Hockey’s Future Top 50 prospects, Spring 2008 1-10

By HF Staff

 

Players listed must meet Hockey’s Future’s prospect criteria

1. Jonathan Toews, C – Chicago Blackhawks

Height: 6’2, Weight: 203

In his first season with the Chicago Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews has shown that he is a gifted scorer, a true leader and is tough as nails.  The talented 19-year-old center was producing at close to a point per game pace before missing 15 games due to a sprained knee suffered on Jan. 1.  Blackhawks head coach Denis Savard has commented on Toews’ work ethic as being at a level unlike anyone else he has ever seen.  Toews is a future captain for the Blackhawks as justified by that ethic, plus his playing style and feel for the game.  Toews is in an elite club with Erik Johnson and Carey Price, and is clearly the top forward prospect out there.

2. Erik Johnson, D – St. Louis Blues

Height: 6’4, Weight: 222

Johnson has not only earned significant ice time, but also excelled despite playing a position difficult to learn at the NHL level and for a head coach not known for trusting rookies in crucial situations.  His drop from the top spot in these rankings is more an affirmation of the immense impact Toews is having with Chicago than an admonition of Johnson’s play.  In fact, the top three prospects are viewed more as 1A, 1B and 1C than clearly differentiating future impact.  Skilled, fast and physical, Johnson is the complete package on the blueline in a 6’4 frame.  He has spent the entire season with St. Louis and represents the next great, young defenseman for the NHL.

3. Carey Price, G – Montreal Canadiens

Height: 6’2, Weight: 175

It would be hard to argue that any prospect had a better calendar year than Price in 2007.  A gold medal at the World Junior Championship in Sweden, an AHL title and playoff MVP award, cracking the Montreal Canadiens roster early in the season and going 5-1-1 in his first seven NHL games.  He has lightning-quick legs, sound positioning, strong rebound control and an air of confidence and composure in the net. The uncanny parallels to Canadiens legends Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy begin at Price’s size and skill set but could realistically end with Stanley Cup glory this June.  The Vancouver native has more than silenced the critics who slammed Montreal for selecting him fifth overall at the 2005 NHL Draft.  With all this, it is still hard to believe that Price will not even reach his 21st birthday until August.

4. Kyle Turris, C – Phoenix Coyotes

Height: 6’1, Weight: 170

In his freshman year for the University of Wisconsin, Turris led the Badgers in scoring in what was a down year for the squad. While his top-end skills have shined through, he still looks a bit small when it comes to matching up with the competition.  In international play at the 2008 WJC, Turris led the gold medal winning Team Canada in scoring with eight points (4 goals, 4 assists) in seven games played. The Coyotes 2007 top pick signed an entry-level deal with the club this spring instead of returning to Madison.  He could crack the NHL roster out of camp.

5. James vanRiemsdyk, LW — Philadelphia Flyers

Height: 6’3 Weight: 191 lbs

After a disappointing 2006-07 campaign, the Flyers reaped the benefits of a high draft pick when they selected talented winger vanRiemsdyk second overall in the 2007 entry draft. A combination of size, skating ability and a skilled overall offensive player, vanRiemsdyk could well be en elite power forward in the NHL someday. For now, he has proven that he can bring the same offensive punch to the collegiate level that he demonstrated in the NTDP. As a freshman at the University of New Hampshire, he impressively averaged more than a point per game.

6. Jakub Voracek, RW – Columbus Blue Jackets

Height: 6’1, Weight: 190
 
The Columbus Blue Jackets were extremely impressed with Jakub Voracek during their training camp in the fall, but they resisted temptation and sent him back to the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL.  In Halifax, Voracek has done the Blue Jackets proud by demolishing the QMJHL with his superb offensive skills. With a point producing style like his, it was no doubt that the seventh overall pick in the 2007 NHL entry draft earned QMJHL Player of the Month for both October and January.  This slick 18-year-old Czech winger has a very bright future ahead of him as a scoring threat in the NHL and it is certain he will get a long look at the Blue Jackets training camp in the fall.

7. Kyle Okposo, RW – New York Islanders

Height: 60, Weight: 200
 
Okposo has been making big impressions on the New York Islanders organization, particularly this season.  The Islanders signed Okposo to an entry-level contract mid-season and promoted him to the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers from the University of Minnesota after only 18 games in the NCAA.  With the Sound Tigers, the 19-year-old winger had averaged just under a point per game.  Okposo was then called up to the Islanders, where in just his second game he scored his first NHL goal. The Islanders are a team that is in need of scoring, size and grit. This is exactly what they will get from Okposo.

8. Tuukka Rask, G — Boston Bruins

Height: 6’3 Weight: 181 lbs

Despite a brief call-up early in the season, the Bruins have stuck to the plan by affording Rask the opportunity to develop at the minor pro level. As a rookie in North America, Rask has backstopped one of the top teams in the AHL, where he’s handled the majority of the workload. In a situation where he hasn’t fully been tested, Rask has nevertheless come through when needed and is one of the top rookie goaltenders in the league. A goaltender known for his quick reflexes, Rask has tremendous natural ability, focus, and a strong work ethic. An elite prospect, he projects to be a starting goaltender in the NHL, and has the potential for a long, successful career. 

9. Jonathan Bernier, G – Los Angeles Kings

Height: 5’11, Weight: 177

As the opening night starter in net for the Los Angeles Kings, Bernier would only last four games before being returned to Lewiston of the QMJHL.  But in his first taste of NHL life, he would also receive his baptism by fire as a multitude of scoring opportunities against would force the Kings to return him to major juniors.  In his short stay, Bernier demonstrated the athleticism, solid fundamentals and calm demeanor that had made him one of the best goaltending prospects in the world.  After rebounding from a rocky start with Lewiston, he has bounced back to the top of the QMJHL and dispersed any thought that the early season challenges in Los Angeles would be a setback in his development.  By this time next season, Bernier will be a major contributor to Manchester of the AHL and push for playing time in Los Angeles as a future cornerstone in net for the franchise.

10. Bobby Ryan, RW – Anaheim Ducks

Height:  6’2, Weight:  215
 
The second overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Ryan made the Anaheim Ducks out of training camp in the fall.  But he was sent down to the AHL Portland Pirates in October, as he was clearly struggling to keep up with the pace of the NHL and needed time to find his game.  The Ducks recalled the 21-year-old right winger on Dec. 15 and he started showing flashes of what the Ducks expected out of him.  He was playing with more confidence, was able to keep up with the pace of the play and showed the flashes of offensive brilliance that his talent suggests will be a consistent factor in the NHL.  Ryan is expected to stay with the Ducks for the remainder of the year and has probably had his last stint in the minors..