captain in the history of the Kitchener Rangers.
Landeskog is a top level left wing but also has a physical game. Last season Landeskog scored 36 goals while getting 30 assists over 53 games.
Look for this physical Left Winger to find his way into a 12 man rotation this upcoming season. The Avalanche will most likely sign Landeskog to reach the floor value of their salary cap.
Jonathan Huberdeau, of Quebec, Canada, was selected third overall of the 2011 NHL entry draft by the Florida Panthers.
Huberdeau lead the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) to win the Memorial Cup last season.
During the regular season at center, Huberdeau put away 43 goals and 62 assists which allowed his team to represent the league in the Memorial Cup where Huberdeau put away one goal and added an assist in the 3-1 win over the Mississauga Majors.
Huberdeau was awarded the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy which is given to the tournaments most valuable player. Huberdeau was ranked third in the NHL Central Scouting Bureau (CSB) report for North American Prospects. If Huberdeau put on some muscle this summer he could be seeing some ice time this season.
Center Mika Zibanejad was selected sixth overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Zibanejad signed a three year entry-level contract with the Senators on July 13. Zibanejad scored 17 goals and racked up 13 assists with Djurgårdens IF.
Zibanejad was ranked second overall of all European Prospects by NHL Central Scouting Bureau (CSB). Zibanejad is physical center who will be seeing some ice time this year.
Defenseman Jonas Brodin was selected 10th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota Wild. Brodin is a good skater who uses his stick to break up plays rather then his physical presence.
He is going to have to learn how to use his body in this very physical game.
Brodin is not an offense-minded defender, scoring zero goals and adding four assists last season with his Swedish team Färjestads BK.
Brodin was ranked third among European prospects by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau. He has also already signed his entry-level contract with the Wild so look for him to see some playing time this season.
Center Ryan Johansen was selected fourth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2010 NHL entry Draft. Johansen was ranked 10 overall for North American prospects by NHL Central Scouting Bureau (CSB).
Scouts praised his speed, vision, and play making ability but felt he needed to increase his intensity and physicality. Johansen signed an entry-level deal with Columbus on September 9, 2010, but, after attending camp, failed to make the roster.
Johansen was sent back to Portland to play in the WHL where he scored 40 goals and racked up 52 assists. Johansen needs to up his physicality and intensity if he wants to stay in the NHL this time around.
Right Wing Nino Niederreiter was drafted fifth overall by the New York Islanders in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
This made him the highest drafted Swiss player in NHL history.
The NHL Central Scouting Bureau (CSB) had Niederreiter ranked twelfth in their final rankings among North American trained prospect. Niederreiter made his NHL debut on October 9, 2010.
His NHL career was short lived playing 9 games for the Islanders and scoring 1 goal and having 1 assist. Niederreiter was sent back to the Portland to play in the WHL where he went on to have a career year of 41 goals and 29 assists.
After having a year like that and bulking up, which allows Niederreiter to utilize his size on the forecheck, the Islanders are going to have a very tough time keeping Niederreiter in the WHL.
Center, Mikael Granlund of Finland was drafted ninth overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota Wild. Granlund was the top European prospect of 2010 ranked by the (CSB).
Although Granlund is small, standing only at 5'10", he has great vision on the ice. Last season Granlund scored 8 goals and racked up 28 assists for his team HIFK Helsinki of the SM-Liga.
Granlund will remain with HIFK for this next season due to FInland's mandatory military service but he was invited to the Wild camp which could improve his offense tremendously.
Russian born Right Wing Vladimir Tarasenko was drafted sixteenth overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the St. Louis Blues.
International Scouting Services had Tarasenko ranked first overall among European skaters and fourth overall.
Tarasenko needs to find some consistency if he wants to play in the NHL. Last season, the forward scored 9 goals and recorded 10 assists for HC Sibir Novosibirsk of the KHL. For now Tarasenko will remain in the KHL but wants to make the transition soon.
Left Wing Chris Kreider was drafted nineteenth overall by the New York Rangers in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Kreider is currently playing at Boston College and says he will remain their for another year.
Last season Kreider scored 11 goals and recorded 13 assists for Boston College. Kreider has the speed and agility that is needed to play in the NHL as well as a strong shot to back him up. Kreider has a lot of raw potential that, if he can access it, could make him a huge threat to opponents everywhere.
Center Brayden Schenn was drafted fifth overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings. Schenn was ranked fifth of all North American Prospects in 2009 by the CSB.
Schenn debuted in his first NHL game on November 26, 2009, after being called up on an emergency basis. Schenn was then given a three year contract for the Kings and saw limited playing time (9 games) and recorded 2 assists before being sent down the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL for 7 games, where he scored 3 goals and recorded 4 assists.
After a short stint of 2 games with Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, where he recorded 1 goal and 3 assists. Schenn finally settled down for the rest of the season with the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL, where he scored 21 goals and recorded 32 assists.
During the offseason Schenn was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers with Wayne Simmonds and a 2012 second round draft pick for Mike Richards and Rob Bordson. Schenn has a great offensive touch and although his quickness needs to improve, Schenn should find himself on the ice with the new direction that the Flyers are taking.
I wanted to put a goalie somewhere on this list so here he is. John Gibson of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania he was drafted 39 in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the Anaheim Ducks.
Gibson was ranked first among North American Goaltenders by CSB.
Gibson was in agreement to play for the University of Michigan Wolverines of the NCAA but opted out to play for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Last season Gibson played for the U.S. National Under-18 Team of the United States Hockey League (USHL) where Gibson recorded 1 shutout with a save percentage of .926 and a goals against average of 2.38.
Gibson may be one of the best prospects in Anaheim's system right now and his calm composed style of play will help him when he finds himself in the NHL.
Center Sean Couturier was drafted eighth overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. Couturier was ranked sixth of all North American Prospects in the 2011 draft class by CSB.
Couturier has the size and strength to play in the NHL. With an improved skating ability, Couturier may surprise some people with his style of play. Last season Couturier recorded 36 goals and 60 assists for the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
Look for Couturier to make a splash with the Flyers this season.
Swedish Defenseman David Rundblad was drafted seventeenth overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the St. Louis Blues. Rundblad was ranked sixth among all European Prospects in the 2009 draft class by CSB.
On June 25, 2010 Rundblad was traded to the Ottawa Senators for a 2010 sixteenth round draft pick. Rundblad scored 11 goals and recorded 39 assists for a total of 50 points in 55 games last season for the Skellefteå AIK of the Swedish Elite League (SEL). Rundblad is known as a high risk high reward defenseman with good size and puck skills.
If Rundblad can learn to not hold onto the puck for too long, he will find himself breaking into the Senator roster.