Minas Panagiotakis/Icon SMI)
The 2011-12 season brought another solid NHL rookie crop, with players such as Gabriel Landeskog and Cody Hodgson making their mark as players to watch in coming seasons.
What those two players also have in common is that they were included among HF's Fall ranking of the Top 50 prospects, but they have now “graduated” from the ranks of NHL prospects according to the criteria in place at Hockey's Future. That duo, plus a few more prospects from that Fall ranking, have moved on to what should be bigger and better things, only to be replaced by other prospects in this Spring Top 50 ranking that were for whatever reason on the outside looking in the last time around.
In addition, a few prospects from the Fall ranking that turned in a strong rookie season in the NHL still remain on the list, having not yet met the criteria for being removed from consideration for this list. While it may seem strange in a couple of cases to include these players this time around, it was felt that it would be best to stick to the prospect criteria currently in place at HF when deciding eligibility for this list.
And so we move on to the Spring ranking of the Top 50 prospects according to Hockey's Future. Beginning with the 41-50 grouping, the 10 prospects include three that were previously ranked and seven that were not included in the Fall version of this list. Two of the previously ranked players suffered a fairly significant drop since the Fall, although they were deemed to have enough upside to be included this time around.
Here, then, is the 41-50 group for this latest ranking of the Top 50 NHL prospects.
41. Brendan Gallagher, RW/C, Montreal Canadiens
Height: 5-9 Weight: 175, Not ranked
Brendan Gallagher has an excellent work ethic, grit, really good hands and a very quick, accurate release on his shot. The physical little winger doesn't need a lot of time or space to strike offensively and will take advantage of the smallest of chances. For the third year in a row, the energetic captain scored more than 40 goals and ended his junior career as the highest scoring player in the Vancouver Giants' history. The offensive dynamo really showed his great compete level and never-quit attitude at the 2012 WJC Championship in the semi-final game when he sparked Team Canada's late but ill-fated comeback against Russia. Although Gallagher has improved on his skating speed and added more muscle mass, he will still need to increase both in order to play his style of game in the dirty areas around the net at the NHL level.
42. Jon Blum, D, Nashville Predators
Height: 6-1, Weight: 178, Fall ranking – 16
Despite experiencing a rather serious sophomore slump this season, Jon Blum still remains a very talented defenseman with upside. Blum started the season with the Predators but constant lapses in defensive zone coverage landed him in the AHL. Even in the AHL, Blum continued to struggle defensively for most of the season. Just in time for the AHL playoffs, however, he finally found his game at both ends of the ice. It is his swift skating and smarts that got him to the NHL and will get him back there eventually. But next season, Blum will have to deal with a very deep core of Predators defensemen as Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi have made the jump to the NHL.
43. Peter Holland, C, Anaheim Ducks
Height: 6-3, Weight: 200, Not ranked
A big, offensively talented center, Peter Holland is a noted finisher who also has the ability to set up chances for his linemates. He has a powerful skating stride and can use his 6-3, 200-pound frame to protect the puck and work through traffic. An incredibly smart hockey player at both ends of the rink, the 21-year-old Holland is well-suited to the responsibilities of a center in the defensive end and at the faceoff dot. A lack of consistency has been his biggest knock, but ample opportunity with Syracuse in the AHL led to a productive rookie season that helped even out his performance. Anaheim envisions him as an eventual top-six center, and a full-time role with the big club may not be far off for Holland.
44. Robin Lehner, G, Ottawa Senators
Height: 6-4, Weight: 225, Not ranked
The big and talented Robin Lehner makes his debut on this list in spite of a somewhat rocky season. His save percentage and goals-against average sparkled in the NHL while being one of the worst in the AHL. Playing on the last place Binghamton Senators definitely did not help his cause. Still, losing the number one job to backup Mike McKenna cannot be acceptable. For a 6-4 goalie, he has incredibly quick side-to-side movement and is not afraid to challenge shooters. Next season his goal has to be to find more consistency in his game and to at the least solidify himself as a number one goalie in the AHL.
