Welcome to the 2014 edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. As we have gone through the Summer of 2014 I featured a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. You can find all the articles here. You can also find the 2014 Draftees in our extensive NHL Draft preview, where players were reviewed and ranked prior to the 2014 NHL Draft. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoffs) or being 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
This weekend we released our list of our top 30 NHL Prospects, and the reaction was extremely positive. Sure not everyone agreed with all the selections, but of course that can never be the goal in assembling a list like this. We had requests for an expansion to the list, and since its a three day weekend, I figured, why not? And so while I originally planned on only doing a top 30, today we expand to 55.
And so for today, we bring you our selection for top NHL Prospects, and increas the list to 50 names. Note that the reports here are condensed, and that by clicking on the player name you will get a full report.
For Players 11 – 30 Click Here
31) Brendan Perlini, LW, Arizona Coyotes
In the offensive zone, Perlini possesses very good hockey sense, good creativity and excellent vision to be a dynamic playmaker with the puck on his stick. He has good stickhandling, and puck protection skills needed to extend plays and give his linemates time to get open. He is very good in the cycle game. Perlini has shown off a much improved shot and release this season, and this is the biggest change in his offensive game. He has a great wrist shot, and also has a very good one-timer. While Perlini has great height, he could stand to put on more muscle and play a more physical game going forward.
32) Jake Virtanen, RW, Vancouver Canucks
Jake Virtanen is a power forward prospect who never hesitates to get involved physically. He loves to hit, and be involved in battles along the boards. Virtanen takes the puck to the net at every opportunity. He has the creative stickhandling and good agility to beat a defender with slick moves, but is also willing to go right through them if necessary to get to the net. Virtanen is a pure goal scorer who can score in tight with soft hands, and also has an excellent shot with big time power, great accuracy and a tremendously quick release that fools goaltenders. Virtanen has taken his game to another level of late, and has shown flashes of true dominance in the WHL. He also has good hockey sense and the ability to get open and elude defenders. Virtanen is more of a goal scorer than a playmaker, but he does have decent passing skills and vision as well.
33) Max Domi, C/RW, Arizona Coyotes
Domi has excellent hockey sense and is able to find openings in the offensive zone to unleash a quick and accurate wrist shot. His release is top notch and often fools opposing goaltenders. Domi drives the net and has great hands in tight allowing him to score goals in a number of ways. Domi also has has great anticipation and a great first step which sees him pounce on loose pucks around the net. He is extremely dangerous with the puck as Domi can beat defenders one on one. He also has excellent vision and passing ability which he uses to create openings for his teammates. Domi is an elite skater who uses his shiftiness and changes of pace to confuse and beat defenders. His acceleration is top notch and his speed is also well above average, and these skills make Domi a real threat off the rush. Domi uses a low centre of balance and great balance to win far more board battles and be far more dangerous on the cycle than you’d expect from someone his size. He has a very strong, very powerful lower body.
34) Scott Laughton, C, Philadelphia Flyers
Laughton has outstanding hockey sense. He sees the ice very well and has an uncanny ability to sneak behind defenders and find a free piece of ice and get himself open. He has a hard and accurate wrist shot and a good release. As a playmaker, Laughton possesses good vision and passing skills. He uses his grit and desire to win board battles and to control the puck down low on the cycle game. The main area that may hold Laughton back from being a top line player at the next level is that he is not a very good stickhandler. He’s much more of a straight ahead, north/south type player than one who will dangle his way through opposing defences. That said his puck control improved this past season. Laughton has also developed into an excellent checking centre at the junior level.
35) Ryan Pulock, D, New York Islanders
Pulock’s biggest asset is an absolute rocket of a slapshot and fantastic one timer which make him an extremely feared shooter on the Powerplay. His shot has been measured at over 100 MPH. Other teams are certainly shading their PK to try to minimize Pulock’s shot at this point, but despite that, he still managed to put a bunch in the back of the net. A natural PP Quarterback, Pulock makes smart crisp passes and sees the ice extremely well. He also understands the importance of getting the puck on net, and is able to utilize a good wrist shot and quick release when teams try to take away hisbomb. On the rush, he has decent stickhandling and can be the lead man with the puck or can join the attack as the trailer, ready to unleash his rocket slapper or that very good wrist shot. Pulock is an above average skater with good mobility on the blue line. He has a very good skating stride and good top end speed, both forwards and backwards. His edgework, pivots and agility are excellent, allowing him to easily cover a lot of ice, and quickly change directions to react and keep the play in front of him.
