Hockey’s Future Top 50 prospects, Fall 2009 26-50

By HF Staff

26.    Brayden Schenn

With a brother the caliber of Toronto Maple Leaf defenseman Luke Schenn, it can be assured that Brayden Schenn grew up having to earn everything he had. He has applied this mentality towards his hockey career and has become one of the grittiest and most competitive forwards taken in the 2009 Entry Draft. But the story with Schenn does not stop at his work ethic, as the Kings first-rounder has the offensive game to go along with it. While he may not be a superstar on offense, Schenn makes an excellent second-line forward able to play on both ends of the ice and in any situation.

27.    Kevin Shattenkirk

Shattenkirk continues to excel at Boston University. The heady offensive-minded defenseman is much stronger than his 5’11 frame would indicate. Shattenkirk has proven his worth in the clutch at both the collegiate level with a national championship already under his belt as a sophomore, and the international level as a premier member of the United States U20 World Junior Championships team. The smooth skater returns to BU where he will continue to refine the defensive side of his game. With the Avalanche going through a rebuild, the 19-year-old Shattenkirk may get a contract sooner rather than later. 

28.    Evander Kane

Kane came away from the 2008-09 season looking like the prize for any team seeking out a future power forward. While he still has a lot of filling out to do, Kane’s high-octane blend of hockey helped him to a 48-goal season with the Vancouver Giants. The fourth overall pick in 2009, Kane has a natural scoring ability and is a strong presence in front of the net. Additionally, he has great vision on the ice as a playmaker. Kane plays a very punishing physical game. He seems to love dishing out a big hit and dropping the gloves for his team when needed. Kane is getting a long look with Atlanta in the pre-season and has a chance of cracking the opening night roster.

29.    Erik Karlsson

With the premium on offensively gifted blue-liners, there is no questioning why Ottawa’s top prospect lands on this list. Karlsson is a very smooth and skater and has great mobility. His passing skills are impressive whether it be a long stretch pass or a short and snappy one. He also has a strong and accurate shot from the point. The above qualities combined make Karlsson an excellent power-play quarterback. In order to effectively use his talents at the NHL level, the 19-year-old Karlsson will have to work on his defensive game and add some size . He can at times be somewhat of a liability while under pressure. But he is expected to make the squad out of camp this year, his first in North America.

30.    Joe Colborne

As the biggest future offensive threat in the Bruins’ prospect pool, there is quite a bit of pressure on Colborne’s shoulders. While with the University of Denver, he went through a growth spurt, making him one of Boston’s tallest prospects as well at 6’5. Once the 19-year-old gets the full grasp of his size advantage in the middle, he could be deadly. He has all the ability to become a gifted play-making center in the NHL, and if he ever gets a hold of the physical edge his size gives him, he could be elite. For now he will continue to mature in college as a sophomore.

31.    Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson

In a draft class loaded with talented Swedes, Paajarvi-Svensson fell to the 10th spot last June. He spent all of last season with Timra in the Swedish Elite League, no easy feat for an 18-year-old and more than held his own. With dynamic speed and skating ability, Paajarvi-Svensson is very creative offensively, making great passes, while also owning a powerful shot that he gets off incredibly quickly off the rush. While his finishing skills still need some refinement, he is an elite prospect who fits into the Oilers style of play perfectly. He may be a year or two away from the NHL.

32.    Oscar Moller

Moller jumped out to an excellent rookie NHL season in 2008-09, but a fractured clavicle sustained at the 2009 WJC would derail his progress. After eventually returning to the line-up, it was evident that Moller was not the same as his pre-injury form and played a bit timidly on the ice. Now fully healthy and adding muscle over the offseason, Moller is poised to show that the first half of last season was not a fluke. With a number of forwards battling for few available positions in Los Angeles, Moller’s immediate future may be in Manchester. But if anyone falters in their ability to stay in the line-up, Moller will be ready to contribute in Los Angeles as a top-six forward.

33.    Artem Anisimov

With good size, work ethic and solid two-way play, Anisimov has made an excellent adjustment to the North American game over the past two seasons in the AHL. The 21-year-old has the hands, instincts, and vision to be a top player in the NHL. Anisimov had an outstanding regular-season sophomore campaign with the Hartford Wolf Pack in 2008-09. Fifth overall in the league in scoring, Anisimov was the top point producer among AHLers under the age of 25. A reliable contributor, he didn’t miss a single game last season. He is expected to center a line with the New York Rangers roster this fall.

