Tim Erixon came to the Rangers this past summer as part of a trade that sent a prospect and picks to the Calgary Flames. A former first round pick of the Flames, Erixon is a mobile, two-way defenseman with strong offensive sensibilities. Possessing an excellent mental game, Erixon is not flashy, but has a heavy shot, and is a good puck distributor. After three seasons in the SEL, Erixon is competing for am NHL roster spot this fall.
32. Ryan McDonagh – D – New York Rangers
Height: 6-1 Weight: 213
Now considered a staple on the blue line for the New York Rangers, McDonagh is expected to be a second pairing defenseman on the team for a long time. Originally drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round in 2007, McDonagh was sent to the Rangers as part of the 2009 trade that sent Scott Gomez the other way. The 22-year-old McDonagh is an excellent two-way defenseman, a good puck distributor, solid positionally, and plays with an edge to his game.
33. Tomas Tatar – C/LW – Detroit Red Wings
Height: 5-11 Weight: 186
In his second season playing North American professional hockey, Tomas Tatar showed immense growth and maturity. Aside from adding a decent amount of strength to his slight frame, Tatar dramatically improved his defensive game while further refining his offense. His overall game was so much improved he saw a brief cup of coffee with the Red Wings, a team who historically does not place their youngsters in high pressure situations. Tatar will start the 2011-12 season in the AHL though if he continues to progress as he has over the past two years, his time in the minors is fleeting.
Merrill exceeded all expectations last year and then some as he made a seamless transition to the NCAA with the Michigan Wolverines, collecting numerous accolades and awards as a freshman. A combination of size and skill, the young defenseman looks like a future power-play quarter-back with his elite puck distribution and shooting skills. However, as talented as Merrill is, his character recently came into question when he was handed a 12 game suspension for violating Michigan team rules.
35. Jack Campbell – G – Dallas Stars
Height: 6-3 Weight: 175
Jack Campbell will look to rebound off a shaky first season in Windsor that saw many peaks and valleys. The 19-year-old enters his second year with the club with less pressure to perform as the Windsor Spitfires go through a rebuild. That however does not mean he won’t be heavily relied on. Campbell started the 2011-12 season off with a bang, shutting out the offensive powerhouse Sarnia Sting in his first game after returning from the Dallas Stars camp. He’s eligible for the World Juniors again, and is the likely candidate to be the US starting goalie after he was named top goaltender for the tournament in 2010-11.
Smith transitioned easily from the NCAA to the AHL last year. The former first-rounder put up 32 points and 124 penalty minutes in 63 games for Grand Rapids, in the process earning AHL All-Star team and the AHL All-Rookie team honors. Smith is a top-end skater and can handle and move the puck. His ability thus far to translate his offense across different leagues and skill levels gives a lot of hope to Red Wing fans. Smith is reliable in his own end, and has been improving his defensive zone skills, but will likely play the role of a top-four offensive defenseman and powerplay specialist in the NHL.
37. Ryan Ellis – D – Nashville Predators
Height: 5-10 Weight: 172
Ryan Ellis has been one of the most dominant junior defenseman in recent memory with his ability to control the flow of a game from the blue line. Combined with his wide array of offensive ability, Ellis is a threat every time he steps onto the ice. The 20-year-old defenseman joined the century club last season when he hit a new career high of 101 points with the Windsor Spitfires. With the breadth of defensive depth on Nashville’s roster, Ellis isn’t expected to see full-time NHL duty this season. It will allow the offensive dynamo to continue his maturation process in the AHL.
An energetic winger, Palmieri makes up for his small stature with excellent speed and a high compete level. The club’s first-round pick in 2009, Palmieri plays a similar game to that of Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand. The 20-year-old American is a quick skater who likes to grind it out along the boards and can be a bit of an agitator. While he isn’t thought to have top-end skill, Palmieri’s ability to complement other skilled players with his speed and work ethic is something that could help increase his offensive ceiling.
Leddy played 46 games in Chicago last season, and looks poised to play many more this year. Leddy’s game is deceptive. His smooth skating and calm puck handling allows him to look effortless in transition while capably moving the puck up ice. He is an offensive-minded defenseman and a good playmaker, but could benefit from shooting the puck more often. Leddy uses positioning and skating ability as his primary defensive weapons, but his small frame left him susceptible to stronger opponents last season. In order to further cement his place in the NHL, he will need to use his body and angles better in his own zone.
Energetic forward Zac Dalpe brings a blend of solid size and good offensive instincts to the Carolina Hurricanes. Named to the AHL All-Rookie team in 2010-11, Dalpe demonstrated he is a hard-working goal-scorer who is able to use his speed to create offense. He has refined his defensive skills, and combined with his top-notch work ethic, looks ready to make the Carolina squad this fall. Once there, he should see top-nine ice time and plenty of powerplay opportunities.
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