Hockey’s Future Top 50 Prospects Fall 2006: 11-25

By HF Staff

11. Cam Barker, D – Chicago Blackhawks

Cam Barker has been one of the most volatile prospects in the Top 50 over the last few years. Drafted third overall in 2004 due to his remarkable skills as a two-way defenseman, Barker responded with a down year in 2004-05, playing with nagging injuries. Last season an ankle injury severely limited his playing time and called into question his status as an elite prospect. Despite all of this, he continues to be recognized as one of the most skilled players on the blue line in any organization. After having already made his NHL debut, Barker will look to this season to make the next step and stay with the Blackhawks on a permanent basis. A full season in the AHL would not be a cause for concern, since Barker is still only 20 years of age.

12. Wojtek Wolski, LW – Colorado Avalanche

Wojtek Wolski began last season in a Colorado Avalanche sweater and did not disappoint. After scoring six points in the first nine games, Wolski was returned to Brampton of the OHL more due to his eligibility to play in juniors than not getting the job done with the Avs. His 128 points in 56 games with Brampton were good enough for third in overall scoring in the OHL en route to being named player of the year. Now Wolski returns to training camp with Colorado for the second time and will almost certainly remain on a permanent basis. He is an early candidate to win the Calder Trophy this season.

13. Bobby Ryan, RW – Anaheim Ducks

Dubbed as the power forward of the future for the Ducks, Bobby Ryan has already been signed to an entry-level contract at the age of 19. A thick physique combined with strength and scoring ability makes Ryan a danger down low. Ryan finished tenth in the OHL in scoring last season in only 59 games. With an already deep roster for the Ducks, Ryan may return to the OHL for another season. But it will not be long before he returns to Anaheim to join Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and playoff sensation Dustin Penner to form one of the most formidable quartets of offensive prospects in the NHL. Look for Ryan to be in the NHL by no later than next season.

14. Anze Kopitar, C – Los Angeles Kings

Anze Kopitar is on the brink of making hockey history as the first player from the country of Slovenia to play in the NHL. After signing an entry-level contract immediately after being drafted and finishing a great career in the Swedish Elite League on a less than stellar team, Kopitar moves over the North America this season is nearly ready to skate in the NHL. With a large body and a well-rounded game, Kopitar could make the Los Angeles Kings out of training camp. But there is no rush with this recently turned 19-year-old center. For many scouts, it is no longer a matter of if, but when Kopitar will anchor the Kings top scoring line. He will likely make his debut in the middle of this season and will be the top center on the team within the next couple of seasons.

15. Phil Kessel, C – Boston Bruins

Phil Kessel enters the list at No. 15. He has been known in the hockey world since he debuted on the international circuit during the World Championships as a speed-demon who scores highlight reel goals. Last season Kessel saw ice time on three different teams. At the University of Minnesota, Kessel was second on the team in scoring with 18 goals and 51 points in 39 games, which was good enough to secure the rookie of the year trophy. He was also a member of the USA national teams, playing at both the World Junior Championships as well as the World Championships. His speed, skill and superstar potential made him attractive to Boston at the fifth overall slot in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Kessel is signed by the club, and having come from college, can play in either the NHL or AHL this season.

16. Hannu Toivonen, G – Boston Bruins

The big Finnish goalie has had some problems with injuries in the past, but there is no denying his potential. He has spent his time in the minors honing his game and becoming one of the top goalies in the league. Having played only 20 games last season, Toivonen will see his playing time increase this season as he will be looked upon as the starter in Boston. Toivonen has the size, mentality and athletic ability to be a star goalie in the NHL. With the departure of Andrew Raycroft from the Boston Bruins, the way is paved for Toivonen to establish himself as one of the top young goaltenders in the NHL.

17. Rob Schremp, C – Edmonton Oilers

This American scoring sensation has been in the headlines for a long time. After tearing up the OHL for the past four years, Schremp is now ready to take on the pro game. Last season was a special one for the 20-year-old center who led the league in scoring with 57 goals and 145 points in just 57 games. He then followed those numbers up by racking up another 10 goals and 47 points in 19 playoff games. This season he will fight for a spot with Edmonton. Schremp has the scoring touch, hockey sense and puck skills to be a dominant offensive player at the NHL level.

