With the graduation of a number of top prospects, Alex Pietrangelo takes over at No. 1 in these rankings. His combination of size and phenomenal offensive potential are second to none. Pietrangelo began the season on the St. Louis roster as an 18-year-old when injuries necessitated his presence, but the Blues elected to return him to his OHL club shortly afterward. Pietrangelo battled some nagging injuries of his own, but his potential has been more than evident. While he is more of a boom or bust player than Zach Bogosian and other defensemen in these rankings, if he develops his full potential, he would be the best defenseman taken in the loaded 2008 draft.
2. Zach Bogosian, D – Atlanta Thrashers
After being taken third overall in the 2008 Entry Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, the 18-year-old defenseman was immediately inserted into the lineup. But before he could complete the first month of his rookie campaign, he suffered a broken leg and missed 28 games, keeping him eligible for this ranking. Bogosian was a steady contributor, bringing size and consistent work ethic to the struggling Thrashers squad. He is a top-notch skater with excellent mobility for a player built solidly at 6’2 and 200 pounds. As the season has progressed, Atlanta has continued their commitment to rebuild their blueline with young players. Bogosian is a key part of that rebuild.
Filatov keeps on rising, and for good reason. The Russian winger is a tremendous goal scorer with an overpowering wrist shot. And Filatov showed his devotion to an NHL future by coming over and playing in the AHL as an 18-year-old. He was also recalled to the NHL briefly — scoring a hat trick — and was exquisite in the WJCs (top goal scorer). He is still adjusting to the North American game and, like most his age, he needs to fill out his frame and add strength. But it is undeniable that the speedy Filatov has about the highest offensive ceiling as any drafted prospect in the world right now.
The 10th pick of the 2008 NHL entry draft, Hodgson is probably the most highly regarded prospect drafted by the Vancouver Canucks since the Sedin twins. A standout in training camp, Hodgson was signed to an entry-level deal before being returned to the Brampton Battalion of the OHL. Hodgson is a complete two-way center as he is strong in the face-off circle, good at killing penalties, hustles in all zones and is a model of consistency. In the 2009 WJC, Hodgson elevated his game even further, leading all players in scoring. An early criticism of Hodson’s game was his skating, although it has appeared to improve this season. Hodgson could be playing in Vancouver as early as next fall.
Rask has spent the majority of the season with the Providence Bruins of the AHL. His one NHL appearance came against the New York Rangers in a 35-save shutout. Rask has been the stalwart in net for Providence, thus putting aside any notions about him having endurance issues. His role with Boston next season is as yet undetermined, but it appears that Rask is on track to eventually take over the reins.
Alzner made his NHL debut this season in late November and has shuttled back and forth between the Capitals and their AHL affiliate in Hershey. Considered a more defensive type of defenseman, Alzner has averaged over 19 minutes a game this season, taking a regular even-strength shift and on the penalty kill. Alzner’s defensive awareness, smooth skating, and stabilizing presence perfectly compliment the high-octane offensive game of many other Capitals. Alzner will be expected to compete for a regular spot in the NHL next fall.
Brassard, along with Jakub Voracek, exploded out of the gates this season as a rookie for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Both young forwards — but Brassard in particular — were catalysts for a Columbus club on the rise. The 21-year-old earned NHL rookie of the month honors in October. Brassard consistently put up points before being halted by a shoulder injury in a fight on Dec. 18. He has not played since, and his injury problems are a legitimate concern. However, when healthy, it seems undeniable that he is capable of taking on the role of a top-six forward. Brassard has plenty of battle in him, which is both why he suffered the injury that took him out of action, and also why he should completely rebound from it.
Leaving college hockey to join the professional ranks has proven to be a wise choice for Oshie. He made the opening night roster for St. Louis and has already established himself as a top-six forward in the NHL, well in advance of the timeframe that was expected. Along with Patrik Berglund, Oshie represents the next wave of top young forwards for the Blues. He is on the brink of graduating from prospect status as a full-time Blue. All past doubts in his ability to produce on a consistent basis have been put to rest.
It did not take long for Giroux to prove that he was ready for the show. After a stellar start in the AHL, Giroux found himself suiting up for the Flyers at the start of the New Year. Despite suffering a minor concussion and having to wait for the Flyers to clear some salary cap space, the offensively gifted 21-year-old is already playing in all situations with Philadelphia. He will most certainly play a key role in their playoff run this season, earning invaluable experience. He has a tremendous amount of offensive potential, but may develop that potential at a slower rate as he is gradually integrated into the already offensively talented Philadelphia lineup.
A number of Kings forward prospects were expected to make the team out of training camp this season, but not Moller. Moller did his best to disrupt those plans and indeed earned a spot. At only 19 years of age, Moller is already skating a semi-regular shift on the second and third lines, becoming an occasional healthy scratch when the Kings want to go with a bigger line-up. His offensive skills are only half the picture. As he becomes more established in the NHL, his grit and leadership qualities will be more apparent. Right now, Moller must take a back seat to the more veteran players on the Kings roster. But once he has some more experience under his belt, he will combine the scoring ability of a top-six forward with the leadership ability of a future captain.