The Fall 2013 edition of the Hockey's Future ranking of the Top 50 NHL prospects has been released, but there are many very talented players who did not make the cut. Ranking the prospects was especially difficult given the sheer volume of quality players who did not graduate because of the truncated 2012-13 NHL season.
Below are some of the more notable players who just missed the cut for the Fall top 50. These players would have likely made the ranking under different circumstances, but for varying reasons did not. Most of the listed players below head into the 2013-14 season with high expectations and, with a strong performance, could ascend quickly up the Spring edition of the rankings
The following honorable mentions, selected by the Top 50 committee, are listed alphabetically by last name.
Possessing soft hands, tremendous passing ability, and a brilliant mind for the game, Johnny Gaudreau would be considered an elite prospect if not for his 5'7, 155-pound frame. The 20-year-old forward heads into his third season with Boston College where he is expected to compete for every trophy or honor he is eligible to receive. Gaudreau is not only a talented athlete, but an individual of high character and someone who, despite having world-class abilities, tries to lead through his hard work on and off the ice. He has stated his desire to stay in college for at least one more season, if not the full length of his eligibility, because his younger brother Matthew is starting his freshman year at Boston College and the two are extremely close. As Gaudreau grows physically and further develops in the NCAA, he should make his ascension into the Hockey's Future Top 50 ranking, possibly as soon as this Spring.
A product of the London Knights, Horvat is a prospect whose stock skyrocketed after a standout performance in the 2013 OHL playoffs, where he scored 16 goals in 21 playoff games and helped London earn their second OHL championship in as many years. For his efforts, he was awarded OHL Playoff MVP honors. He followed up his stellar playoff run with a strong performance at the 2013 Memorial Cup tournament, where he managed five points through five games and was awarded the George Parsons Trophy, which honors the most sportsmanlike player of the Memorial Cup.
More than just an offensive talent, Horvat plays a complete overall game and might be even more effective in a defensive shutdown role as he is at putting the puck in the net. He does not possess elite creativity, but his physicality, exceptional two-way game, and leadership qualities make him a complete overall player with high potential in the NHL.
Nicklas Jensen, RW/LW – Vancouver Canucks
Height: 6-3 Weight: 186 pounds
Winger Nicklas Jensen brings a tantalizing combination of size, skill, and scoring ability to the Canucks system. A native of Denmark, the 20-year-old spent most the 2012-13 season playing Swedish pro hockey with AIK. When his season was over, he played for the Canucks' prior AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, and even made it into two NHL games. Jensen has all of the tools to be a top-six winger in the NHL, but his development has been frustrating so far. His play is inconsistent shift-to-shift and he is not a major factor in the game unless he is creating offense. A strong season from him in the AHL would do wonders to vault him ahead of similarly talented players in his age group.
Lindholm plays the type of polished, smart, two-way game that NHL GMs covet. He is not spectacular in any one facet of the game, but has excellent vision, hockey sense, and athleticism, allowing him to log a lot of minutes in any type of role or situation. He rarely makes mistakes in his own end, and while he does not take a great deal of risk, he has a hard shot from the point and can move the puck with aplomb. His high hockey IQ allows him to be extremely versatile, as he can just as effectively complement an offensive defenseman as he can match up against top forwards in a shutdown pairing. Ultimately, he projects as a safe defenseman who can play 20-25 minutes a game.
Though he has good vision and is extremely athletic, it is the intangibles that set Petr Mrazek apart from many other goaltending prospects. He is a determined young man on and off the ice and plays with a swagger that instills confidence in the players in front of him. Though not overly large, he has good anticipation and squares up to shooters nicely. Like many developing goaltenders, Mrazek sometimes makes things harder than he needs to. In particular, he needs to improve his backside push and control rebounds better as he relies far too much on his quickness and athleticism to make saves. He has rocketed up the Red Wings depth chart and it seems only a matter of time before he is the regular backup behind Red Wings starter, Jimmy Howard.
A smooth skater with tremendous vision and a creative mind for the game, Ryan Murphy has the tools to be an effective offensive presence on the Carolina Hurricanes' blue line. But questions linger about the type of upside that he ultimately has as an NHL defenseman. Though Murphy has improved over the last two years, he still has a penchant for forcing plays and trying to do too much. He is also not particularly polished defensively and can disappear for stretches. Size and durability will also be concerns as he plays against bigger and more physical players in the pros.
How the 20-year-old develops in his first full pro season will be telling of how he is able to adapt to the challenges of playing against faster and more talented forwards. His electrifying offensive ability and skating alone assure he should at least be an effective power-play specialist in the NHL.
Nelson made the Islanders NHL roster out of training camp and, while his spot is by no means guaranteed, the Islanders appear keen on giving him an opportunity to succeed. The 21-year-old plays a solid two-way game, meaning even if he is used on the third line, which so far appears to be the case, he is still able to contribute in a variety of ways. Nelson has good size and, while he is not overly physical, he plays hard and is difficult to knock off the puck. He also possesses a good set of hands and is a proven goal-scorer in the NCAA and AHL. Ultimately, Nelson projects as a safe two-way player who could eventually develop into a top-six power forward.
Scheifele, perhaps more than any other prospect, could make a dramatic ascension in the next top 50 ranking. The talented forward possesses a rare combination of size, skill, and skating ability, but outside of his standout performance in the 2013 OHL Playoffs, it often seemed like he was capable of doing even more at the junior level. Perhaps it was disinterest born of playing against younger and lesser skilled competition, but Scheifele was not a consistently dominating force in the OHL, despite posting a lofty 217 points in 158 regular season games.
Lack of competition should no longer be an issue for the 20-year-old, as he has started the 2013-14 season in the NHL and is playing alongside Jets' star Evander Kane. Whether he sticks in the NHL for the duration of this season or eventually is sent down to the AHL, Scheifele projects as an offensively minded top-six forward in the NHL.
Finnish center Teuvo Teravainen packs a tremendous amount of skill in a small package. Like Gaudreau, Teravainen's name would certainly be on more lips if he had a couple more inches or another stone on his 5'11, 165-pound frame. The 19-year-old plays a game far beyond his size, using his smooth skating stride and good positioning to elude defenders, navigate through high-traffic areas, and drive to the net. His vision and creative puck-handling make him a constant threat in the offensive zone and he already has experience running a professional power-play for Jokerit in the SM-liiga. Teravainen will spend the 2013-14 season with his Finnish club as they look to bounce back from a quick ouster from the 2013 playoffs. Jokerit is poised to move to the KHL for the 2014-15 season, but if Teravainen's performance in Chicago's 2013 training camp was any indication, he will be more likely suiting up for the Blackhawks in 2014.
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