34.    Eric Tangradi

Tangradi enjoyed quite the roller coaster season in his last as a junior. He led the Belleville Bulls on a long playoff run, was a key component for Team USA at the WJC, and he saw his rights traded from Anaheim to Pittsburgh. Now headed for the professional ranks, it looks as though Tangradi was acquired to eventually play with one of Pittsburgh’s strong centers. Tangradi is a big, strong winger with a nice blend of both skill and grit. He’s still learning how to use his 6’4, 221 lb frame more effectively, but he does have a natural soft touch around the net not found in many players of his size. The 20-year-old will most likely start the season in the AHL, but it certainly won’t be too long until he gets a call-up.

35.    Jared Cowen

At the age of 18, Cowen is already 6’5 and nearly 220 lbs. but skates very well for such a menacing presence on the blue line. The Ottawa 2009 first-rounder has the ability to be an all-around NHLer defensively and is underrated at times offensively. Because of his mobility and reach though, he may be used in more of a shut-down role when he does make his NHL debut. He has a rough edge that does his size justice but is coming back from a knee injury. Even if he overcomes the injury effectively, he will be given time to progress in the WHL. There is no rush or time table for his progression.

36.    Luca Sbisa

Sbisa is ready to give the NHL another go with a new team. A combination of injuries and his play in the preseason forced the Flyers to keep the talented defenseman in the NHL for half a season. He did not disappoint, but when injured players returned, Sbisa found himself back with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. He was traded to Anaheim in the offseason and is looking to become an important part of their youth movement on the blue line for years to come. The 19-year-old has the smooth skating, vision, and offensive awareness to be a superior puck-moving defenseman in the NHL while remaining unafraid to deliver big checks despite his somewhat thin frame.

37.    Jhonas Enroth

The quick, athletic goaltender made his North American debut in 2008-09 with the Portland Pirates of the AHL. Enroth has represented Sweden on the international stage (U18 and U20 WJCs) many time, where he has been a goaltending stalwart. The 21-year-old makes up for his 5’10 stature with quick reflexes and excellent lateral mobility. His glove hand is capable of stealing sure goals at every level of play. The Sabres have a promising heir apparent to Ryan Miller.

38.    John Carlson

At 6’3, Carlson has size, strength, and skating skills, along with the puck-moving ability to be a playmaker along the blue line. He plays a very controlled, smart and methodical game, and can be put on the ice in all situations. Carlson was the London Knights’ top defenseman during the 2008-09 season, and then joined Washington’s AHL affiliate, where he helped the Hershey Bears win a Calder Cup. Expected to split time between the AHL and NHL this season, Carlson is predicted to become a top-pairing defenseman in the future. He will be 20 in January.

39.    Ryan McDonagh

McDonagh was Minnesota’s reigning “Mr. Hockey” when he was selected first among the US defensemen available in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, 12th overall by the Montreal Canadiens. A quick-skating, big, powerful, offensive blueliner, he entered the University of Wisconsin in the fall of 2007. A steady presence along the blue line, McDonagh was a solid performer on defense for Team USA in the 2009 U-20 WJCs. The 20-year-old was recently named a tri-captain of the 2009-10 Badgers as a junior. With the departure of Jamie McBain (CAR), McDonagh will get the opportunity to show more of his offensive skills in the coming season.

40.    Jakub Kindl

Entering his third professional season, Kindl is nearly ready to start pushing for an opportunity in Detroit. The 22-year-old has the physical tools to play in the NHL but needs to refine his technique on the defensive side and what better way to learn than at the side of a player like Nicklas Lidstrom. There may be another season of AHL hockey in Kindl’s future, but this time, he is positioned for an injury call-up. The determining factor will not be on the number of points he can score for the Grand Rapids Griffins but on his ability to shut down opposing forwards. Kindl is gifted enough for his offense to eventually come around, even in the NHL, but it will be his play on the defensive end of the ice that will keep him in the line-up.

41.    Zach Boychuk

After getting a two-game taste of NHL hockey last season with the Hurricanes, Boychuk continued to polish his game in the WHL for the rest of the 2008-09 season. The highlight of his season was no doubt his gold medal win for Team Canada at the 2009 WJC. On the squad coached by Pat Quinn, Boychuk made an impact despite not being one of the big three scorers on the team. The soon-to-be 20-year-old is a pure goal scorer. He has good hands and an accurate shot. His best attribute is his speed and acceleration which he uses to create many of his scoring chances. Boychuk will need to learn how to play against bigger and stronger defenders than he is used to in the WHL.

42.    Nazem Kadri

Kadri progressed well as a player throughout his three seasons in the OHL, first with Kitchener, then last season with the London Knights where he put up a career-best 78 points in 56 games. Kadri has a wide array of talents, but it’s his explosive and dynamic skating ability that sets him apart from other prospects. While not big, he competes hard and gets involved in the dirty areas. Kadri needs to work on his play away from the puck, but there is no denying he has the offensive skill set to eventually emerge into a top-flight forward. The soon-to-be 19-year-old will likely be returned to junior from Maple Leafs training camp.

