Hockey’s Future Top 50 prospects Spring 2007: 11-25

By HF Staff

All players were chosen by a committee from among those drafted prospects meeting Hockey’s Future’s prospect criteria. Below are players ranked No. 11 to 25, along with an alphabetical list of those who just missed the cut.  Prospects ranked 26 to 50 can be found here.

11. Al Montoya, G – New York Rangers

Montoya has been able to bounce back from off-season shoulder surgery to make the majority of starts for the Hartford Wolf Pack. He has a 20-13-0 record for the Pack and is one of the top goaltenders in the AHL, ranked seventh in save percentage with .919 and third in goals against average at 2.13. The Rangers’ top draft pick from 2004 has a high threshold for pressure and is known for his ability to remain composed under most any circumstance. He also has excellent movement and puck-handling skills, and all the makings of a starting netminder in the NHL.

12. Bobby Ryan, RW – Anaheim Ducks

Picked by Anaheim in the first round of the 2005 entry draft, Ryan is blessed with good size and superior offensive skills that make him a difficult forward to defend. Currently in his third season with the Owen Sound Attack (OHL), Ryan has gained ground after a relatively slow start, having nearly matched his 95-point total in 59 games from the 2005-06 season. He is the top scorer for the Attack and eighth in the OHL with 100 points in 61 games. Ryan should be in the final stretch of his junior career and has the potential to be a top forward in the NHL.
 
13. Marc Staal, D – New York Rangers
 
The Rangers’ top draft pick from 2005 had a difficult start to the 2006-07 season, where, after remaining through one of the last round of cuts in training camp, he was sent back to his OHL Sudbury Wolves. Though he was not quite up to the same level of play has last season early on, his game has progressed, and was bolstered by a strong showing at the 2007 WJC for Team Canada. Blessed with good size, Staal has the tools to be a dominant defenseman, but will need continued work on his strength to keep up with the pace of the pro game. He could develop into a top-two defenseman for the Rangers.

14. Kyle Okposo, RW – New York Islanders

Few players in his draft year were as intriguing as Okposo, an aggressive and powerful skater who would just as soon drive through players as around them. It has been a terrific year for the St. Paul, MN native, who was drafted seventh overall by the Islanders, represented his country in Sweden at the WJCs and has also been a leader both statistically and emotionally for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.  Okposo has 19 goals and 20 assists in 39 games, leading the team as a freshman.

15. Cody Franson, D – Nashville Predators

Another in a long list of stellar blueliners drafted by Nashville, Franson is one of the top defenders in the WHL. Anchoring the Vancouver Giants from the back end, Franson has recorded 51 points in just 57 games, good for sixth in the league among defensemen. Not only is the Sicamous, British Columbia product a standout in the WHL, but the 19-year-old also performed well for Canada in his role at the 2007 WJCs. 

16. Carey Price, G – Montreal Canadiens

Price has enjoyed a breakthrough season this year, proving that the organization’s decision draft him fifth overall in 2005 was good foresight. Price backstopped Team Canada to World Junior gold and was named the tournament’s top goalie and MVP. He has enjoyed a dominant season with the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, posting a 29-13-1 record behind a 2.48 GAA and .917 save percentage. After suffering through multiple losing seasons, one could expect Price to be overjoyed with his success this season, but he’s maintained an even keel, which the Canadiens feel will be his true strength long term.

17. Josh Harding, G – Minnesota Wild

Just when Manny Fernandez thought he could lay claim to the Minnesota Wild crease, this 22-year-old Saskatchewan native has announced to the world that he’s ready to make the jump. Harding has put up stellar numbers in Houston in the AHL with a 2.48 GAA and .920 save percentage. He’s been even better in his limited NHL call-up, posting a miniscule .66 GAA and .978 save percentage en route to a 2-0-1 record in four games.

18. Steve Downie, C – Philadelphia Flyers

The next generation’s premier agitator could very well be this aggressive and talented powder keg. For the most part he’s kept his nose clean this year and has put the off-ice issues of 2005-06 behind him, allowing him to concentrate more on simply playing hockey. A major part of Canada’s last two gold medals at the WJCs and a key trade deadline acquisition for the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, Downie has scored 31 points in the 16 games since being dealt from Peterborough. Overall he is tied for 12th in the league in scoring. A throwback to the Flyers players of old, Downie will be a fan favorite and quite likely high on his coach’s list as well because when he’s not scoring he’s irritating the opposition.

