Hockey’s Future Top 50 prospects, Fall 2010, 1-10

By HF Staff

1. Taylor Hall – LW – Edmonton Oilers
Height: 6-0, Weight: 178

Those who have followed Taylor Hall‘s illustrious junior career have witnessed a player who’s been a step ahead of his competition in almost every facet of the game. From his speed and creativity, to his willingness to pay the ultimate price to win, Hall has constantly raised fans and hockey experts from their seats. In the OHL, Hall took the league by storm collecting 280 points in 183 games as a Windsor Spitfire, which includes 76 points in 44 playoff games. He led one of the most talented junior hockey teams in history to back-to-back Memorial Cup Championships and had his name carved into multiple single-player trophies such as the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award (OHL Playoff MVP), Emms Family Award (OHL Rookie of the Year), and the Stafford Smythe Trophy (Memorial Cup MVP). When he was selected first overall by the Edmonton Oilers this past June it capped off a sensational junior career. Hall is poised to wear the Oiler blue and gold in 2010-11 as he joins a growing core of young Oilers.

2. Jacob Markstrom – G – Florida Panthers
Height: 6-3, Weight: 178

A second round pick of the Panthers in 2008, Markstrom has been one of hockey’s top goaltending prospects for the last two years. At 6’3, Markstrom is an intimidating presence in net and utilizes that size to play an effective butterfly style. Aside from his technical skills, Markstrom is an extremely competitive player who is both intense and cool in goal. After two exceptional seasons with Brynas in the SEL, Markstrom should make his pro debut in North America for the upcoming season, the only question is if it will be with the Panthers or with Rochester in the AHL.

3. Tyler Seguin – C – Boston Bruins
Height: 6-0, Weight: 170

A highly skilled forward, Seguin has all of the tools to be an elite level player in the NHL. Already having the size, speed and intelligence of an older player, the 18-year-old Seguin is one of those rare talents that has the potential to make an immediate impact in the NHL. The smooth-skating Seguin possesses a gifted offensive arsenal, having the unique ability to be equally dangerous as a goal scorer and as a set up man. The second-overall pick in the 2010 draft, Seguin’s hockey IQ in terms of offense is obvious, but he is very aware of his defensive responsibilities as well. Seguin wants badly to play in the NHL this year, but it will be entirely up to the Bruins to decide what they want to do with their young star.

4. Oliver Ekman-Larsson – D – Phoenix Coyotes
Height: 6-2. Weight: 171

Ekman-Larsson has been the Coyotes top prospect ever since he was selected as the club’s first-round pick in the 2009 draft. The silky-smooth Ekman-Larsson is a tremendous all-around defenseman whose skills are more polished than perhaps any other defensive prospect. An effortless skater with excellent vision and playmaking ability, the 19-year-old Swede has the poise and puck smarts beyond his years. Defensively, he is very aware and uses positioning and strong stick-work to keep opponents at bay. He is not overly physical but he did show a greater commitment on playing the body this past season. Ekman-Larsson has a very good chance at cracking the Coyotes top-6 for the upcoming season and figures to play a prominent role in the team’s future for years to come.

5. Jonathan Bernier – G – Los Angeles Kings
Height: 5-11, Weight: 186

Though Bernier has seen some ups and downs in his professional career so far, after a dominating AHL performance this past season, the young Quebecois goaltender appears ready to join the Kings this season and challenge Jonathan Quick for the starting role. Bernier was consistently outstanding for the Monarchs, as despite the team’s top scorer finishing the regular season with only 47 points, Bernier carried the team to a playoff birth and, eventually, the Eastern Conference finals. Bernier also found himself playing for the Kings for a brief stretch, winning all three of his starts, including a 34-save shutout over the Predators. With incredible agility, sound positioning, and an uncanny ability to read the play, Bernier has the potential to be a top-10 goalie in the league.

6. Semyon Varlamov – G – Washington Capitals
Height: 6-1, Weight: 201

Varlamov is once again featured as one of hockey’s top prospects. The young netminder from Russia is definitely one of the best young goalies in the NHL and his playoff record confirms it despite the Caps not giving him too much time to shine in the regular season. Now that Jose Theodore wasn’t re-signed in Washington, Varlamov is most likely going to have more ice time as he’s going to compete with Czech Michal Neuvirth for the starter position. This will be a key season for the netminder as he must prove he can play a full load as a starter.

7. Brayden Schenn – C – Los Angeles Kings
Height: 6-1, Weight: 190

After nearly making the Kings last year out of training camp, Schenn was returned to Brandon for what may have been his final year in junior hockey. Serving as the Wheat Kings’ captain, he tied for the team lead in scoring with 99 points in 59 games, good for fourth overall in the league. He also played for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, posting eight points in seven games en route to a silver medal. Though he’s still a dynamic playmaker, the 19-year-old power forward has continued to get stronger and round out his all-around game. He made his NHL debut as an emergency call-up last year and will be looking to secure a full-time role with the Kings this season.

8. Alex Pietrangelo – D – St. Louis Blues
Height: 6-3, Weight: 206

After narrowly missing out on making the Blues roster last season, Pietrangelo figures to have a strong chance at full time NHL duty this time around. A rangy 6-3 blue-liner with a superb all-around skill set, Pietrangelo has the make-up of an all-star defenseman. Offensively, the 20-year-old is a force. With great natural instincts, mobility and creativity with the puck, Pietrangelo can quarterback a power play at an elite level. In his own end he is rarely caught out of position and has excellent anticipation and understanding of his defensive coverage. At last year’s World Junior Championships, Pietrangelo showed that he is ready for the next step as he was named the best defenseman of the tournament. He continued his stellar play with his junior team in Barrie and is now very much in the mix for a spot with the Blues for the 2010-2011 season.

9. John Carlson – D – Washington Capitals
Height: 6-2, Weight: 212

One of the top young offensive defensemen in the game, Carlson spent most of last season as a member of the AHL Hershey Bears. Only playing 48 games in that league, he was still among the top 20 in scoring among rookies at all positions and among all defensemen. He also played 22 games with the NHL Washington Capitals, quickly becoming a quarterback on the NHL team’s power play. With his size, skating ability and offensive instincts to play in the top pairing, Carlson is expected to continue to solidify his position with the Capitals this season.

10. Magnus Paajarvi – LW – Edmonton Oilers
Height: 6-1, Weight: 200

Last year’s tenth overall pick decided to cross the pond this summer and sign an entry-level deal with the Oilers. The 19-year-old, who decided to drop Svensson from his future NHL jerseys, is going to be one of the players to watch for the 2011 Calder Trophy race. Paajarvi is a winger with speed to burn and defensemen from around the league will have some tough time in containing him. He has phenomenal upside and at the recent IIHF World Championship he showed he can be an impact player in men’s tournaments, getting a spot in the All-Star team.