43.    Max Pacioretty

While the Canadiens went into complete overhaul mode in the off-season, one name who the organization held onto and is highly regarded in the system is Pacioretty. He nearly made the team out of camp, but was sent to the AHL for some seasoning before being recalled mid-season, where he got into 34 games, and scored 11 points. He was eventually returned to the AHL near the end of the year. Pacioretty is a unique blend of size and skill, and while he may appear to be more of a playmaker, the strong-skating winger is slowly learning how to use his 6’1, 205 lb frame to drive to the net and score. A power forward in training, the 20-year-old is a good bet to stick with Montreal this year, and should eventually emerge into a top-six forward in a couple of seasons.

44.    Dmitry Kulikov

Kulikov came over to North America last season and immediately started turning heads with his well-developed offensive game and smart defensive play. Kulikov is a smooth puck-moving defenseman who can create offensive with his patience and vision. His skating ability is top notch. His speed allows him to rush deep in the offensive zone and get back, and his agility allows him to make up a lot of ground when he needs to in the defensive end. Kulikov can also create offense from his hard and accurate shot, something that he did quite frequently in a Memorial Cup run for the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Kulikov was a first-round pick of the Panthers in June.

45.    Alex Goligoski

Yet another offensive defenseman, Goligoski got his break this past season with Pittsburgh when Sergei Gonchar went down with a serious shoulder injury. In 43 games with the big club, Goligoski fared very well and did not look too out of place. The former University of Minnesota standout does his best work while on the power play where is fully capable of taking charge. He is an excellent passer with great vision. If he is to live up to his full potential, he will need to watch his play in the defensive zone and bring a more physical aspect to his game. The 24-year-old should stick full time in the NHL this season.

46.    Viktor Tikhonov

Just a handful of games shy of officially graduating as a prospect, Tikhonov brought a lot to the Coyotes as a rookie. While he didn’t have the highest profile on the team entering the season, he did end up making a big impression. Tikhonov showed that at the age of 20, he already played a responsible two-way game beyond his years. Tikhonov took on a checking line role and filled in admirably, but he also showed signs that he has something more to offer. Tikhonov boasts an exceptional playmaking ability and a good scoring touch in front of the net. He is a definite candidate to assume a bigger role this season for Phoenix.

47.    Jordan Eberle

Eberle has quickly established himself as a goal-scoring machine at both the WHL and international levels. In three full WHL seasons, Eberle’s goal totals outnumber assists. He also put together an impressive string of goals while representing Canada at the U20 WJCs. While he is not a big, physical player, he is a smooth offensive operator. Eberle is a sophisticated blend of creativity and offensive intelligence; combine that with a nice wrist shot and the Oilers have themselves quite the sniper in their pipeline. With Edmonton still in a transition phase, the 19-year-old will likely see NHL ice sooner rather than later.

48.    Ivan Vishnevskiy

The Russian blueliner spent most of the year with the Peoria Rivermen before getting a short late-season call-up to Dallas. Vishnevskiy, a talented offensive defenseman, is still evolving defensively. Vishnevskiy owns a cannon of a point shot and a smooth skating stride. The 2006 first rounder got stuck in a different system behind several other offensive defensemen last year. However, with Sergei Zubov now gone, Vishnevskiy may get more opportunity.

49.    Mattias Tedenby

It’s been quite some time since the New Jersey Devils have had a prospect of Tedenby’s ilk in the organization. While he had a rather pedestrian season in the Swedish Elite League with HV-71, he exploded in the playoffs, totaling six goals and three assists in 18 games, seemingly coming into his own. He carried that over to the Devils prospect camp in the summer, where he was by far and away the best player on the ice. The diminutive Swede may be undersized at 5’10, 175, but he is a potential game breaker for the Devils. He possesses an impressive offensive skill set, highlighted by splendid puckhandling skills and electrifying speed. He’s under contract in Sweden for one more year, but could make an impact in New Jersey as soon as 2010-11.

50.    Jamie Benn

Last season was a dominant performance by Kelowna Rockets star Jamie Benn.  His 46 goals in just 56 games last season confirmed Benn’s WHL star power – not to mention his time with Canada in the WJCs. He will try his hand at the pro game in 2009-10, likely with the Texas Stars. Armed with a sniper’s shot and release, Benn seems to pick up loose pucks and deposit them in the back of the cage almost at will. The fifth-round pick moves on from the junior ranks to the top 50 for the first time since he was drafted in 2007.

Honorable Mention

Logan Couture
Tyler Cuma
Jake Gardiner
Scott Glennie
Jonas Gustavsson
Niklas Hjalmarsson
Brian Lee
Ville Leino
Chet Pickard
Chris Stewart