19. Dustin Boyd, C – Calgary Flames

His junior stats indicate a late bloomer and but any thought that Boyd will be anything less than a key player for the Flames went out the window with his performance this season. With Omaha, he’s second in scoring by a single point despite playing 13 games fewer than the team leader, and is ninth in rookie scoring in the league. Boyd has been recalled to Calgary for a total of 13 games this year and hasn’t looked at all out of place. The 2004, third-round pick is a skilled two-way forward who might be the epitome of a Darryl Sutter dream — a hard-working western boy who never quits and competes to win.

20. Nicklas Bergfors, RW – New Jersey Devils

After a fantastic first pro season as the youngest player in the AHL last year, Bergfors hasn’t taken the giant leap forward offensively that some projected and was one of the more disappointing players at the 2007 WJCs for Team Sweden.  However, the Devils shouldn’t be overly concerned about the swift-skating Swede. He just recently turned 20, and most 20-year-olds can’t lay claim to being in their second season of pro hockey like Bergfors can.  Through 48 games in Lowell this season, he has scored 13 goals and 18 assists. Bergfors plays an up-tempo style that suits the new NHL to a T and is by far and away the most talented player in the Devils system. He should be ready to challenge for some full-time NHL duty next fall.

21. Claude Giroux, C – Philadelphia Flyers

The Hearst, Ontario product went undrafted and unwanted by the OHL and subsequently signed on with the Gatineau Olympiques. Giroux is once again racking up the offensive stats as for the second consecutive season the 100-point plateau is already in his rearview mirror. He sits fourth in the QMJHL with 109 points. Although he failed to crack the Canada’s roster for the WJCs, the smallish forward has shown no signs of it bothering him. The dynamic center will be challenged at higher levels because of his size but with the NHL’s new openness, a player of Giroux’s outstanding work ethic can definitely find success.

22. Drew Stafford, RW – Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo farm system has been very productive of late and Stafford is just another in a long line of forwards filling out the roster of the league-leading Sabres.  Stafford has a great combination of size and skill and can maintain a physical presence when needed or find the back of the net with regularity.  After several recalls to Buffalo from Worcester of the AHL, Stafford finally stuck in February and now has 14 points in 30 games.  His hard work and gritty play is a perfect compliment to the more skilled forwards on the roster making him an important mainstay on the Buffalo roster for years to come.

23. Marek Schwarz, G – St. Louis Blues

This netminder has tasted a lot of different hockey so far in his young career. He has played in the top league in the Czech Republic, the WHL, and is now in the AHL.  Schwarz was assigned to Peoria after a solid 2006 camp with the Blues. Through 26 games he has posted a very good record (16-9-0), but a pedestrian save percentage of .900.  He has also appeared in two games with the Blues, but is still at least a year away from being a contender for the starting job on the team.  Schwarz is not a big goaltender (6’0, 180), but he has tremendous reflexes. He reads the play well and aggressively cuts off angles.

24. Luc Bourdon, D – Vancouver Canucks

It’s been quite the season of change for the rugged blueliner out of Shippigan, NB. He started the season with nine games for the Canucks, where he acquitted himself nicely. Then he enjoyed a great deal of success with the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats, performing at a point-per-game clip with 14 points in 13 games. A mid-season trade to Cape Breton has curtailed his offensive production, with only five points in 21 games, but he’s showing an increasing willingness to play the physical game – a key point in his continued recovery from a debilitating ankle injury suffered last season.

25. Jimmy Howard, G – Detroit Red Wings

This Ogdensburg, New York native was Detroit’s first choice (64th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and has since been labeled as the next one in the Wings system. Howard enjoyed a very successful career at the University of Maine where he was arguably the best in his class. His transition to the AHL has so far been up and down. In his second season, he has a .907 save percentage and 18-15-1 record as the No.1 goalie for Grand Rapids. Howard is a highly-talented goaltender who has impressive mental strength and quickness. He moves very well on the ice and is quick on the recovery.  He needs to start a larger number of games in the AHL and deliver a more consistent level of performance in order to make the final step into the NHL.

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