The Spring edition of the Hockey's Future ranking of the Top 50 NHL prospects has been released, but there are always talented prospects who did not make the cut. Whether through recent sub-par performances or various concerns over meeting their potential, these players were considered for the ranking but did not ultimately crack the Top 50.
The most prominent player to finish outside of the rankings was probably Ryan Murphy (CAR). Ranked at 36th in the Fall Top 50, Murphy underwent positive development in 2012-13, but not to the degree of many of his peers, and as a result ended up among the honorable mentions. The biggest concern with Murphy was whether or not he would develop into a top-four defenseman, or into more of a powerplay specialist.
Among the other defensive prospects to just miss the cut for the Top 50 were Jamie Oleksiak (DAL), Hampus Lindholm (ANA), and Brayden McNabb (BUF). All are currently playing minor league hockey for their respective clubs and have to one degree or another shown promise as an NHL prospect.
For Lindholm, there was debate over the type of overall potential the Swedish defenseman has as an NHL prospect. There is no question he can play in North America, as demonstrated by his solid play in the AHL as a 19-year-old, but many facets of his game are still very raw, and despite that readiness, he remains a project.
There were similar feelings regarding towering defenseman Oleksiak, who like Lindholm has played at a very high level in the AHL this season. Oleksiak even saw an extended cup of coffee in the NHL this season, though the results were a little mixed. Regardless, he remains a promising prospect with excellent size and the type of skill-set that suggests he should develop into a solid two-way defenseman.
McNabb, who has also spent extended time in the AHL, is different than Oleksiak and Lindholm in that he is a couple years older and seems to have established a much clearer identity at the pro hockey level. He does not quite have the raw potential of Oleksiak or Lindholm, however, and seems destined to be a second- or third-pairing defenseman capable of contributing on special teams.
Another prominent player who just missed the cut is goaltender Jack Campbell (DAL). Playing in his first full season of professional hockey, Campbell spent the 2012-13 season with the Dallas Stars' AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars. Campbell has split starts with Cristopher Nilstorp this season, and while he has shown flashes of brilliance, he has been very inconsistent. His struggles were particularly prevalent early in the year, when he went winless through the month of December and allowed an average of over three goals per game. Despite his slow transition to the professional game, Campbell remains a promising prospect for the rebuilding Stars.
There were several forwards who also missed the cut, including Tomas Tatar (DET), John Gaudreau (CGY), Ty Rattie (STL), and Drew Shore (FLA). All are having very good 2012-13 seasons, and the separation of talent between them and the bottom section of the Spring Top 50 ranking was razor thin.
Tatar and Shore are both solid forwards who appear to be ready for top-nine duty in the NHL. Both, however, project to be more complementary players, relied on to play a good two-way game and provide secondary scoring rather than being a focal point of their team's offense.
Rattie is an extremely accomplished scorer at the WHL level and may have game-breaking potential. He is a fairly one-dimensional player, however, as he is not very physical nor is he particularly adept on defense.
Gaudreau, meanwhile, has tons of talent, but is done no favors by his 5'7", 155-pound frame. He will have to add considerable strength to play his offensive style of game in the NHL, and might be as many as three years away from realistically contributing at that level. That being said, Gaudreau is coming off an amazing season with Boston College that saw him post 21 goals and 30 assists in just 35 games. If he continues to add strength and dominate his competition, he will almost assuredly be included in future Top 50 rankings.
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