Ryan Ellis leads the second group in HF’s ranking of the Top 50 NHL prospects

By HF Staff

Photo: Anaheim Ducks prospect Emerson Etem is ranked 32nd by Hockey’s Future (courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

We continue with the Hockey’s Future ranking of the Top 50 NHL prospects. This time around, we’ll provide a breakdown of positions 31-40.

At #40 is Edmonton Oilers defensive prospect, Martin Marincin. The lanky Slovakian has turned in a solid rookie season for the WHL‘s Prince George Cougars. Marincin also caused some controversy at the 2011 WJC when he was suspended for four games after delivering a head shot to Team USA’s Jason Zucker. Marincin has enough size, mobility, and competitiveness to make him a very intriguing future addition to the Oilers’ blueline corps.

Next at #39 is Nashville Predators prospect, Taylor Beck. Beck has starred for the OHL‘s Guelph Storm the past two seasons, turning in back-to-back 90+ point seasons. The St. Catharines, Ontario native has good size and offensive chops, but his average skating ability may have contributed to a lower standing in this ranking.

Like the previous two players, prospect #38 in these rankings, defenseman Simon Despres, is making his debut in the Top 50. Despres is property of the Pittsburgh Penguins and a current member of the QMJHL‘s Saint John Sea Dogs. In addition to patrolling the blueline for the powerhouse Sea Dogs, the Laval, Quebec native also represented Canada at the 2011 World Junior Championship where he earned a silver medal.

Prospects of the Carolina Hurricanes fill the next two slots, with center Zach Boychuk sitting at #37. Boychuk is in his second pro season, spending much of that time in the AHL. The Airdrie, Alberta native did receive a lengthy call-up to the NHL this season, where he filled a more limited role as the Hurricanes gradually work their improving prospect into the lineup.

Boychuk’s AHL teammate and #36 in the rankings, center Zac Dalpe, has been one of the top rookies in that league this season. The former Ohio State University star has easily made the transition to the pro game after two strong seasons in the NCAA. Like Boychuk, Dalpe spent time with the Hurricanes this season, and appears to be on a fast track to a NHL career.

Another top AHL rookie and #35 on this list, center Luke Adam, has been scoring at a better than point-per-game clip during his time with the Portland Pirates this season. The Buffalo Sabres prospect has followed up a stellar final season in the QMJHL with an equally impressive campaign in his first pro season. The Sabres rewarded Adam with some NHL playing time earlier in the season, but the St. John’s Newfoundland native should challenge for more ice time next season.

Landing at #34 is Finnish forward Teemu Pulkkinen, a prospect of the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings have been second-to-none at mining the Nordic countries for top talent, with the rapidly developing Pulkkinen looking like another sage selection for that club. The 19-year-old is playing like a veteran in Finland‘s top league, with Pulkkinen also turning in a good performance at the 2011 WJC.

We find our first goaltender of this group at #33, Washington Capitals prospect Braden Holtby. Beginning in his final season in the WHL, Holtby has done nothing but win. He made an impressive showing in his AHL rookie season last year while playing for the defending Calder Cup champions, the Hershey Bears, and this season was impressive in his first extended stint in the NHL. The Lloydminster, Saskatchewan native is third on the Capitals goaltending depth chart but he would be a potential #1 with many NHL teams.

Making his Top 50 debut at #32 is center Emerson Etem. The Long Beach, California native, who was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in 2010, has shown great improvement this season while playing for the WHL‘s Medicine Hat Tigers. Etem has improved his game in many areas, and seems poised to make those that passed him over in last year’s NHL Draft feel some regret for overlooking the scoring forward.

Rounding out this group at #31 is defenseman Ryan Ellis. Ellis, the second Nashville Predators prospect in this group, has been a standout for the two-time defending CHL champion Windsor Spitfires the past two seasons. But Ellis’s performance this season may be his best yet, with the Freelton, Ontario native being a serious candidate for CHL Defenseman of the Year honors. Ellis also had the honor of captaining Canada’s silver medal squad at the 2011 WJC, where he became the top-scoring defenseman in WJC history.

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