The Spring edition of the Hockey's Future ranking of the Top 50 NHL prospects begins with the prospects ranked 41-50. This group features several prospects on the verge of cracking an NHL roster on a full-time basis, as well as more recent draft picks who are finding breakout success in 2013-14.
The significant number of prospect graduations during this season left the ranking with a lot of new faces. This is not any more apparent than in the bottom 10 prospects, where none of the players cracked the Top 50 list in the fall.
Martin Marincin has split the 2013-14 season between the Oilers and the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons, making his mark among a talented group of blue line prospects in the Edmonton system. He was also chosen to represent Slovakia at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, marking the 2013-14 season as one of both recognition and transition as the lanky defenseman has faced top competition.
At 6'5", Marincin can use his long reach and smooth skating to disrupt the play in his own zone. He displays good offensive instincts and can move the puck effectively in transition or on the power play. As he continues to his acclimation to the NHL level, he is a defender with the potential to log big minutes and contribute at both ends of the rink.
Baertschi has had a tumultuous season with plenty of growing pains. He struggled to adjust to Bob Hartley's system with the Flames and the toll it took on his confidence was notable. His assignment to the AHL was disappointing, but at the same time a necessary step in his development. The Swiss forward is still a creative and offensively gifted player, but he needs to learn when to make the safe play and when to take risks with an environment of less pressure. The two-way skill set he has is still one that is NHL-ready and of great value to the young Flames. Now it falls to Baertschi to wrap his head around the mental portion of the game, and adjust to the heightened pressure and speed of the NHL.
A big, strong power forward, Samuelsson managed to eclipse his 80-point 2012-13 season with 95 points in 65 games this season for the high-flying Edmonton Oil Kings. Despite the Oil Kings' success earning the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, Samuelsson's season still included the disappointment of being left off of Team USA's roster for the 2014 U20 World Junior Championship.
Samuelsson's physical attributes give him the ability to play around the net and put up offense from the tough areas of the ice, but he is equally adept on the rush and finding the soft spots in the offensive zone. Skating is an area in need of further improvement, but Samuelsson is a prospect that has many of the tools NHL teams, and specifically the Phoenix Coyotes, look for in a power forward.
A two-way defenseman who is wrapping up his fourth season of WHL hockey, Damon Severson brings a blend of size and offense to the Devils organization. He has been extremely productive at the junior level this season, posting 15 goals and 46 assists through 64 games, and was among the last cuts for Team Canada at the 2014 WJC. Severson plays with a calm demeanor which accentuates his high-end puck skills, and while he is not a physically intimidating presence, he plays a tough, heavy game on the ice. It remains to be seen what kind of player Severson will develop into at the NHL level, but he has the potential to develop into a top-four defenseman.
45. Eric Gelinas, D, New Jersey Devils
Height: 6-4, Weight: 209, Not ranked
Although he was assigned to the AHL out of training camp, it did not take Eric Gelinas long to be recalled to the NHL as he was called up in late October, and has been a regular part of the Devils' lineup ever since. Though he has been steady at both ends of the ice, Gelinas has made his most noticeable impact on the Devils power play, which has been among the best in the league for much of the 2013-14 regular season. His even strength play has also shown a fair amount of polish for a rookie, and he is routinely paired with either fellow rookie Jon Merrill or veteran Marek Zidlicky.
A Russian forward with sublime puck skills, Alexander Khokhlachev has been very good in his first full season of AHL hockey. He has been extremely consistent, never going more than three games without a point, and has shown that he is equally adept at scoring and setting up plays. He is a good skater with high-end creativity, but must get stronger to be an effective offensive player in the NHL. He could get a serious look in the NHL as early as next season, but may need another season in the minors to improve his play away from the puck.
A big defender with a long reach and nasty disposition, Jarred Tinordi experienced positive growth in his second season of professional hockey. He made the Canadiens roster out of training camp and appeared in six NHL games before he was re-assigned to the AHL in late October. He was later recalled in late February, and has been in the NHL ever since.
Tinordi projects as a big, physical defenseman who provides an intimidating presence along the blue line and is good at clearing the area around his net. He does not possess an immense amount of offensive upside, but his puck skills should develop enough where he can make solid outlet passes and occasionally chip in on offense.
The Islanders already owned a deep and talented corps of defensemen going into the 2013 NHL Draft, and they added another high-potential blueliner in Ryan Pulock. A two-way defenseman with one of the hardest shots in the WHL, he rebounded in 2013-14 from a draft year in which he was limited by injury, finishing this season with 23 goals and 63 points in 66 games.
The 19-year-old captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings is 6'1" and stocky at 211 pounds, capable of using his physical play in his own end or getting his hard shot on net in the offensive zone. Skating is still an area in need of improvement, but Pulock remains a promising defensive prospect for the Islanders.
The centerpiece of Nashville's return for longtime Predator David Legwand was Swedish center Calle Jarnkrok. Playing in his first full season of North American hockey, Jarnkrok earned time in all situations for the Detroit Red Wings' AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. After the trade, the playmaker scored five goals and seven points in his first five games with the Milwaukee Admirals before making his NHL debut in Nashville.
Jarnkrok is a cerebral player with good hands and vision. Although not an imposing forward at 5'11", he protects the puck well. He is also mindful of his defensive responsibilities and can help his team in all three zones. With three-and-a-half seasons of pro hockey in Sweden under his belt, the pivot is close to bringing his well-rounded game to the Nashville lineup full-time.
No player in any of the three Canadian major junior hockey leagues put up more points than Connor Brown, who finished with 45 goals and 83 assists in 68 games in the OHL's regular season. Brown was always a productive forward at the OHL level, but he improved his power skating ability and gained a lot of strength over the last year, which has made him a more dynamic threat offensively.
There is no guarantee Brown's offensive production will translate to the professional level, but he is a driven personality who will do what is necessary to put himself in a position to succeed. He seems to have a good grasp on the type of dietary and exercise habits that will be expected at the pro level and seems committed to doing anything that is asked of him. The biggest thing Brown needs to do to succeed at the next level is add strength, though he could also stand to improve his defensive game.
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