Hockey’s Future Top 50 NHL Prospects, 21-30

By HF Staff

The process of creating Hockey’s Future’s Top 50 NHL Prospects was explained in an introductory article. Readers may refer to the first two parts of the list, prospects ranked 41-50 and those ranked 31-40, posted earler. Below are prospects 30-21, in descending order, with a brief description of what they bring to the table. In parentheses are the NHL teams who currently hold their rights.

30. Ilya Bryzgalov, Goaltender (ANA)
Height: 6-4, Weight: 193, Current Team: Cincinnati Mighty Ducks (AHL)

One of the best goaltenders in the AHL the last few years, Ilya Bryzgalov is a big, technical and athletic goaltender who has the capability to steal games when he’s at his best. On most teams the Togliatti, Russia native would be a sure-fire goaltender of the future, but the Anaheim Mighty Ducks have someone named Jean-Sebastien Giguere ahead of him. Bryzgalov should back-up Giguere next season and should either be dealt or force a trade involving Giguere in the not-too-distant future.

29. Alexander Steen, Center (TOR)
Height: 6-0, Weight: 190, Current Team: Frolunda (SEL)

Another on the list with NHL bloodlines, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Alexander Steen is the son of former Winnipeg Jets star Thomas Steen. The younger Steen, a Swede born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is a skilled center with good playmaking ability and a willingness to go into traffic. Steen put together a solid season in Sweden’s top league, but he will need at least another year of development before making the jump to North America.

28. Pascal Leclaire, Goaltender (CLM)
Height: 6-2, Weight: 190, Current Team: Syracuse Crunch (AHL)

Yet another in a long line of stud QMJHL goaltenders, Pascal Leclaire was a highly touted prospect from quite a young age, but his stock has dropped a bit in recent years. After a disastrous first season in the AHL, the Repentigny, Quebec native has bounced back in a big way, even having a successful debut for the big club in Columbus. The only problem for Leclaire is that, like Ilya Bryzgalov, he is behind a very good young goaltender, Marc Denis, in the Blue Jackets organization.

27. Mike Richards, Center (PHI)
Height: 5-11, Weight: 185, Current Team: Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

One of the top scorers in the OHL this season, the Kitchener Rangers’ Mike Richards is a complete and versatile player who brings a complete game every night. Going into the draft the knock on the Kenora, Ontario native was that he wasn’t a great skater and lacked ideal size for a checking style of player. Gifted with the puck but more importantly incredibly responsible without it, Richards will at worst be a good third liner in the Mike Peca mold, but could put up enough points to play a regular scoring role on the Flyers in the future.

26. Hannu Toivonen, Goaltender (BOS)
Height: 6-2, Weight: 210, Current Team: Providence Bruins (AHL)

Quebec may be the current goaltending hotbed, but with solid young goaltenders like Boston Bruins prospect Hannu Toivonen trickling into the NHL, Finland may be challenging La Belle Province for goaltending supremacy. Toivonen is a butterfly-style goaltender with good quickness and lateral movement, attributes more commonly associated with the Quebec-bred netminders. The Kalvola, Finland native has turned in a solid first season with Providence, and is viewed as being the eventual No. 1 in Boston once he reaches his full potential.

25. Jiri Hudler, Center (DET)
Height: 5-9, Weight: 160, Current Team: Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)

Quick, shifty and highly skilled, the pint-sized center Jiri Hudler has excelled at every level he’s played at so far, aside from the NHL. Hudler has had a cup of tea with the Detroit Red Wings this year, and could follow in the footsteps of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on his way to playing a key role on the perennial Cup contender. The biggest knock on the Olomouc, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) native is that he is quite undersized and does not have the build of a NHL player. Hudler does compensate for his shortcomings by playing a feisty style of hockey, however, so the combination of pure talent and intensity should be enough to carry Hudler to a solid career in the NHL.

24. Ryan Whitney, Defense (PIT)
Height: 6-4, Weight: 205, Current Team: Boston University (HE)

After a sub-par 2002-03 campaign, Pittsburgh Penguins defensive prospect Ryan Whitney has regained the form that made him a top 5 selection in the NHL Draft. The Boston, Massachusetts native has regained his offensive touch while improving his overall play for the BU Terriers, which no doubt has the Penguins hockey department heaving a sigh of relief. Whitney has the talent to control a game, especially when transitioning from defense to offense, and he possesses the size to handle the rigors of the pro game. Next season will be Whitney’s senior year, so it will be interesting to see if he elects to turn pro or sticks with BU to finish his college career.

23. Ryan Kesler, Center (VAN)
Height: 6-2, Weight: 195, Current Team: Vancouver Canucks (NHL)

Very few players play in the NHL the year after being drafted unless they were a top 10 pick, but Ryan Kesler is one of the few, having already skated in 25 games for the Vancouver Canucks this season. A speedster who never stops working, Kesler is a great all-round player who is held back by his goal scoring ability. Between the AHL and the NHL, the Detroit, Michigan native has only five goals this season, and only had 11 last year for Ohio State. Even without great hands, though, he is already a regular player in the NHL, a sign of good things to come.

22. Ryan Getzlaf, Center (ANA)
Height: 6-2, Weight: 195, Current Team: Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

After being a consensus top 12 pick for most of the 2002-03 season, Ryan Getzlaf’s stock plummeted on draft day as he slipped to Anaheim at the 19th position. A big, strapping WHL forward, Getzlaf’s shot is probably his biggest weapon. The Regina, Saskatchewan native enthusiastically drives the net and will throw his weight around. His offensive upside is not significant, but he should be a solid second-line center for the Ducks. It is possible that Getzlaf could push for a roster spot as soon as next year.

21. Jeff Woywitka, Defense (EDM)
Height: 6-2, Weight: 209, Current Team: Toronto Roadrunners (AHL)

The key piece for Edmonton in the big Mike Comrie deal this season, Jeff Woywitka has a bright future ahead of him as a steady but unspectacular rearguard. Big and mobile, Woywitka is as steady as they come, and blossomed after the trade which landed him in Toronto of the AHL. Not special in any particular way, there may be some untapped offensive talent in the Vermillion, Alberta product. The Oilers are always in need of good young players, especially on defense, and Woywitka should be a regular next year.