Top 50: Shayne Gostisbehere and Valentin Zykov among honorable mentions

By HF Staff

Valentin Zykov - Los Angeles Kings

Photo: Selected 37th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft by the Los Angeles Kings, forward Valentin Zykov had a solid 2013-14 season in the QMJHL, posting 23 goals and 40 assists in 53 games. (courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

As with every Top 50 ranking, difficult decisions had to be made towards the bottom section, and players were left out for a variety of reasons.

In some cases, players on the honorable mentions list are NHL caliber talents who have questions or concerns regarding their development, be it injuries, inconsistency, or questions of character. With some prospects, there was simply a wide disparity of opinion on their overall potential.

The following group of prospects, presented in no particular order, just missed the cut in HF's Spring Top 50 ranking. They are all still prospects worth keeping an eye on as the 2013-14 season winds down and the 2014-15 season begins next fall.

Nicklas Jensen, RW/LW, Vancouver Canucks
Height: 6-3, Weight: 186, Not ranked

Though things got off to a rocky start, Nicklas Jensen has been very solid in his first full season of North American professional hockey. Considered to have a good shot at cracking the Canucks roster out of training camp, Jensen suffered an upper body injury in a preseason game and was on injured reserve until October 30th, when the Canucks assigned him to their minor league affiliate, the Utica Comets. A sniper by trade, Jensen was scoreless through his first 18 games with the Comets this season, but seemed to find a groove in the new calendar year, and by the time February rolled around, he was one of the hotter scorers in the AHL.

With injuries beginning to accumulate on the Canucks roster, Jensen was recalled in early March and has been part of their top-nine forward group ever since.

Beau Bennett, RW/LW, Pittsburgh Penguins
Height: 6-2, Weight: 207, Fall ranking – 40

Winger Beau Bennett came into the 2013-14 NHL season expecting to compete for a top-six spot roster spot alongside star centers Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Instead, he spent 61 games on injured reserve, first from a lower body injury in late October, then a wrist injury in late November which required surgery to repair.

When healthy, Bennett is a quick and aggressive forward who possesses high hockey sense and game-breaking offensive ability. He returned to the lineup in late March and has looked extremely effective, but his health will remain a concern until he is able to prove otherwise.

Oscar Klefbom, D, Edmonton Oilers
Height: 6-3, Weight: 201, Fall ranking – 38

Expectations for Oscar Klefbom heading into the 2013-14 season were sky high, but after missing most of 2012-13 with a shoulder injury and struggling at times adjusting to the North American game, the Swedish blueliner spent much of the 2013-14 regular season developing in the AHL with Oklahoma City.

A late season call-up to Edmonton in March has been a boon to the blueliner's stock however, as he has proven capable of skating a regular shift without hurting his club. Klefbom is a well-rounded defenseman, capable of making stops in his own end with his size or reach as well as getting his club moving towards the offensive end. While more immediate returns were expected of the defenseman, he was always viewed as a bit of a project and seems to be on track to compete for an NHL job to start the 2014-15 season.

Valentin Zykov, LW, Los Angeles Kings
Height: 6-0, Weight: 207, Not ranked

The Kings traded three draft picks for the chance to select Valentin Zykov with the 37th overall pick in 2013. The Russian winger may not have intimidating size on paper, but his strong build and fearless style of play make him a handful for opposing defenseman.

After 40 goals in his draft year, Zykov has not made quite as big of an impact in the goal-scoring department in 2013-14. The winger was also one of the more disappointing forwards for Russia's 2014 WJC club that came up short of the medal round in Sochi with zero points in seven games. He will still need to develop his game away from the puck before transitioning to the pro level, but the rough-and-tumble Zykov nonetheless has the potential to develop into a dynamic scoring winger who can fit well into the Kings' physical style of play.

Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Philadelphia Flyers
Height: 5-11, Weight: 170, Not ranked

A junior with Union College, Shayne Gostisbehere has established himself as one of the top defensemen in college hockey. A quick, mobile presence along the blue line, Gostisbehere specializes in transitioning the puck up into the offensive zone – a skill that is increasingly valuable in the NHL.

Though he has the skating and instincts to play in the NHL, Gostisbehere has less than ideal size and will have to add plenty of strength. He will also need to simplify his game, as he will not be able to routinely beat players at the pro level with his speed the way he does in college.

Riley Sheahan, C/W, Detroit Red Wings
Height: 6-2, Weight: 212, Not ranked

Riley Sheahan is one of several young forwards who has kept the Detroit Red Wings playoff hopes alive in the face of mounting injuries. A two-way player with good skating ability, puck protection, and hockey sense, Sheahan projects as a prototypical Red Wings forward in the sense he can do everything fairly well.

He played the first half of the 2013-14 season mostly in the minors, but was recalled in January and has been a contributing member of the roster ever since. Where he plays in the Red Wings lineup largely depends on who is healthy, but Sheahan has the versatility to play all three forward positions and a variety of different roles.

Martin Jones, G, Los Angeles Kings
Height: 6-4, Weight: 187, Not ranked

A big goaltender with great anticipation, Martin Jones has finally established himself as a viable NHL goaltender after playing three full seasons with the Kings minor-league affiliate. He made his NHL debut in a rather dramatic fashion too, going 8-0 in his first eight starts and registering three shutouts. Jones' play has been so strong this season that the Kings felt backup goaltender Ben Scrivens was expendable and traded him to the Edmonton Oilers in mid-January.

Jones has been stellar in spelling starter Jonathan Quick and is 11-6 through 18 starts on the season. He also has a .932 save percentage and a 1.91 goals against average.

Reid Boucher, RW/LW, New Jersey Devils
Height: 5-10, Weight: 192, Not ranked

Reid Boucher has been a standout in his first full season of professional hockey. An undersized forward with excellent hands and goal-scoring instincts, Boucher started the 2013-14 season with the New Jersey Devil's AHL affiliate. He managed 10 goals and eight assists in his first 21 games and was recalled in early December. He stuck in the Devils lineup for 23 games, managing two goals and five assists, but was eventually returned to the AHL.

The 20-year-old sniper is a strong candidate to start the 2014-15 season on the Devils NHL roster.

Shea Theodore, D, Anaheim Ducks
Height: 6-2, Weight: 175, Not ranked

The Anaheim Ducks defensive pipeline has been productive in recent seasons, particularly with Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen settling into full-time roles for the Ducks in 2013-14. Meanwhile up north in Seattle, Shea Theodore used the 2013-14 season to announce himself as the next in line. The blueliner led the WHL's defensemen with 79 points in 70 games and helped the Thunderbirds reach their highest playoff seed in six seasons. Adding strength to his 6'2 frame and continuing to improve his defensive game will be important for Theodore, but the blueliner has all the offensive skills to make an impact for the Ducks.

Ryan Spooner, C/W, Boston Bruins
Height: 5-11, Weight: 181, Not ranked

Since turning pro, Ryan Spooner's playmaking abilities have really come to the forefront. In junior, Spooner was more of a dual threat offensively, but thus far through almost two seasons with Providence he has accumulated 74 assists through 109 games. He was rewarded this season with a 22-game stint in Boston, and while he failed to score a goal he did contribute 11 assists. He is not overly physical but plays a smart, safe game on the ice, and does not turnover the puck too much. Spooner will serve as an injury call-up for the Bruins this season and post-season, but could be a regular member of the lineup as soon as next year.

Hockey's Future Spring 2014 Top 50 Prospects Ranking
1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | Honorable Mentions

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