Hockey’s Future Top 50 Prospects 1-10, Fall 2007

By HF Staff

Hockey’s Future’s Top 50 prospects were chosen by a committee of staff members from among those drafted prospects meeting Hockey’s Future’s prospect criteria.  Below are prospects ranked 1-10.  Prospects ranked 11-25 can be found here, and 26-50 can be found here.

1. Erik Johnson

Johnson, as expected, made a seamless transition to the NCAA after being the top choice in the 2006 NHL Draft by the St. Louis Blues. In fact, there were some talent evaluators who thought that Johnson could have stepped into the Blues line-up without playing a game of collegiate hockey. Alas, Johnson decided to play a season of with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers where he was arguably one of the top defenders on the team. He scored 24 points in 41 games and also starred for Team USA at the World Junior Championship. Standing at an impressive 6’4, 222 lbs, Johnson is an intimidating figure on the blue line, and has superb two-way skills, including top-notch mobility for a man of his stature. After signing with the Blues over the summer, expect Johnson to make an immediate impact in the NHL and challenge for the Calder Trophy this season.

2. Jonathan Toews

After scoring 46 points in 34 games for the University of North Dakota, Jonathan Toews confirmed that he was too good to stay in college hockey and signed an entry-level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.  A future first line center, Toews is both a playmaker and a leader on the ice.  His top offensive talents, combined with a defensive awareness, make Toews the premier forward prospect in the league.  Chicago has not had much to cheer about on the ice in the past few seasons, but the presence of Toews on the ice will change all that.  Toews will compete for a roster spot early in the season and may graduate from prospect status by the end of the season.

3. Jack Johnson

At the conclusion of his sophomore season with the University of Michigan, Johnson signed an entry-level contract with Los Angeles and was immediately slotted into the line-up.  While he did not make any impact on the score sheet in his first five professional hockey games, Johnson’s physical attributes were showcased.  Skilled, mobile and tough, there is little that Johnson cannot bring to the table for the Kings.  Despite the addition of veteran depth to the blue line for the Los Angeles during the offseason, Johnson is expected to compete for, and secure, a roster spot in the regular rotation of six defensemen for the Kings.  If the early season goes as planned, Johnson will be the next young superstar prospect to graduate from the Los Angeles prospect pool despite being only 20 years of age.

4. Niklas Backstrom

The Capitals top choice from the 2006 NHL Draft, Backstrom dominated the Swedish Elite League as a 19-year-old, leading Brynas in scoring with 40 points in 45 games, including 28 assists. While his showing at the World Juniors was somewhat lackluster, he still managed to rack up seven assists. Backstrom possesses great all-around ability, but most notably is a great stickhandler and elite passer. While he passed up the opportunity last year to play for Washington, Backstrom signed on the dotted line over the summer and should have little difficulty making the Capitals opening night roster. With the possibility of being paired up with talented goal scorers Alexander Ovechkin or Alexander Semin, the Calder Trophy should be in the sights of the talented Swedish center this season.

5. Carey Price

Price followed up his breakthrough 2005-06 season with a spectacular 2006-07 season that saw him establish himself as probably the best goaltending prospect on the planet. Aside from leading Team Canada to World Junior gold, Price was one of the top goaltenders in the WHL with the Tri-City Americans, winning a career-best 30 games. But it was his play for the Montreal Canadiens AHL affiliate in Hamilton during the playoffs where Price really shone. He helped to lead the Bulldogs to the AHL Championship where he was named the Calder Cup MVP. In 22 games, he finished 15-6 with a 2.06 goals against average, two shutouts and an unbelievable .936 save percentage. Montreal does not need to rush Price, but if he shines in training camp and the preseason, the Canadiens will not hesitate to slot him into the line-up right away.

6. Tuukka Rask

There is little doubt that the Bruins feel Rask is their goaltender of the future, and now that he has signed and is ready to play in North America, they will have the opportunity to keep a closer watch on him. An elite talent, Rask projects to be a starting goaltender in the NHL, and a very good one at that. Rask is confident in the net, with both explosive movement and quick reflexes. As a starter for Ilves in Finland‘s Elite League, he carried his team and represented his country in numerous international competitions. Rask will not be rushed into action in Boston — unless he blows away the competition, it is expected that he will play a season or two with their AHL affiliate in Providence.

7. Patrick Kane

After barely registering on the scouting radar the year before, Kane ended up being the consensus top choice for the majority of teams for the 2007 Entry Draft.  The Chicago Blackhawks, picking first overall for the first time in franchise history, ended up selecting Kane with the top overall pick. With the high-powered London Knights, Kane tore up the OHL to a tune of a whopping 62 goals and 145 points in only 58 games, and continued to light up the scoreboard in the playoffs, piling up another 31 points. While he is vastly undersized by NHL standards, Kane has all the tools needed to become a star. His playmaking acumen, puck skills and overall offensive skill set is off the charts. With Chicago in dire need of scoring up front, Kane will be given every opportunity to make the Blackhawks right out of training camp.

8. Kyle Turris

Turris made his official debut this fall by taking over the Coyotes top ranking and now he is making his presence felt on the big list. Set to be Phoenix’s top finisher in the near future, Turris will continue his development with a stop over at the University of Wisconsin. He is said to be playing his college career one year at a time, but one would think the New Westminster, B.C. native is going to head south sometime within the next two years.  Overly talented but a bit undersized by NHL standards, Turris will look to bulk up in order to fill out his 6’2 frame. Regardless, expect him to be an immediate force with the Badgers once the puck drops on the 2007-08 college season.

9. Al Montoya

Montoya followed up a great rookie professional season with an even better second season in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack. He was near the top of many of the major goaltending statistics during the regular season. Montoya won 27 games, posted a 2.30 goals against average, .914 save percentage and an impressive six shutouts, cementing his status as one of the top goaltending prospects in the AHL. Montoya doesn’t have much left to prove at the AHL level, but with top goaltender Henrik Lundqvist manning the nets on Broadway, the Rangers have the luxury of being patient with the ultra-talented goaltender and he will likely spend another season with the Wolf Pack. Montoya has a great NHL future ahead of him, but with Lundqvist blocking his path, it may be somewhere other than New York that he becomes a star.

10. Bobby Ryan

Ryan made his last season in the OHL a memorable one as the fourth-year junior player set career marks across the board with the Owen Sound Attack. He finished eighth overall in league scoring with 102 points in 63 games, including 43 goals. After the Attack was eliminated from the playoffs, Ryan suited up for the Ducks AHL affiliate in Portland where he continued his strong play, scoring nine points in eight games. Ryan’s elite size and skill package, combined with his scoring touch around the net should ensure a long NHL career. While it would not be a total shock to see Ryan crack the Ducks line-up this season, he might be best served with a full year of minor pro. Regardless of where he starts the year, he is not far away from becoming an impact NHL player.

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