The Spring edition of the Hockey's Future ranking of the Top 50 NHL prospects continues with the prospects ranked 31-40. This section of the ranking is particularly deep with offensively talented forwards, led by Mikhail Grigorenko, Nicolas Petan, and Max Domi.
31. Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Buffalo Sabres
Height: 6-3, Weight: 200, Fall ranking – 21
After a strong 2012-13 season in the QMJHL, the Sabres tried to get Grigorenko playing in the NHL this season. But, after not delivering around the time of the 2014 World Junior Championships, the Sabres initially tried to assign Grigorenko to the AHL, but were unable to and had to assign him back to juniors. This is looking like a missed year as he did not make many strides forward in his pro play and also failed in having a strong showing at the WJC for Team Russia, despite netting some good stats at that tournament. Grigorenko is again putting up good numbers for the Remparts, but his demotion to junior hockey might not be a good sign for the future.
32. Nicolas Petan, C/LW, Winnipeg Jets
Height: 5’9, Weight: 172, Not ranked
Although he fell into the second round of the 2013 NHL Draft, Nic Petan has proven to be a top talent in both the WHL and on the international stage in 2013-14. The 19-year-old forward led the WHL with 78 assists and ranked second in the league with 113 points during 63 regular season games. He was also a key piece of Canada's offense at the 2014 WJC, providing a few timely goals for the club. Petan's offensive instincts and slick skills give him an edge over the opposition even when, at 5'9", he is overmatched from a physical standpoint. His effort in all three zones and high compete level make it seem like he is always involved in the play. He has to continue adding strength and rounding out his game, but Petan has the potential to be a dynamic, offensive forward for the Jets.
33. Petr Mrazek, G, Detroit Red Wings
Height: 6-0, Weight: 184, Not ranked
Mrazek has quietly been one of the best goaltenders in the AHL over the course of the last year and a half. While many eyes lie on prospects like John Gibson (ANH) and Andrey Vasilevskiy (TBL), Mrazek has thrived for a second straight season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He is just now starting to creep into the NHL with injuries affecting the Red Wings NHL tandem of Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson at times. He has been noted as a big game player and an extremely athletic goaltender, but noteworthy is his history of winning. Mrazek has had considerable success at both the CHL and AHL level. That bodes well for his Detroit Red Wings' future, considering it is a franchise built on a tradition of success. He is just 22 years old, so the Red Wings can afford to slow cook him a little, but he currently stands as one of the more NHL-ready goaltending prospects.
34. Max Domi, C, Phoenix Coyotes
Height: 5-10, Weight: 194, Not ranked
One of the more dangerous offensive threats in the OHL, Max Domi has been a model of consistency in his third season with the high-powered London Knights. He boasts 93 points in 61 games and has yet to go three games without a point this season. He is a little undersized at just 5’10", but like his father, former NHL enforcer Tie Domi, Max is solid at 194 pounds and can play with an edge. He is an agile, explosive player with above-average speed and the ability to do things with the puck at full speed that few NHL players, let alone OHL players, can perform. He is eligible to return to the Knights again next season, but he could get a chance to crack the Coyotes’ lineup next season.
35. Tomas Jurco, LW, Detroit Red Wings
Height: 6-2, Weight: 193, Not ranked
Jurco can flat out dangle with the puck. He possesses excellent skating speed, vision, and creativity along with a good, quick release. The 21-year-old is very patient and poised with the puck on his stick and can move fluidly through the high traffic areas. His desire and work ethic to improve his overall game is outstanding for a player of his offensive skills. The talented forward is also very comfortable playing on either wing, which is particularly helpful with movement on the power play. He still needs more strength and improvement to his game away from the puck, but it is simply a matter of more experience and time.
A talented winger who already has experience playing against men, Andre Burakovsky projects as yet another offensively-gifted forward for the Washington Capitals. After adding 11 points in 43 games for Malmo in Sweden last year, Burakovsky joined the OHL’s Erie Otters this season where his experience and skill level has been on full display. In just 57 regular season games, the Austrian-born Swede has produced 87 points for the high-octane Otters. He can often get overpowered or outworked when battling for the puck and can certainly work toward improving his defensive game, but there is no doubting Burakovsky’s skill. He is eligible to return to Erie next season, but as a European selection can also play in the AHL at 19 years old.
Rookie defenseman Cody Ceci made an immediate impact at the AHL level, so it was not too surprising when he was recalled to the NHL in mid-December to join the Senators in place of a suspended Jared Cowen. What is surprising is how quickly Ceci cemented a role in the Senators lineup. Like most young, offensively leaning defensemen, he occasionally tries to do too much and needs to play a simpler game at times. He is also guilty of not playing to his size, and needs to better use his 6’2" frame to his advantage. Still, his shot, skating, and offensive ability makes him a promising prospect, who should only improve in time.
Morin has size, physicality, and plays with a nasty streak. The 6'6" blueliner lays big hits, battles well in front of the net and along the boards in the defensive zone, and will drop the gloves to stand up for his teammates. He is a good skater for his size, a shutdown defender with strong positioning that uses his long reach to cut down the passing and shooting lanes. Though he does not project as a big offensive force from the blue line, Morin has improved his outlet passes and his shot from the point.
As a big lanky kid, he needs to gain more muscle mass and there are some normal skating issues with his reverse pivots, edgework, and footwork agility. Morin has top-four potential and should be a good defensive defenseman that is going to make life difficult in the Flyers end of the rink.
Murphy has been solid in his first season of pro hockey. The puck-moving defenseman spent the majority of the 2013-14 season in the NHL, and seems to have settled into a third defensive-pairing role with the Hurricanes. Murphy has a knack for handling the puck and does a good job of controlling it along the blue line, especially on the power play. He still needs to improve his defensive play, and must get stronger to endure the rigors of the NHL, but he has shown more good than bad in his rookie season, and should only get better with more experience.
Brett Ritchie can be a handful and has proven as much this season with the Texas Stars of the AHL. He is already adept at using his size to shield defenders from the puck or put up points while taking a beating around the net. The 20-year-old rookie has provided a steady source of secondary scoring for Texas, displaying the ability to create space for his linemates while getting many looks of his own. Continuing to develop his consistency and the details of his game will be key, but Ritchie has the size, speed, and skill to develop into a top-six power forward. He could even see an opportunity in a top-nine complementary role sooner rather than later.
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