1. Alex Pietrangelo, D – St. Louis Blues
Height: 6’3, Weight: 206
Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo remains one of the top prospects in all of hockey. After failing to remain with the NHL club the past two seasons it would be easy to assume that Pietrangelo was not living up to his potential. But that’s not the case. The Blues organization is simply taking the prudent approach to developing their future franchise defenseman. The young blueliner has made steady strides in the OHL playing for the Niagara IceDogs and now for the Barrie Colts. Pietrangelo was one of Team Canada’s leaders on and off the ice at this year’s World Junior Championships and was named the tournament’s top defenseman. The well-rounded rearguard has a strong chance of playing a full season for the Blues in 2010-11 though time in the AHL is also possible.
2. Semyon Varlamov, G – Washington Capitals
Height: 6’1, Weight: 185
After a standout performance in the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs, Varlamov cemented his role in the NHL as a formidable goaltending prospect. The 2009-10 NHL season has not quite gone as expected though as the Olympian spent a portion of the season injured and later relegated to backup duties behind veteran Jose Theodore. The 21-year-old Varlamov has fantastic positioning, athleticism, and a solid glove hand, making him among the best goaltending prospects in the NHL. Expect the Russian to take on full-time starting duties with the Capitals in 2010-11.
3. Cody Hodgson, C – Vancouver Canucks
Height: 5’11, Weight: 182
Named the CHL Player of the Year as well as Hockey Future’s Prospect of the Year last season, Cody Hodgson was forced to sit out the bulk of the 2009-10 season due to an injured back. Despite the missed time, the talented center recently bounced back with the OHL’s Brampton Battalion. He has displayed the high hockey IQ that makes him so effective offensively. At 20, he is also strong in both zones and can play in any situation. Though the injury was an unfortunate setback, Hodgson remains one of the top two-way forward prospects in the game and is still on track to make an impact at the pro level soon.
4. Tuukka Rask, G – Boston Bruins
Height: 6’3, Weight: 181
The Finnish-born Rask is finally making his mark at the NHL level while last year’s Vezina winner, Tim Thomas, struggles at times in front of him. The 23-year-old is still relegated as Thomas’ backup, and likely will continue to be as Thomas is locked up to an expensive long-term deal. An athletically explosive goaltender by nature, Rask is also sound from a positional standpoint and has shown progress with his puck-handling. For now though, Rask can only focus on the rest of his outstanding rookie season and not worry about how the ice time situation plays out.
5. Brayden Schenn, C – Los Angeles Kings
Height: 6’0, Weight: 192
He narrowly missed making the Kings out of training camp, and Brayden Schenn was returned to junior hockey in Brandon where the team will host the 2010 Memorial Cup. He is a leader of one of the CHL’s top offenses and serves as the Wheat Kings captain. The 18-year-old also plays a fearless and physical game which only adds to his leadership qualities. The burgeoning power forward is also a great playmaker and strong skater. He made his NHL debut on Nov. 26 as an emergency fill-in. Schenn is poised to suit up for Los Angeles again as soon as next season.
6. Nikita Filatov, LW – Columbus Blue Jackets
Height: 6’0, Weight: 172
After a rocky start to the 2009-10 season in North America, Nikita Filatov was loaned by the Blue Jackets to CSKA Moscow of the KHL. The 19-year-old appears to have found his comfort zone in Russia, where he is a point-per-game player and even declared that he might spend an additional year in the KHL. However, now that Ken Hitchcock is no longer the Blue Jackets head coach, things might change. If Filatov does play to North America for 2010-11, expect to see the enigmatic forward return to the lineup with a greater sense of urgency.
7. Jonathan Bernier, G – Los Angeles Kings
Height: 5’11, Weight: 177
Los Angeles has been very prudent with their top goaltending prospect so far. With the performance of Jonathan Quick, there is obviously no need to rush Bernier’s progress. As a result, he has had the opportunity to develop in the AHL for the past two seasons. So far Bernier has progressed well, using the opportunity to work on the weak parts of his game. Look for Bernier to crack the Los Angeles line-up next season.
8. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D – Phoenix Coyotes
Height: 6’2, Weight: 171
Ekman-Larsson became the Coyotes top prospect as soon as he was selected in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. A mobile blueliner who possesses great vision and puck-distribution ability, he will have to bulk up to take the more demanding North American game. Differently from other top-end Swedish prospects the 18-year-old does not play in the Elitserien, but in the Swedish second tier league with Leksand. He is the league’s top-scoring junior defenseman. Ekman-Larsson’s contract runs out in April 2010.
9. Jacob Markstrom, G – Florida Panthers
Height: 6’3, Weight: 178
The Panthers 2008 second-round pick might well supplant Tomas Vokoun in the next few years. Markstrom’s butterfly abilities and size combination makes him one of the hottest goaltending prospects in the world. He is having an excellent season in the Elitserien with Brynas which is a remarkable achievement as it is hard for junior goalies to get the starter role in Europe. He has to work a bit on his rebound control however as well as some finer points of his game. Expect to see him come to North America for the 2010-11 season.
10. John Carlson, D – Washington Capitals
Height: 6’3, Weight: 210With the London Knights last season, he was one of the most productive players at his position in junior hockey. Because he was drafted out of the USHL, the 19-year old Carlson was not required to return to the OHL this season if he did not stick in the NHL. He has spent most of this season as a member of the AHL Hershey Bears, and is among the top 10 AHL rookies in scoring, as well as the leading defensive scorer on the Bears. Carlson has appeared in several NHL games and is expected to stick full time next season. A top playmaking blueliner who is extremely responsible in his own zone, Carlson has the size, skating ability and offensive instincts to play in the top pairing.