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This is the last set of rankings before we reach the top-10.  All of
these prospects received at least an honourable mention by our writers in our
votes and were close to cracking the top-10.  Of the groups so far, this is
the youngest as four of these players still have junior eligibility while the
other saw a fair bit of time in the NHL last season and just barely qualified
for these rankings.


As we did last season, 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

1) The player must be 24 years old or younger as of October 1, 2012
2) The player must have no greater than 50 games of NHL experience (including
regular season and playoffs)
3) The player has to be signed on an NHL contract

Here are the departures from last year’s list (in order of their previous

Graduated: Brendon Nash
Released: Mark Mitera, Olivier Fortier, Andrew Conboy, Dany Masse, Hunter
Bishop, John Westin, Scott Kishel
Traded: Brock Trotter


#15) Tim Bozon
Left Wing, Kamloops, WHL
3rd round pick (64th overall) in 2012

Bozon had an immediate impact as a rookie after being selected 27th overall
in the 2011 CHL Import Draft.  Between the regular season and playoffs, he
combined for over 40 goals which placed him second on the Blazers.  He has
an impressive shot and a decent all-around offensive game while he often plays
with a chip on his shoulder as well.  Defensively, he’s still a work in
progress while he needs to bulk up somewhat to not be knocked off the pick so
easily.  Bozon will once again be counted on to carry a big part of the
scoring load and has legitimate NHL upside as a second or third line offensive

2011-12 Stats: 71 GP, 36-35-71, 40 PIMS, +27 rating (WHL rookie
leader in goals)
Previous HW Ranking: N/A

#14) Darren Dietz
Defenceman, Saskatoon, WHL
5th round pick (138th overall) in 2011

This years’ biggest riser, Dietz jumped 15 spots in our rankings on account
of him forcing his way into a top role of a defensively deep Saskatoon squad. 
His offensive game took significant steps forward while his play in his own end
improved as well although he still tends to go for the big hit instead of
staying in his defensive lane.  His improved performance coupled with a
rash of injuries made it so that playing 30 or more minutes per game wasn’t
particularly uncommon.  He likely will be a key cog for the Memorial Cup
hosts as he not only will play in all situations but will also be counted on to
set the physical tone for the team.

2011-12 Stats: 72 GP, 15-29-44, 118 PIMS, +7 rating (led all
Blades’ d-men in PIMS)
Previous HW Ranking: 29th

#13) Aaron Palushaj
Right Wing, Hamilton, AHL
2nd round pick (44th overall) in 2007 (acquired via trade from St. Louis)

Palushaj actually spent more time on Montreal’s roster than he did with
Hamilton as a result of all the injuries that hit last year.  With
Hamilton, he was their best player (he averaged a point per game) but with the
Habs, he found himself in a role that wasn’t suited to his strengths and he
struggled as a result which leads to his dropping out of the top-5.  He did
get better as the year went on and looked better in the last few games when he
was moved up the lineup a little bit.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t appear
ready to play as a regular offensive forward in the NHL just yet while he can’t
play a grinder/energy role.  The lockout actually works to his benefit as
he can go to Hamilton where he will be auditioning for an NHL spot all year. 
If he doesn’t earn it though, he may not be in the organization much longer.

2011-12 Stats: 35 GP, 15-20-35, 35 PIMS, -1 rating, 115 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 5th

#12) Patrick Holland
Right Wing/Centre, Tri-City, WHL
7th round pick (193rd overall) in 2010 (acquired via trade from Calgary)

It was a statistically dominant season for Holland who finished sixth in the
WHL in points although some of that is attributable to his linemates who
finished first and fourth in league scoring.  Offensively, playmaking is
his forte although his shot is underrated as well.  He also is a quality
defensive player who logged regular time on the penalty kill and was even
deployed as a shutdown player late in close games.  Unfortunately he
doesn’t have any sort of consistent physical game while his strength is a bit
below average as well.  With the added depth in Hamilton, he’s not a
shoo-in to make the opening night roster and may best be suited to play as a top
forward in Wheeling to start the season or even return to junior.  He probably won’t be a big point
producer at the NHL level but his overall game gives him a good shot to make it
as a two-way forward.

2011-12 Stats: 72 GP, 29-84-109, 48 PIMS, +42 rating (WHL
leader in assists)
Previous HW Ranking: N/A

#11) Dalton Thrower
Defenceman, Saskatoon, WHL
2nd round pick (51st overall) in 2012

A consensus late first/early second rounder in June’s draft, I was absolutely
stunned that he was available at #51.  He was Saskatoon’s top scorer from
the blueline, logged tons of minutes, and plays a physical game.  That last
part may actually have hurt him a bit in the rankings as he is undersized for
his style of play; he looks to be a bit of a high injury risk given how many
hits he throws and his willingness to fight anyone.  Thrower doesn’t
particularly excel at any particular element of the game but he isn’t weak in
any either.  He won’t be a top defenceman at the NHL level but he certainly
has the skill set to be a good second or great third pairing blueliner in the
future with the Habs.

2011-12 Stats: 66 GP, 18-36-54, 103 PIMS, -4 rating (team
leader in goals, points by a defenceman)
Previous HW Ranking: N/A

As part of our prospect series this year, we want to hear from you, our readers,
about who you think the Habs’ top-10 prospects are.  If you haven’t
already, please vote for
your top-10
; the results will be revealed next week prior us announcing our top-10.