Developing NHL prospects is a tricky business. Unlike in other sports, players drafted in the NHL Draft are not expected to make an immediate impact for the most part.
Thus, the balancing act between getting prized prospects playing time and making sure they are not rushed into action is a constant struggle for NHL teams.
Here are the 13 prospects most ready to be called up.
Nino Niederreiter has the make of a dangerous offensive weapon. At 6'2", 205 pounds, Niederreiter has the size to take on NHL defensemen, but it's his skill that will set him apart. Nino is creative in the offensive zone and has a beautiful shot.
The Islanders recently gave Niederreiter three games to prove himself, only to scratch him again earlier this week.
He hasn't had the most dazzling start to his NHL career, but Nino has enough skill to work out the kinks at the NHL level, especially considering the state of the Islanders.
Currently in his fourth and final year in the KHL, Vladimir Tarasenko isn't likely to see NHL action until the 2012-13 season, and the Blues are counting down the days.
Tarasenko has insane stick-handling ability and vision in the offensive zone, drawing comparisons to Pavel Datsyuk.
The stud Russian forward will have an immediate impact on the St. Louis Blues whenever he comes overseas.
A first round pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2010, Mikael Granlund has been developing his game overseas for the past couple of seasons, forcing the Wild to wait patiently for him to make an impact on their franchise.
Granlund has a tremendous skill set, but the question mark with him is how he'll handle the physicality of the NHL game. We'll find out next season.
Mika Zibanejad got a nine-game trial with the Ottawa Senators earlier this season and didn't produce very much at all. The sixth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft is the total package, blending his great offensive weapons with solid size and physicality.
Another year of seasoning may be best for ZIbanejad, but I'm eager to see what this kid can do in the NHL with a full season.
Robin Lehner has gotten a decent amount of playing time in Ottawa. However, he could be ready for a full-time spot in the goalie rotation before long.
Lehner is incredibly confident and aggressive in net, and is always coming up big in the clutch. I can't wait to see this kid get consistent playing time so he has a chance to make a true impact.
Jacob Markstrom has my vote as the best prospect in the world at any position. Earlier this season Markstrom got a chance to prove his worth after an injury to Scott Clemmensen, and the Swedish youngster handled himself beautifully before being sent back down.
The combination of size and athleticism that Markstrom displays is rare for a goaltender, and he takes full advantage of it by taking away so much time and space from shooters.
Give him a few seasons, and Jacob Markstrom will be one of the best goaltenders in the NHL.
Entering his third season with the Boston College Eagles, Chris Kreider appears ready to take the jump to the NHL next season. Every step of the way, Kreider has produced. He is strong, fast and has tremendous hands.
It's a ton of fun to watch him play college hockey, but I think it's time for the next step in Kreider's career.
If there's a stud goaltending prospect, but he is stuck behind two world-class goalies at the NHL level, does he really exist?
Well, it may be easy to forget about him because of his situation, but Eddie Lack is one of the most talented goalie prospects in the world.
The 6'5" goaltender is going to have a tough time breaking into the NHL with both Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider holding him back. He definitely deserves a shot, though.
In addition to Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who is currently breaking into the NHL, the Phoenix Coyotes have Brandon Gormley to look forward to in the future. Gormley and Ekman-Larsson have a chance to be a dominant defensive pair in a handful of seasons.
Gormley is the ideal two-way defenseman. His positioning in his own end is more than formidable, but he has the puck-moving skills to match.
Braden Holtby's incredible finish to the 2010-11 season suggested that the young goalie would get a chance at an expanded role this season. The signing of Tomas Vokoun, however, forced Holtby back down to the AHL for the time being.
His technique is incredible and he is able to take up so much of the net. He definitely deserves to be in a better situation that will allow him more playing time.
The Washington Capitals have proven that they know how to scout in Russia. Their latest prized prospect from Mother Russia is Evgeny Kuznetsov, who appears to be one season away from jumping into the Capitals lineup.
Kuznetsov is one of those players that is tough for defensemen to hit because hit feet are constantly moving and he is incredibly shifty in close quarters. He is even more dangerous in open space with all of his offensive skill.
Jaden Schwartz has enjoyed an illustrious American hockey career up to this point in the USHL and the NCAA, and now, Schwartz is less than a year away from taking the final step to the NHL level.
Schwartz is a versatile forward whose instincts will make him a terrific playmaker at the next level.
Ryan Strome shot up draft boards last season before being drafted fifth overall in the 2011 NHL Draft. Strome's offensive skill is undeniable, but many consider him to be a raw prospect that still has a ton of room to grow.
The tools are all there, so it would be great to see him get his chance at the NHL level.