36) Josh Morrissey, D, Winnipeg Jets
The key to Morrissey’s games is his outstanding skating ability. He is amongst the skating defencemen in junior hockey. His stride is fluid, and he has excellent top end speed both backwards and forward. His first step is quick, and he accelerates well reaching that top speed in just a few strides. His agility, edgework, and pivots are very strong and fluid, giving him excellent mobility, and allowing him to cover a lot of ice. Morrissey combines very good stickhandling with his great skating to carry the puck through the neutral zone and lead the rush at times. If not leading the rush, he can effectively join in as a trailer, and has good instincts for jumping up. He also has great vision, and pin-point passing skills both in starting the rush with a first pass, or in quarterbacking the play in the zone. Morrissey has developed his slapshot over the past year, and it seems to be harder than it was in his draft year. He knows how to keep his shot low shot low at key times and to get it on net despite the traffic in front, allowing teammates to get screens, rebounds, and tips. Morrissey also has a really good wrist shot, and an excellent release which he can use off the rush or if he can’t get the time to get his slapshot off. His hockey sense is top notch, and he almost always makes the right decision in the offensive zone.
37) Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Buffalo Sabres
Grigorenko is one of the most perplexing and intriguing prospects on this list. He could be the big prototypical top 6 offensive centre that teams dream about when they enter the draft lottery. He’s got ideal size, and the offensive skill that every team in the NHL would love to have. He has excellent vision and passing ability and is likely to be more of a playmaker than a goal scorer at the next level. Many scouts have compared his game to Joe Thornton, as the big playmaking centre, who controls the play, can’t be knocked off the puck, and has superb vision and passing abilities. Grigorenko however has the added dimension of an excellent wrist shot and release and he’s shown the ability to score a lot of goals at the QMJHL level. With three years playing in North America now, he has adapted to the smaller rinks.
On the negative side, some scouts have questioned his desire and say he doesn’t bring a consistent effort level on a regular basis. He’s also very much a perimeter player and not really a physical presence despite his great size. The thing that cannot be denied is that Grigorenko has the skill to be a franchise changing centre in the NHL. However the question marks will need to be answered before he can do that.
To date developing Grigorenko has been a real problem, as he has been simply too good to learn much in the QMJHL, but not good enough to play in the NHL, and it is something that the previous Sabres management team really struggled with. The good thing is that Grigorenko has now reached an age where he can be sent to the AHL, and he should start next season with Rochester. There is a lot of potential there, but he needs work.
38) Andre Burakovsky, LW, Washington Capitals
Burakovsky is an outstanding skater. He has the top end speed and acceleration to separate himself from opponents. When he hits top speed he can really fly. His edgework and agility are also well developed and combined with excellent stickhandling, this can make him a real dangerous player off the rush. Burakovsky is also highly skilled in the offensive zone. He adds the good passing skills and vision necessary to be a real offensive threat. He is poised and patient working the puck on the side boards on the powerplay and looking for opportunities. He also is very good at finding open space and getting himself into good scoring areas when he doesn’t have the puck. Burakovsky’s greatest strength is as a goal scorer. He has a very good one timer, and an outstanding wrist shot and quick release. He also has the ability to drive the net, and the skilled, soft hands to score in tight. In short, he’s what teams look for in a skilled sniper.
