HabsWorld.net -- 

We’ve now hit the top-10 in this year’s prospect rankings.  In this
section, we have another international cross-section of players as four different
nations are represented here.  There is also a wide range of playing
levels in this group; combined, they saw time in five different leagues last year.


This year, we changed things up a little.  The top-10 have been voted on
by members of our HW writing staff while the remainder of the rankings were done
by yours truly.  Here are the criteria that each player had to meet to be
eligible to be in these rankings:

1) The player must be 24 years old or younger as of October 1, 2011
2) The player must have no greater than 40 games of NHL experience (including
regular season and playoffs)
3) The player has to be signed on an NHL contract

As the Habs brought several youngsters up last season, this year’s list will
look a lot different as many of the top prospects are no longer eligible. 
Here are the departures from last year’s list:

Graduated: David Desharnais, Lars Eller, Frederic St. Denis, P.K.
Subban, Yannick Weber, Ryan White, Alexei Yemelin
Released: Patrick Johnson, Petteri Simila, J.T. Wyman
Traded: Mathieu Carle, Ben Maxwell, Ryan Russell

Recently acquired Michael Blunden also does not qualify for prospect
status due to NHL experience while Raphael Diaz does not meet the age


#10) Brock Trotter
Left Wing/Centre, Riga, KHL
Undrafted free agent signing in 2008

Trotter stunned pretty much everyone last year by declining his qualifying
offer and instead choosing to sign in Latvia to play in the KHL.  At the
beginning, it didn’t look like a good career move as he struggled to get
acclimated in that league.  As the season progressed though, he improved
steadily and actually wound up second on the team in playoff scoring.  His
NHL future will largely be determined by his willingness to back check,
something that didn’t happen often in Hamilton.  His offensive skills
should give him a shot at cracking the Habs’ opening roster out of training camp
and he does require waivers to be sent down.

2010-11 Stats: 49 GP, 9-17-26, 38 PIMS, +3
Previous HW Ranking: 14th

#9) Mac Bennett
Defenceman, Michigan, CCHA (NCAA)
3rd round pick (79th overall) in 2009

It isn’t all that often that a freshman blueliner can step in and contribute
on a regular basis but Bennett did just that last season.  He projects to
be an mobile offensive defenceman although his defensive game improved
considerably with the Wolverines.  Unlike most of the other prospects
inside the top-10, he is a long-term project as it will likely be at least two
more full years in college before turning pro.  If the Habs are patient
enough with Bennett, he could be a top-4 defenceman down the road.

2010-11 Stats: 32 GP, 2-10-12, 21 PIMS
Previous HW Ranking: 16th

#8) Alexander Avtsin
Right Wing, Hamilton, AHL
4th round pick (109th overall) in 2009

There’s no denying his offensive talent.  If these rankings were based
on talent alone, he’d be in the top-5.  What drops him to here is that he
struggled significantly in Hamilton last year, often finding himself on the 4th
line if in the lineup at all.  Of course, he was an underager with the
Bulldogs which means a lot of his struggles should have been expected. 
Being able to play regularly in Hamilton’s lineup is a realistic goal for the
season, one that can be achieved if he works hard at both ends of the rink,
something that he was criticized for in 2010-11.  I’d be stunned if we saw
him in Montreal at any point this season though, he’s a good year or two away.

2010-11 Stats: 58 GP, 5-15-20, 22 PIMS, +2
Previous HW Ranking: 11th

#7) Andreas Engqvist
Centre, Hamilton, AHL
Undrafted free agent signing in 2009

The Habs allowed Engqvist to play one of his entry level years in Sweden and
that patience paid dividends last season.  Despite being an AHL rookie, the
Swedish C played a key role for the Bulldogs last year as a defensive and
faceoff specialist.  Although his offensive game wasn’t too impressive, he
had a knack for some timely points.  At this time, he has a very good
chance to make Montreal’s opening roster as a reserve forward, improving his
skating will go a long way in determining his NHL success.

2010-11 Stats: 71 GP, 10-15-25, 18 PIMS, +8
Previous HW Ranking: 16th

#6) Michael Bournival
Centre, Shawinigan, QMJHL
3rd round pick (71st overall) in 2010 (acquired via trade from Colorado)

The Habs quietly made it known after the draft that they would have selected
Bournival had they still had their 2nd rounder and for good reason. 
Bournival’s a tireless worker at both ends of the rink and seems to be one of
those ‘glue guys’ that every good team has.  His offensive game was good in
spurts last season (and with six points in two games so far this year, he’s off
to a good start in 2011-12) but will need to be more consistent for him to be an
important piece to the Habs’ future.  After being the final cut on Team
Canada’s World Junior team last year, he is expected to contend for a spot once
again this time around.

2010-11 Stats: 56 GP, 28-36-64, 28 PIMS, +4
Previous HW Ranking: N/A