Jon Blum highlights the middle group in HF’s ranking of the Top 50 NHL prospects

By HF Staff

Photo: Buffalo Sabres prospect Zack Kassian is ranked 24th in HF’s Top 50 rankings (courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

Continuing our countdown of Hockey’s Future’s ranking of the Top 50 NHL prospects, we look at those players ranked from 21-30.

Prospect #30 on this list, New Jersey Devils prospect Mattias Tedenby, makes his re-appearance after missing the cut in the Fall edition of these rankings. Tedenby left Sweden to begin his North American pro career this season, spending a few games in the AHL before moving up to the Devils. The right winger hasn’t been prolific in terms of offensive production, but he has been an effective player for the Devils in his rookie season.

The Colorado Avalanche have another prospect in the rankings, with Owen Sound Attack center Joey Hishon landing at #29. Hishon has turned in a strong season for the Attack, more than doubling his offensive output from the 2009-10 season. The play of the Stratford, Ontario native was integral to the Attack’s ascent to the top of the OHL‘s Western Conference standings this season.

Chicago Blackhawks defensive prospect Nick Leddy makes his first appearance in these rankings, debuting at #28. The 20-year-old Leddy made the jump this season from the NCAA to the pro game, with much of his first season being spent with the Blackhawks. Although the Eden Prairie, Minnesota native has had some struggles this season, his overall performance suggests that the Blackhawks made a good decision in acquiring Leddy from the Minnesota Wild.

Holding down #27 in the rankings is defenseman Jon Merrill, the second New Jersey Devils prospect in this grouping. Merrill is in his freshman season with the University of Michigan after developing his game in the U.S. National Team Development Program the past two season. The Brighton, Michigan native has good size, and appears to be fine-tuning his raw talent this season with the Wolverines in their run to a possible NCAA championship.

Detroit Red Wings prospect Tomas Tatar has moved up the rankings 10 positions since the Fall edition, to #26. The stocky left winger has shown great improvement in his second AHL season as he will nearly double his point total of last season. Tatar received his first call-up to the Red Wings this season, a stint that included his first NHL goal in his first NHL game. The Ilava, Slovakia native will continue developing his game with the Grand Rapids Griffins, but he appears to be another savvy European selection for the Red Wings.

Slipping down the rankings to #25 is Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Nikita Filatov. Filatov was a player expected to eventually provide some offensive punch to the Blue Jackets attack, but the results this season suggest that the Russian left winger development is headed in reverse. The good news is that Filatov is just 20, so there is time to straighten out his game and get him back on the road to being one of the better, young prospects in the game.

The choice at #24 is Buffalo Sabres prospect Zack Kassian, who is making his first appearance in these rankings. The burly right wing has posted his best offensive season in the OHL as a member of the defending two-time Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires. But, while offense is never likely to be Kassian’s greatest asset, it will instead be his combination of skill, size, and intimidation that will make Kassian a misery to compete against when he does finally make it to the NHL.

Sitting in exactly the same position, #23, as he did in the last edition of our Top 50 rankings is New York Rangers prospect, Chris Kreider. The speedy forward turned in a solid season for a Boston College team ranked second in the nation during the regular season. Kreider’s performance with the U.S. squad at the 2011 World Junior Championship added to what has been a steady 2010-11 season for the Boxford, Massachusetts native.

Defensemen hold the final two positions in this group, with Detroit Red Wings prospect Brendan Smith ranked #22. Smith moved to the pro game after three seasons at the University of Wisconsin, where he is currently developing his game with the AHL‘s Grand Rapids Griffins. The Mimico, Ontario native capped a strong rookie campaign with his selection to the AHL All-Rookie team. Smith has generated offense from the blueline for the Griffins this season while also providing a bit of grit, two qualities that the Red Wings hope their top defensive prospect displays with the big club next season.

Rounding out the middle group of our Top 50 rankings at #21 is defenseman Jon Blum. Blum, a prospect of the Nashville Predators, recently received his first call-up to the parent club after a stellar performance with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals through the first half of the 2010-11 season. The Long Beach, California native plays a savvy game and is capable of putting up points from the blueline, an attribute that is not in short supply among the Predators’ talented group of defensemen.

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