39) Malcolm Subban, G, Boston Bruins
Subban is a tremendously athletic goalie. He has fabulous reflexes and is extremely agile. He is particularly quick sliding post to post and is able to make some very nice saves on one timers as a result. Subban is also extremely quick with his pads and effectively uses his quick feet to put up a wall in the bottom half of the net. Subban’s great skating ability allows him to come out of the net and challenge shooters, as he’s able to back up very quickly should they attempt to come in for a deke. He is also very quick with his glove hand and blocker and effectively covers the top of the net as well. Subban shows excellent technique in the net. He is almost always square to the shooter and in position to make the first save. His movements in the crease are controlled and smart. This allows Subban to recover quickly and to get himself in position to make a second save. Subban is a natural leader who inspires a sense of quiet confidence for his teammates when he is in the net.
40) Tomas Jurco, RW, Detroit Red Wings
Jurco is an excellent skater. He has a strong and powerful stride that gives him good speed, and also gives him the balance to fight through checks when driving the net. His acceleration and agility are very good allowing him to go wide on defenders and to create separation once he gets a step on them. Jurco is an outstanding puck handler. He has the ability to pull off dekes that most players wouldn’t even try and is the very definition of a player who can “stickhandle in a phone booth”. He also has an impressive shot, and good vision. The biggest difference in Jurco’s game between his pedestrian 2012-13 regular season, and his strong 2013 playoffs and 2013-14 season was being a lot more gritty. He seemed afraid to battle in front of the net or in the corners as an AHL rookie, but once he started doing that and driving hard to the front of the net, his game really took off and the point totals really increased.
41) Jake Allen, G, St. Louis Blues
At 6’2″ Allen has decent size for a goaltender, and plays an effective butterfly style. He is extremely athletic, and a very good skater, which allows him to come out far to challenge shooters as well as to get across the net quickly on cross ice-passes, or back up quickly on dekes. He’s got quick legs that take away the bottom of the net. Allen plays an efficient style that keeps his form when he does give up a rebound and allows him to get into position for the next shot. That said, his rebound control has developed well over his time in the minors. If there is a flaw, it is that he sometimes can be caught going down in his butterfly a little bit too early, but this is something that many butterfly goalies struggle with and is not a major weakness. Allen plays the puck extremely well, helping his defence on clearing the zone, and can even spring the forwards for an odd man rush with a long pass while the opponent is caught on a change.
42) Brandon Gormley, D, Arizona Coyotes
Gormley’s biggest asset is his tremendous hockey sense. He uses this to his advantage at both ends of the ice, and is an excellent two way player as a result. Gormley understands the play very well, and always seems to make the smart play in the offensive zone. He understands when to join the rush, when to pinch at the blue line, where his teammates are on the ice, and whether to pass or shoot. Gormley also has excellent grasp of the game in the defensive end of the ice. He creates turnovers and starts the transition game due to his good reads, smart positioning and excellent anticipation. Gormley’s hockey instincts are something that cannot be taught and will lead to him having a long and successful NHL career.
43) Mirco Mueller, D, San Jose Sharks
Mueller has shown good offensive ability this season. He keeps his head up and makes a good first pass most of the time. He also shows solid vision and playmaking skill from the point on the powerplay. Mueller has a hard shot which he keeps low and on net. He has good stickhandling ability and combined with his good skating he is able to both lead the rush and join it as a trailer. Defensively Mueller shows good positioning and high hockey IQ. He diagnoses the play well, maintains good gap control, and keeps his man to the outside. He is not afraid to block shots, and he cuts down passing lanes well. He gets involved in board battles and works hard to clear the crease. He could stand to add more muscle before making the jump to the pro game.
44) Nic Petan, C, Winnipeg Jets
In the offensive zone, Petan has shown to be a multi-dimensional threat coupling great vision and playmaking skills with a good wrist shot and quick release. He creates scoring chances for linemates, but can also be a finisher when they set him up. He has a very high hockey IQ and always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and to make smart plays with the puck on his stick. Petan works hard in the corners and the front of the net and shows a lot of fight and grit despite his size. He is not intimidated to go up against bigger and stronger opponents. Petan has also shown to be a reliable defensive player and often contributes on Portland’s penalty kill unit. He anticipates plays well and causes turnovers. His good hockey IQ allows him to steal pucks and transition quickly form defence to offence. He will of course need to bulk up to play in the NHL, and a transition to wing (like many smaller players) may eventually be in his future, but he does have the skills to succeed. Expect to see him play another season of junior hockey before making his way to the AHL ranks in 2015.
