Below is the second installment of Hockey’s Future’s long-awaited updated Top 50 NHL prospects list for Fall 2004. Prospects ranked 26-50 can be found here.
The top-ranked organization, the Washington Capitals, placed the most prospects on our Top 50 list. At the other end of the spectrum, there are several NHL teams with no players on the list.
All players were chosen by the committee from among those drafted prospects meeting Hockey’s Future’s prospect criteria, as of the beginning of the 2004-05 season.
25. Dustin Brown, Left Wing, Los Angeles Kings
After three successful years with the Guelph Storm of the OHL, Dustin Brown was selected 13th overall in 2003 by LA and made the club out of training camp. A pair of ankle injuries cut his season to 31 games 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 was nothing to write home about, but he is playing well right now in Manchester in the AHL.
24. Ilya Bryzgalov, Goaltender, Anaheim Mighty Ducks
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 will back-up Giguere when the season resumes with Martin Gerber traded to Carolina to make room for the Russian. He’s currently playing to his potential with Cincinnati in the AHL.
23. Hannu Toivonen, Goaltender, Boston Bruins
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. He’s currently playing in Providence and people still expect him to be better than Calder winner Andrew Raycroft.
22. Patrick O’Sullivan, Center, Minnesota Wild
Few players have gone through as tumultuous a draft year as Patrick O’Sullivan did. 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, 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. Already with three superb junior seasons under his belt, O’Sullivan has little left to accomplish with Mississauga, now in his fourth year.
21. Anton Babchuk, Defenseman, Chicago Blackhawks
Anton Babchuk is a steady offensive defenseman, and with the likes of Cam Barker and Brent Seabrook joining him in the future, Chicago’s defense looks to be good for years to come. Babchuk played five games in the NHL last year, registering two assists. At 6’5, he dominates everyone on the ice with his frame, throwing around his body and making successful plays. That is of course, when he isn’t using his laser beam of a shot. In his first pro season in North America, the Kiev, Ukraine player scored 8 goals and 22 points with the AHL Norfolk Admirals. Babchuk has come a long way to become Chicago’s No. 1 prospect.
20. Alvaro Montoya, Goaltender, New York Rangers
With already Dan Blackburn and Henrik Lundqvist already in the system, the New York Rangers selected Alvaro Montoya in the first round of the 2004 NHL Draft. He made his best impact on the hockey scene when he helped Team USA defeat Team Canada in the 2004 World Juniors to take the gold medal. He was also named the top goaltender of the tournament. Inspired by his success, he played to his potential in the NCAA and ended his season with a multitude of honors. The Glenview, Illinois native is in his third season with the Wolverines. He’s as quick as they come and he likes to be involved in the game. His puckhandling is good, but he tends to be aggressive and can lose control of the puck, which can be disastrous.
19. Maxime Ouellet, Goaltender, Washington Capitals
Now 23, Ouellet was originally a first round selection of the Philadelphia Flyers, and is now a top prospect in the Washington Capitals system. The Capitals have so far been content to develop Ouellet slowly, with the Beauport, Quebec native having seen only a limited amount of NHL action. With the Capitals now going with a youth movement, however, it’s expected that Ouellet will be given more of a chance to prove his mettle in the NHL. He is a butterfly style goaltender, one with enough size to fill the upper portion of the net even when dropping to his knees to cover the lower part of the net. He’s in is third season with the Portland Pirates. Reports are that Ouellet will be Washington’s backup once the season starts.
18. Anthony Stewart, Right Wing, Florida Panthers
Big, bruising Anthony Stewart has always had questions as to whether he could score enough to warrant a full-time job on a scoring line in the NHL. But following a WJC in which he tied for the tournament lead in points with 5 goals and 6 assists against the best the world had to offer in his age group, those questions have been laid to rest. At 6’2 and 228 pounds Stewart skates incredibly well for a big man and hits anything that moves. Almost impossible to move from in front of the net and with a work ethic that takes a backseat to no one, he has a shot that that is not only heavy but accurate.
17. Jeff Carter, Center, Philadelphia Flyers
When the Flyers drafted Carter 11th overall in 2003, many onlookers were left scratching their heads. But following a breakout campaign in Sault Ste Marie and a great showing at the WJC’s, this lanky pivot is well on his way to becoming an impact player at the pro level. That’s not to say he is ready to be a star now, but without a glaring weakness, Carter has a fairly complete game. He just needs to keep on doing what he’s doing and add some muscle to his 6’3 frame and the orange and black will have themselves a worthy successor to their high profile centers.
16. Fedor Tjutin, Defenseman, New York Rangers
A potential steal in the second round of the 2001 Entry Draft, Tjutin didn’t look out of place during his first taste of the NHL in 2003-04. In his 25-game stint he put up 2 goals and 5 assists while playing only –4 hockey on an abysmal New York Rangers team. The Russian blueliner has it all in terms of tools: good speed and mobility with the skates, a nice first pass, the ability to carry the puck up the ice and do something with it, and enough jam to get the job done in his own end. While it is true he could use a few more pounds, his 6’2 frame suggests that he won’t have any problems putting that weight on in the near future.
15. Andrei Kostitsyn, Right Wing, Montreal Canadiens
A brilliant puck-handler, the Belarussian lit it up in his draft year at the U-18 tallying 15 points in only six games. While he doesn’t have terrific speed, his ability to dangle and his heavy shot are his best assets. Naturally, the Canadiens are going to want him to get a bit bigger in order to take the punishment meted out at the pro level. Like most young Europeans, he needs to learn more about the defensive side of the game and learn to use his teammates better in the passing game. These are things that come with time.
14. Braydon Coburn, Defenseman, Atlanta Thrashers
While it is true that this blueliner, once seen as the next Jay Bouwmeester, has been surpassed by draftmates Dion Phaneuf and Ryan Suter, make no mistake there is definitely enough of a package here for Coburn to develop into a defensive anchor for the Thrashers in the not too distant future. Some would like to see him play a bit more aggressively, but that should come as he grows into his 6’5 frame. Offensively, he makes the good first pass and has shown decent skill. He remains with his junior team, the WHL Portland Winter Hawks, this season.
13. Alexander Semin, Left Wing, Washington Capitals
One of the fastest players in the 2002 Entry Draft, Semin was snapped up by the Caps with the 13th overall pick. Offensively, he can do it all. He skates like the wind, has a great shot which he can get off in mid-stride and has enough moves to make more than a few defensemen look like turnstiles. That said, the one thing that may plague the shifty left winger is his size. At barely 6’0 and 180 pounds he has enough there to dominate in the AHL, but in order to play with the big boys he is going to have to add some weight.
12. Zach Parise, Center, New Jersey Devils
The son of former Minnesota North Star J-P Parise, Zach was dealt a hand that may have had him pigeon-holed early as just another small forward playing NCAA hockey. However, if his performance during his draft year (39 games, 26 goals, 61 points) didn’t open any eyes, then his follow up season in 2003-04 (37 games, 23 goals, 55 points) in which he lead Team USA to the gold medal at the WJC’s, collecting the MVP along the way, certainly cemented his place as a true blue-chipper.
11. Cam Barker, Defenseman, Chicago Blackhawks
Easily the best defenseman available in the 2004 Entry Draft, Barker brings a lot to the table. As his 21 goals and 65 points in 2003-04 playing for the Medicine Hat Tigers show, he has an offensive game that can dominate from the blueline. However, there is more to the third pick overall than offense. His game away from the puck is quite advanced for his age and he has a mean streak that should serve him well down the line. Barker will be an anchor of the Blackhawk defense for years to come.
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