18. Jordan Staal, C – Pittsburgh Penguins

Having followed his two older brothers Eric and Marc in being a first round pick in the NHL entry draft, Jordan Staal will now look to make a name for himself. He has spent two years with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL where he was amongst the best players last season as a 17-year-old sophomore. Although there is a slight chance that he could crack the Penguins line-up this season, it is more likely that he will return for a third year in the OHL. Staal has a great combination of size, grit, skill which will allow him to be a dominant player at the professional level.

19. Jonathan Toews, C – Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks hope that they have selected a future captain in Jonathan Toews with the third pick overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Toews spent the season with the University of North Dakota where he made a major contribution as a rookie. He was also a member of the Canadian World Junior Championship gold medal winning team. The Blackhawks will have to wait for Toews as he has decided to spend at least another season with the Fighting Sioux. Toews has the potential to be a very important part of a winning team with his combination of size, leadership, work ethic and solid offensive skills.

20. Alexander Radulov, RW – Nashville Predators

After a very memorable season with the Quebec Remparts, Alexander Radulov will now have to learn to score against stiffer opposition. Last season, Radulov completely ripped the QMJHL apart with his 61 goals and 152 points in 62 games. He was also a key member of the Remparts on their way to the Memorial Cup championship win, scoring 21 goals and 55 points. The Russian’s speed and offensive skills are top notch, but he has to improve his defensive play and could therefore spend some time on the farm before cracking the NHL roster. Radulov has the potential to be a top scoring winger at the NHL level.

21. Marc Staal, D – New York Rangers

After slipping out of the top ten in the 2005 Draft, Staal rebounded last year with one of the best seasons of any of the 2005 draftees. He had 11 goals and 38 assists for 49 regular season points, nearly doubling his previous career best with the Sudbury Wolves and then had a successful 12-game stint in the AHL playoffs once the Wolves season concluded. He was also one of the best defensemen on Canada’s WJC team, successfully shutting down top prospects like Malkin and Kessel. The hulking blue liner has underappreciated offensive skills and uses his physical tools very well in his own zone. He has the potential to become a No. 1 defenseman in the NHL.

22. Matt Carle, D – San Jose Sharks

Not many players go directly from finishing their college careers to anchoring their NHL team’s power play in the playoffs in the same season. But that’s exactly what Matt Carle did. After exploding for 53 points with Denver University, Carle was called up to the Sharks with a dozen games left in the regular season, scoring six points. The strong-skating defender with slick puck-handling skills has historically been doubted because of his lack of size, but his performance last season has shown that he has NHL-caliber skills and that he will be an important part of the Sharks’ defensive corps for years to come.

23. Luc Bourdon, D – Vancouver Canucks

The tenth overall pick in 2005 had a tumultuous season. He began the year with the Val-d’Or Foreurs, playing in 20 games before leaving the team to participate in the WJC tryout camp and eventually the tournament itself. While helping Canada win a gold medal in Vancouver, he was traded to the Moncton Wildcats. He suffered an ankle injury shortly into his stint with the Cats, and returned with just a handful of games left in the regular season. As the Memorial Cup hosts, they were guaranteed a berth in the tournament, but they won the QMJHL playoffs outright with Bourdon playing a shutdown role. The New Brunswick native is a solid all-around defender with good offensive skills and he is very steady in his own zone. He has a good chance of cracking the Canucks opening day line-up this coming season.

24. Shea Weber, D – Nashville Predators

It took Weber 46 games in the AHL before he cracked the Predators line-up, playing in 28 regular season and four NHL playoff games before returning to the Milwaukee Admirals for a deep playoff run. With great size and strength, Weber is an imposing and intimidating player to play against and understands what his role is on the team. What Weber lacks in offensive skills, he makes up in big hitting and reliability in the defensive zone. In most NHL systems, he would be the team’s clear-cut top young defenseman. However, in Nashville, they have a glut of riches when it comes to young blue liners, as Weber joins the ranks of Ryan Suter, Kevin Klein, Cody Franson and Ryan Parent.

25. Pascal Leclaire, G – Columbus Blue Jackets

As is the case with many young goaltenders, it has been a long, sometimes bumpy, road to the NHL for Pascal Leclaire. After missing most of the lockout season, Leclaire spent the majority of 2005-06 playing as the back-up in Columbus to Marc Denis. With Denis and Martin Prusek now gone, Leclaire seems to have the inside track to the starting job, needing to beat out only Ty Conklin, who struggled mightily last season. A butterfly goalie with quickness and impressive reflexes, Leclaire has a reputation for being one who plays his best when the games mean the most. He appears destined for a career as an NHL starter.

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