45) Jared McCann, C, Vancouver Canucks
McCann was #12 on our draft board, and we believe the Canucks got a real steal in drafting the Greyhounds forward at 23rd overall. McCann is an excellent skater. He has great acceleration and very good top end speed. He is amongst the quickest players in this draft class. His ability to change speeds can be used to fool defenders, he loves to turn up the speed at the last second and cut to the middle of the ice, leaving an often flat-footed defender in his wake. McCann combines this with top notch stick-handling which makes him incredibly dangerous off the rush. He also has excellent vision and passing skills, and the ability to make his linemates better. He cycles extremely well waiting for teammates to find an opening, and then hitting them with the pass. If given an opening he is willing to take the puck through the high traffic areas and to the front of the net. McCann also has a quick shot, and can get it off very quickly, with a very good release. McCann has already developed a strong-two way game and has become a strong penalty killer for the Greyhounds, as well as the centre who plays against the other team’s best line every night.
46) Julius Honka, D, Dallas Stars
Offensively Honka, has good stickhandling ability, excellent vision and passing skill. Honka is a natural in the role of powerplay quarterback and can create a ton of chances when he is given time and space. He has a booming slapshot and very good one-timer from the point. Has the knack to get this shot through and on net around the defenders that defend high to try and prevent it. He also has effective wrist and snaps shots and a very good release on both. Honka has good offensive hockey sense and can pick the right time to pinch in for an offensive chance. Even when he makes a poor decision his quick skating can often help him to recover. He is undersized, but outstanding skating, good positioning, and a very quick stick make him good defensively.
47) Brett Ritchie, RW, Dallas Stars
Ritchie developed into a dominant physical presence and an impressive goal scorer this year. He has impressive size and he knows how to use it, as an aggressive forechecker who really puts pressure on defencemen as they go back to retrieve pucks. With the puck on his stick he’s willing to skate right through his opponents to create a scoring chance, and is always driving the net. He’s willing to dig in the corners and to take the punishment to work in front of the goalie. Ritchie also has a hard accurate wrist shot, and a good one-timer. His wrister has a deceptively quick release, leading to a number of goals. He’s also developed a defensive game using his size, and ability on the boards to help his defence in containing opposing forwards.
48) Kerby Rychel, LW, Columbus Blue Jackets
Rychel has a very heavy, very accurate wrist shot and an excellent release which can really fool goals and leads to him scoring a lot of goals. Rychel also has a very good one timer and should be called a pure sniper. He scores a ton of goals from the top of the circles. However, he can also absolutely lethal in close to the net, using his soft, quick hands to tip in shots and bury rebounds. With this kind of pure goal scoring talent, its easy to see how he has scored so many goals over the last three years. Rychel also drives opposing goalies nuts by setting up right at the top of the opponents crease and creating traffic along with occasional contact and chaos in the goal mouth area. He also works hard in the corners and throws some big hits by getting in hard on the forecheck. He also has some decent vision, and can make plays for his linemates, especially off the cycle.
49) Henrik Samuelsson, C/LW, Arizona Coyotes
Samuelsson is a big bodied, power forward prospect. He’s versatile as he’s been used at both Centre and Right Wing. Samuelsson uses his size and strength to battle opponents for loose pucks on the boards and to plant himself in front of the net. He has soft hands and a knack for banging in rebounds and tipping shots in close. His huge frame is also an effective screen for opposing goalies. Samuelsson has a good wrist shot and release, and he’s also good on one-timers. Samuelsson has also shown a creative playmaking side, utilizing great vision, and great tape-to-tape passing skills to rack up the assists in Edmonton. Henrik doesn’t shy away from traffic or from playing a physical game, and has been known to throw a big hit at times. He’s also shown a bit of his father’s legendary mean streak.
