The process of creating Hockey’s Future’s Top 50 NHL Prospects was explained in an introductory article. Readers may refer to the first three parts of the list, prospects ranked 41-50, those ranked 31-40, and those ranked 21-30 posted earler. Below are prospects 20-11, 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.
20. Patrick O’Sullivan, Center (MIN)
Height: 5-11, Weight: 190, Current Team: Mississauga IceDogs (OHL)
Few players have gone through as tumultuous a draft year as Patrick O’Sullivan had last year. The now well publicized falling out with his father and O’Sullivan’s reaction to this adversity raised serious questions about the 2002 CHL Rookie of the Year. But the Winston-Salem, NC native appears to have pushed those problems aside in the 2003-04 season, with O’Sullivan putting together his best OHL season coupled with a gold medal-winning performance with the U.S. squad at the 2004 World Junior Championships. A gifted offensive center, O’Sullivan has huge upside, but his development as a person is the primary reason he was a late second round pick as opposed to an early first rounder. Already with three superb junior seasons under his belt, O’Sullivan has little left to accomplish with Mississauga.
19. Dustin Brown, Right Wing (LA)
Height: 6-0, Weight: 200, Current Team: Los Angeles Kings (NHL)
After three successful years with the Guelph Storm of the OHL, Dustin Brown was selected 13th overall last year by LA and made the club out of training camp. A pair of ankle injuries have cut Brown’s season to 28 games thus far, and also kept him out of the World Juniors. A great skater with a powerful shot, Brown is known for his goal scoring ability and his solid all-round game. Although he does not possess superior size, the Ithaca, New York native will go to the net and plays with a fair amount of grit and determination. His first NHL campaign has been nothing to write home about, but Brown will only improve in the coming seasons in LA.
18. Anthony Stewart, Right Wing (FLA)
Height: 6-1, Weight: 225, Current Team: Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
It is quite rare to see a prospect combine size, speed and goal scoring ability the way Anthony Stewart does. Thick and incredibly fast, Stewart slipped to the Panthers late in the first round, in large part because of concerns over his scoring upside. This season, Stewart almost made the Panthers out of training camp but his inability to agree to a contract meant he could not play for the Panthers even if he had made the squad. The LaSalle, Quebec native starred for Canada at the World Juniors, and has put up impressive goal scoring numbers with Kingston of the OHL. It is likely that Stewart will make the Panthers next year, but he is still incredibly raw, and is in no way a lock to be a huge scorer at the NHL level.
17. Mikko Koivu, Center (MIN)
Height: 6-2, Weight: 200, Current Team: TPS Turku (FIN)
Saku’s “little” brother, Mikko Koivu, is in some ways a larger version of the Montreal Canadiens star. The younger Koivu is a gifted, playmaking forward who relies more on skill than grit to make things happen in the offensive zone. Koivu, a native of Turku, Finland, played for his hometown club in Finland’s top league, where he turned in a solid 2003-04 season, mostly as a second-line forward. The young pivot was considered a can’t-miss prospect after being selected by the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the 2001 NHL Draft. Although still a highly regarded prospect, Koivu’s stock has dropped a little given the uncertainty of his ultimate talent level. Koivu’s skill level is high enough for him to receive consideration at this point on the Top 50 list.
16. Denis Grebeshkov, Defense (LA)
Height: 6-1, Weight: 195, Current Team: Manchester Monarchs (AHL)
While the Los Angeles Kings are not blessed with great defensive depth in their system, they do have at least one rearguard, Denis Grebeshkov, who could develop into a top defenseman. Grebeshkov had a solid camp with the Kings, but a wrist injury kept him out of the lineup for three months. The Yaroslavl, Russia native had a brief call-up to the Kings in early March, but the Kings seem content to let the talented defender develop his game in the AHL. Grebeshkov has the potential to be a solid, all-around defenseman with offensive skills, the type of presence the Kings have not had on the blueline since the trade of Rob Blake.
15. Mark Stuart, Defense (BOS)
Height: 6-1, Weight: 200, Current Team: Colorado College (WCHA)
Boston Bruins prospect Mark Stuart may not be as skilled as some of the top defensemen on this list, although he does have enough skill to see time on the power play. What Stuart does possess is healthy doses of leadership and toughness, plus a defensive game that is more advanced than some of his peers. The Rochester, Minnesota native has starred at Colorado College the past two seasons, but it will be interesting to see how much longer he plays at the NCAA level. When a player garners comparisons to Scott Stevens, he is certainly worthy of a lofty slot on a list such as this one.
14. Jeff Carter, Center (PHI)
Height: 6-3, Weight: 182, Current Team: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
A tall, lanky and impressively smooth center, Jeff Carter was a minor surprise with his selection by Philadelphia at No. 11 in last year’s draft. But there are few that now question Carter’s status as a top prospect, particularly given his strong performance at the 2004 World Junior Championships. The young pivot has been a leader for the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds this season, Carter’s hands and speed are his primary assets, but, in spite of having a nice frame, he has yet to fill out completely. Consistency is still a problem for the London, Ontario native, but that should come with age.
13. Fedor Tjutin, Defense (NYR)
Height: 6-2, Weight: 196, Current Team: New York Rangers
After a strong showing with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack, Fedor Tjutin was recalled to the parent New York Rangers in February. The 20-year-old native of Izhevsk, Russia has turned in a mostly solid performance for the Blueshirts since his recall, giving the team some hope for the future on the blueline. Tjutin is a defender whose game has no serious flaws, but who at this stage of his career is concentrating more on defensive positioning rather than a well-rounded arsenal. Tjutin has the tools to be a part of the Rangers top defensive pairing, but he needs more time to develop before reaching that level.
12. Andrei Kastsitsyn, Left Wing (MTL)
Height: 6-0, Weight: 189, Current Team: CSKA-2 (RUS)
Novopolosk, Belarus native Andrei Kastsitsyn was considered by many to be the most purely talented hockey player in the 2003 NHL Draft. But questions surrounding his health caused his draft status to drop slightly, to an extremely happy group at the Montreal Canadiens’ draft table. This season, Kastsitsyn struggled during a stint in the RSL with CSKA Moscow, but he had no problems playing for that organization’s development team, where he scored at better than a point-a-game pace. The fleet winger can do great things at a high rate of speed, an attribute that will be sure to bring Canadiens’ fans out of their seats. Kastsitsyn is still a bit raw in terms of his overall talent, however, so he’ll probably spend another season developing in Russia.
11. Zach Parise, Center (NJ)
Height: 5-11, Weight: 180, Current Team: New Jersey Devils (NHL)
Zach Parise’s 2003-04 season had barely ended when it was announced that the University of North Dakota star had signed with the New Jersey Devils. Parise, son of former NHL winger J.P. Parise, was already a highly regarded player heading into the 2003 NHL Draft, but his stock has risen even more during the 2003-04 season. The younger Parise led the Fighting Sioux to the top of the NCAA rankings throughout much of the season, and is a finalist for the Hobey Baker award. Parise also starred for the gold-medal winning U.S. squad at the 2004 World Junior Championships, where he earned tournament MVP honors. The talented pivot’s lack of great size does not appear to be a hindrance to his talent, with his main offensive attribute being his playmaking ability. Parise has the ability to be a top-flight NHL player, so he’ll be starring for the Devils in the not-too-distant future.