The Fall edition of the Hockey's Future ranking of the Top 50 NHL prospects continues with the prospects ranked 21-30.
New additions from the 2013 NHL Draft augment the depth of skilled forwards in the middle group of the ranking. Elias Lindholm, drafted fifth by Carolina, and Sean Monahan, sixth by Calgary, debut on the list next to prospects who lost some luster after a rocky 2012-13 season in Mikhail Grigorenko and Mikael Granlund.
Below are the prospects ranked 21-30 in HF's ranking of the Top 50 NHL prospects. The top 20 prospects will be revealed in groups of 10 each day this week, resuming on Thursday with the prospects ranked 11-20.
21. Mikhail Grigorenko, C – Buffalo Sabres
Height: 6-3, Weight: 200, Spring ranking – 14
After an up and down rookie campaign, Grigorenko could be poised for a breakout season. He did not look comfortable in his first 22 games with Buffalo during the lockout shortened season. Over the summer, he committed to staying in Buffalo to work on his off-ice conditioning and skating. He returned in the preseason looking confident, more like the player that took control of QMJHL games for the Remparts. With the Sabres beginning their rebuild, the gifted forward hopes to step up into a full-time position. He is a patient playmaker that could develop into the team’s future number one center.
22. Jacob Trouba, D – Winnipeg Jets
Height: 6-2, Weight: 196, Spring ranking – 37
Trouba is a defenseman who seems to always be involved in the play. He is good at creating turovers in his own zone, will battle in the corners, stand up opponents at the blue line, and can make accurate breakout passes. In transition, he supports the rush with his quickness and on-ice intelligence. He has the skating ability and hockey sense to create turnovers in the neutral zone, and can quickly skate the puck up ice for a scoring chance. When he does release a shot, he fires a heavy, accurate slap shot, but he also has the ability to rip a wrist shot at full stride and beat opposing goaltenders from medium distance. He should develop into a cornerstone defenseman for the Jets in the near future.
Murray is a talented and smart two-way defenseman with the composure of a veteran. Even in his first taste of NHL action during the preseason, he looked like he belonged. The second overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft missed most of last season after suffering a shoulder injury, but early in 2013-14, the shoulder looks fine as Murray has been laying the body out and playing a very physical brand of hockey. The offense is not going to come in droves like it will with some other players on this list, as Murray just does not have that high-end offensive skill set. What he does have, however, is an excellent understanding of the game. He reads plays very well, which gives him the ability to chip in and be more than just a defensive specialist. Murray will look to help revitalize the Columbus franchise during the 2013-14 season, but, given the makeup of the team, he might find himself eased into the swing of professional hockey, rather than a trial by fire.
Vasilevsky is everything you want from a goaltender, and he is still just 19 years of age. He plays an extremely calm and collected butterfly style, and he fills the net well with his size. His reads are tremendous and he never seems to be out of position or unprepared for an incoming shot. When he does find himself in need of quick movement, he showcases his great leg strength and explosive side-to-side capability. Mentally and physically, he plays a mature style of goaltending which would be appealing to almost any pro goalie scout. He is still playing in Russia and is looking to stick in the top level with Salavat after leading the Russian junior league last year.
Schwartz is an excellent skater with quick acceleration and solid balance, which helps him to create opportunities at high speed. He plays a strong two-way game, and has good vision, playmaking skills, and a high hockey IQ. A versatile winger, he can play all three forward positions as well as on both specialty team units. Schwartz is a gamer who brings leadership, character, and a strong work ethic to every shift. He projects as a top-six forward, with a chance to develop into a first-line scorer for the Blues.
26. Elias Lindholm, C – Carolina Hurricanes
Height: 6-1, weight: 192, Not ranked
Lindholm is a complete player that can be used in all key situations: power-play, penalty kill, shutdown center role, and on important faceoffs. His high hockey IQ allows him to read the play quickly, anticipate his opponents' moves, and then make the right adjustments to create scoring chances. He possesses slick hands, excellent passing skills, and a good shot for his young age, along with a willingness to play in the dirty areas of the ice. Although the talented center has very good edge control and skating balance, he will need more muscle mass to play on the small ice surface in the NHL. Lindholm might make the jump to the NHL this upcoming season and could eventually be one of the premier playmakers of his draft class.
27. Tyler Toffoli, LW – Los Angeles Kings
Height: 6-0, Weight: 181, Spring ranking – 41
Questions about whether or not Tyler Toffoli could translate his offensive skill to the professional level were quickly answered in the winger's rookie pro season. He captured the AHL Rookie of the Year Award for his work with the Manchester Monarchs and then made an impactful debut with the Los Angeles Kings late in the season. Toffoli was a big part of the team’s run to the Western Conference Final and on some nights was the team's most potent offensive forward. Toffoli is blessed with a quick release, an accurate shot, and an aggressive approach to employing them both to lethal effect. Not the most fleet of foot, he instead relies on his instincts and ability to read the play to put himself in a position to score.
Nyquist has emerged as one of Detroit’s top prospects, and could work his way into a regular role on the Red Wings’ top-nine this season. Although he lacks size, he plays a high-energy game and displays a wide array of offensive tools, including superb skating ability. His smart play at both ends of the ice and, in particular, his offensive creativity and puck skills make Nyquist a difficult opponent to play against and an exciting performer to watch. Given the skill around him and his two-way scoring abilities, Nyquist looks primed for a breakout season in 2013-14, although much of that breakout may happen at the AHL level as he has been sent to Grand Rapids to begin the season.
29. Sean Monahan, C – Calgary Flames
Height: 6-2, Weight: 187, Not ranked
Calgary hopes that Monahan becomes the franchise center they desperately need. Though he lacks elite game-breaking offensive skill, he plays a polished two-way style and creates a lot of offense through hard work. He is a competitor, putting in lots of work behind the scenes to improve his mind and body on the ice. During the summer, he bulked up and studied video of other NHL centers on how they play. The 6’2, 187-pound center can be used in most game situations and wins crucial draws at the faceoff dot. At the junior level, he has already demonstrated that he is a leader that can carry a team. Simply put, Monahan gets it. He understands what he needs to do to become a pro and succeed at the next level.
30. Mikael Granlund, C – Minnesota Wild
Height: 5-11, Weight: 183, Spring ranking – 16
While Granlund brings the skill and touch of a high-scoring center, his durability and small size has really been put to the test since while transitioning to North American hockey. He showed off the tremendous hands and hockey sense with 28 points in 29 AHL games last year. However injuries cut his season well short of what it could have been. He has come into 2013-14 with a mission to get faster and stronger in an effort to deal with the rough-and-tumble game in the NHL’s Western Conference. With a boost to his skating and some added muscle, Granlund will fit better into Mike Yeo's system. He still has some of the best playmaking abilities of any young prospect out there, and when the adjustment comes, he will be a key fixture in the Wild top-six.
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