50) Peter Mrazek, G, Detroit Red Wings
Mrazek is an aggressive goalie who seems to attack the puck. He loves to get out of his crease, cut down angles and really challenge shooters. He has the strong footwork and puck tracking to recover when doing so, and is an extremely athletic goaltender. Mrazek can amaze with his ability to make saves on cross ice passes and his side to side mobility. Mrazek’s style is a bit unorthodox and he doesn’t play a traditional butterfly. He is especially effective with his quick legs. though and really takes away the bottom of the net well. While his glove and blocker are good, they aren’t at the level of his legs and if he is beaten on a shot it is usually high. Like many young goalies he needs some work on his rebound control. Mrazek is mentally strong, he doesn’t let one bad goal rattle him and doesn’t seem to let things spiral. He displays confidence, almost cockiness, in his demeanor no matter what the situation.
51) Matt Finn, D, Toronto Maple Leafs
Finn is an incredibly intelligent defenceman in both ends of the ice. Finn uses his high end hockey sense to be an effective two way player who makes smart reads and very good decisions in all three zones. Offensively, Finn understands the proper time to pinch in at the line, and is effective in picking his spots to join the rush. He is able to find holes in the opponents defence and exploit gaps created in the offensive zone to sneak in from the blueline and create a high quality scoring chance. Defensively Finn reads the play well in both the neutral zone and the defensive end of the ice, effectively shutting many plays down before opponents get the opportunity to set up. He is a quick and agile skater, and uses these skills in all areas of the ice.
52) Rickard Rackell, C, Anaheim Ducks
Rackell’s edgework and agility make him especially dangerous in eluding defenders off the rush, or getting himself open in the offensive zone. When he does get open he has a heavy shot and a very good release. He shows very good hockey sense, finding the openings in the defense, and making smart plays when he has the puck. He is willing to use his size to battle in the corners and in front of the net. His stickhandling and puck protection are good, but he’s not really a dangler, beating defenders with his skating, or making a smart pass to the open man are more of his game. This isn’t a bad thing though as the type of game he plays often translates very well to the pro game.
53) Jarred Tinordi, D, Montreal Canadiens
Tinordi’s game is a purely defensive one. He is a big, rugged and at times nasty defensive defenceman. His positioning is outstanding and he uses his big body and long stick to cut down passing lanes and block shots. He clears the front of the net and battles hard along to the boards. In junior, Tinordi was a very physical player who was always looking for the big hit. We didn’t see that as much during his time with Montreal, as it seemed he didn’t want to gamble and get himself out of position against the faster opponents he was facing. He did show more hitting in his second year in the AHL than he did in his first though, and I would expect to see those big hits slowly come back into his game as he becomes more comfortable wit the speed of NHLers. Tinordi has also developed a reputation for never backing down from a fight, even if he did reduce the number of fighting majors he has taken over the last few years.
54) Calle Jarnkrok, C, Nashville Predators
Jarnkrok has an outstanding wrist shot and release that are near NHL ready. He also is a very good puck career and protects the puck well in the corners and down low on the cycle game. A tenacious forechecker he fights hard in the corners when the puck is loose as well. He’s not a big hitter, but he’s a battler who just never gives up on the play. His good vision, playmaking and hockey sense can lead to some great passes and set ups for teammates, but he also has a tendency to rely too much on his shot at times. Jarnkrok shows a long, smooth and powerful skating stride that gives him excellent top end speed. However his first few steps are a bit awkward and could use some work as it really robs him of acceleration when he has to change direction, or when starting up. He does have good agility though, and the balance, power and non-stop motor that helps him to fight through checks.
55) Ty Rattie, RW, St. Louis Blues
Rattie is a talented offensive player, and pure sniper off the wing. He has very good hockey sense and a knack for finding open ice in the offensive zone. He seems to elude defenders and find free patches of ice from which he can unleash a deadly accurate wrist shot. His release is deceptively quick and eludes goaltenders and he has a great one timer. Rattie is also not afraid to go to the front of the net despite his size and works to score rebounds tip ins and deflections. He is also a talented playmaker, finding open teammates and setting them up with crisp, tape to tape passes. Rattie does work to get involved in battles in the corners and along the boards, he added some strength last summer and improved this area, but needs to add a little more again this year.
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