45. Tim Erixon, D, New York Rangers
Height: 6-2, Weight: 190, Fall ranking – 31
The expectations for Tim Erixon were quite high in New York after he essentially forced a trade from the Calgary Flames organization in the summer. He started the season in the NHL with the Rangers, but, aside from a few re-calls, Erixon wasn’t quite ready for the jump to the NHL as he ended up spending the majority of the season in the AHL where he scored 33 points in 52 games. A jack-of-all-trades but master of none, Erixon possesses great hockey sense and plays a sound two-way game. He has the potential to be an elite, second-pairing defenseman in the not too distant future.
46. Mark McNeill, C, Chicago Blackhawks
Height: 6-1, Weight: 211, Not ranked
Mark McNeill was among the most physically-mature prospects available at the 2011 NHL Draft. He can use his 6-1, 211-pound body to his advantage in board battles and puck protection, often looking like a man amongst boys in the WHL. His work ethic and hockey sense make him effective in all situations as well as a player that is rarely caught out of position. Offensively, McNeill has been a primary producer for the Prince Albert Raiders thanks to soft hands and instinctive play-making ability. Given his ability in the defensive zone, the 19-year-old center may challenge for a checking role in Chicago as soon as next season. Although his skating may not blow anyone away, it should not hold McNeill back from developing into a reliable two-way center with leadership abilities.
47. Brian Dumoulin, D, Carolina Hurricanes
Height: 6-4 Weight: 225, Not ranked
Brian Dumoulin is a rising star in the well-stocked stable of defensemen in the Carolina Hurricanes' organization. The junior blueliner for Boston College enjoyed a season of accolades, awards, a second National Championship, and a professional contract. On the road to the championship, Dumoulin achieved two-time All-American status (one of only ten BC players to ever do so), was named the Best Defenseman and First-Team All-Conference player in the Hockey East, made the All-Tournament team for the Frozen Four, and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. Dumoulin led the Boston College in scoring by a defenseman with 28 points in 43 games. Dumoulin signed an entry-level contract with the Hurricanes shortly after the title game, and has been assigned to Carolina’s AHL affiliate in Charlotte. With his size, positional play, puck-moving skills and smooth skating, Dumoulin looks poised to become a fixture in the Hurricanes' back-end for years to come.
48. Ty Rattie, RW, St. Louis Blues
Height: 6-0, Weight: 173, Not ranked
Ty Rattie took a big step forward in his development after slipping to the top of the second round at last year's NHL draft, where the Blues gladly scooped him up. He lit up the WHL this season to the tune of 57 goals and an eye-popping 121 points, with Rattie continuing to score at that clip in the playoffs for the Portland Winterhawks. Though he’s not the best skater, he uses his on-ice smarts to find soft spots in the offensive zone and uses his silky smooth hands to either set up a teammate or bury the puck in the back of the net. It’s still early, but it looks like the Blues have a legitimate top-six scorer in the making.
49. Tyler Toffoli, RW, Los Angeles Kings
Height: 6-0 Weight: 190, Not ranked
Tyler Toffoli has solid hockey sense, good puck handling skills, a solid work ethic and a very quick release along with an NHL-caliber shot. For the second consecutive season, the Ottawa 67s' sniper has scored more than 50 goals and has 163 goals in his four year OHL career. He has established himself as a premier finisher at the junior level and has a sixth sense to find loose pucks around the opposition’s net. Although the offensive winger has improved his skating speed and added to his strength, he will need to work with a power skating coach and gain more muscle mass to play his game at the NHL level. Toffoli has become the Kings' best scoring prospect and could be an NHL sniper in the future.
50. Jamie Oleksiak, D, Dallas Stars
Height: 6-6 Weight: 245, Fall ranking – 50
Rounding out the Top 50 is the behemoth, 2011 first-round pick (14th overall) of the Dallas Stars, Jamie Oleksiak. Oleksiak has tremendous size, agility and soft hands, and has been among the top defenders in the OHL all season. Oleksiak posted 21 points in 28 games after moving to Niagara’s stacked defensive zone in a mid-season trade from Saginaw, and is an anchor on a unit that includes the likes of Dougie Hamilton and Jesse Graham. Oleksiak may play another year in the OHL (he will not turn 20 until December), but with his superb athletic abilities and physical play, a more likely scenario would have him starting his pro career with the AHL's Texas Stars.