Hockey’s Future Top 50 prospects, Fall 2009 1-10

By HF Staff

Parts 1 and 2 of the countdown can be found here.

1.    John Tavares

The Islanders franchise got a breath of fresh air, and new face for the franchise, when they selected Tavares with the first overall selection in this past summer’s NHL entry draft. The much ballyhooed Tavares had been talked up as a star by scouts since he was fast-tracked to the OHL at the age of 15, where he ultimately became the league’s all-time leading scorer. Tavares is a gifted goal scorer with hands of gold in tight. He excels below the hashmarks, has a lethal shooting arsenal and can baffle goaltenders with mesmerizing one-on-one moves. He is the new star on Long Island and while there may be some growing pains, he should make an instant impact this year.

2.    Victor Hedman

Hedman is a tall and strong defenseman, who has unusual speed for his size.  Additionally, he has an excellent hockey IQ and vision, which usually translates into excellent positioning defensively. Although for 6’6, Hedman is not very physical, the Swede is a good puckhandler, with excellent passing skills, and a very heavy shot. Although just drafted this past summer, the Lightning expect him to become an immediate force on the NHL team, where he will play in the top pairing and log lots of ice time. He has already played two years in the SEL.

3.    Nikita Filatov

With an uncanny knack for the net, Filatov continues to be one of the NHL’s most exciting up and coming players. The quick Russian forward is a pure goal scorer and uses his world-class wrist shot to wreak havoc on opposition netminders. He is also known for having a great set of hands and the ability to use them at while at high speed. What makes Filatov ever more dangerous is his unselfish play. He is a strong passer and doesn’t hesitate to dish the puck off to his linemates. Despite his tremendous talent, Filatov still has things to work on. He will need to add muscle to his frame if he is to excel at the NHL level. Despite putting up respectable numbers as a rookie in the AHL, his inability to cope with the tougher North American game was at times evident. Filatov will get every opportunity to crack the opening-night roster.

4.    Zach Bogosian

After making the Atlanta Thrashers opening day roster last season, Bogosian got off to a good start. He immediately showed why he was taken third overall only a few months earlier. As an all-around solid defenseman there are not many weaknesses in his game, and he will go a long way toward shaping the Atlanta blueline for a number of years. Though he would have spent the entire season with the Thrashers making him ineligible as a prospect, he broke his leg only eight games into the 2009-10 season. When he returned on Dec. 31, it only took three games before he scored his first NHL goal. He did not miss a step and continued to progress through the rest of the season.

5.    Cody Hodgson

Hodgson, a 2009 WJC standout and gold medal winner, seems to be the absolute perfect complement to the Vancouver Canucks’ core of veterans. The Markham, Ontario native is a solid two-way forward who has several key talents that make him one of the best NHL prospects today. Hodgson has keen hockey sense and is a very smart player who doesn’t crack under pressure. He is noted for being a reliable player in his own zone and an effective penalty killer. As he demonstrated at the 2009 WJC, he is also an adept scorer with a soft hands and quality shot. Hodgson is still in Vancouver training camp, but could be returned to junior.  

6.    Alex Pietrangelo

Hockey’s Future proclaimed him the premier prospect in the Spring of 2009, and Pietrangelo remains in a very respectable position. The sizable blueliner skated with Niagara (OHL) in 2008-09 where he netted some very respectable numbers.  Despite some nagging injuries, Pietrangelo made the OHL’s third all-star team for the third year in a row. He also represented Canada at the 2009 World Junior Championships – capturing a gold medal.  Pietrangelo is an offensive-minded defenseman that has the potential to be the best 2008 draft product. The poised puck-mover may permanently move on to the St. Louis Blues this season, but he’s in a battle for a spot.

7.    Matt Duchene

In the year that was promised as the Tavares/Hedman showdown, Duchene did as good of a job as he could to make it a three horse race. While he didn’t crack the top two, he did solidify himself as an excellent prize for the Colorado Avalanche. Duchene proved to be a dominant player for the Brampton Battalion as the team went deep into the playoffs. His blazing speed and quick release make him an immediate threat to score at any level. While those assets are what make him a special player, Duchene plays a very complete game on both ends of the ice and proved in his time in Brampton that he can be extremely versatile. Duchene has all the tools to be a top-line center down the road. He will begin the season with Colorado.

8.    Derick Brassard

With 25 points in his first 31 NHL games last season, Brassard was on a pace to possibly take home the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in the league. But after suffering a dislocated shoulder, Brassard soon found himself on the Injured Reserve list for the remainder of the season following surgery. The offensive abilities of the former Drummondville Voltigeur are impressive, but he has a lot to prove this year, the third on his entry-level contract. Until Brassard takes the ice on a full-time basis and produces at his previous level, the 22-year-old remains a question mark.

9.    Semyon Varlamov

    Washington’s goalie of the future arrived a little sooner on the scene than expected last season. While replacing a disappointing Jose Theodore during round one of last season’s playoffs, Varlamov put the Caps on his shoulders and helped propel them to a series win. The Russian ultimately backstopped Washington all the way to Game 7 of the second round, only to lose to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions. Varlamov is a very well-rounded goaltender who doesn’t have a lot of flaws in his game. As he showed in last season’s playoffs, he is fully capable of being a high-level starter in the NHL. Look for the 21-year-old Varlamov to compete hard for Washington’s starter job over the course of this season.

10.    Claude Giroux

There may be no offensive limit too high for Giroux in the near future if given the right linemates. He has already proven that his vision and speed are impressive weapons at the NHL level despite only having a half season with the Flyers behind him. He is one of the most creative forwards on his team at the age of 21 and has also proven to be a capable two-way skater. He was one of Philadelphia’s best forwards in the Stanley Cup playoffs despite an early exit to the eventual champions, and, with the departures of Joffrey Lupul and Mike Knuble, Giroux will be getting plenty of ice time this season with some very good goal scorers.