We’ve reached the top-10 in our 2014 Prospect Rankings series. In terms
of nationalities, this is our most diverse group of players as five different
countries are represented here. Interestingly enough, it’s also one of the
least experienced groups in terms of NHL experience as they’ve combined to play
all of just two NHL games so far.
As we’ve done the last couple of years, 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, 2014
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 alphabetical order):
Graduated: Michael Bournival (NHL GP), Dustin Tokarski (age)
Released: Michael Cichy, Peter Delmas, Robert Mayer, Erik Nystrom, Brady
Traded: Sebastian Collberg, Louis Leblanc, Steve Quailer
New this year is an estimate of each prospects’ NHL readiness date. For
some players, the estimate is a specific season while others whose projected
development paths are harder to determine will be in a range.
Note: Balloting by our writers occurred before training camp.
#10) Charles Hudon
Left Wing, Baie-Comeau, QMJHL
5th round pick (122nd overall) in 2012
Despite a near-identical season compared to the previous one, Hudon didn’t
receive the same support from most of our writers this year as he barely managed
to earn the 10th spot. The two-way winger once again earned a spot on
Canada’s World Junior team although injuries once again prevented him from
having any major role. In fact, his recurring back issues have become
cause for concern. If he can stay healthy, he projects as a two-way
forward although I’m leery that his offensive production will be good enough to
see him in a top six role. Trevor Timmins and the Habs have had some
success in recent years with their fifth rounders and picking Hudon is shaping
up to be another strong decision.
2013-14 Stats: 57 GP, 26-50-76, 83 PIMS, +9 rating, 289 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 7th
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 9th
NHL ETA: 2015-16/2016-17 – Because of his above average hockey sense, I
don’t think it will take long for him to get into an NHL game. The longer
he spends in the minors, the better it should be for working on his offensive
game but it’s not unrealistic to think that he could step into a regular role as
early as next year.
#9) Michael McCarron
Right Wing/Centre, London, OHL
1st round pick (25th overall) in 2013
Let’s get it out of the way quickly, last season can only be classified as a
disappointment. McCarron was unable to stick in an offensive role and
found himself in the bottom six with the Knights way more often than anyone
would have liked. That said, the fact that he saw some time at centre and
on the penalty kill were nice and he showed some improvement on the defensive
side as the season progressed. Already, it’s looking like he won’t be a
high end, impact player down the road; instead, he’ll be more of a complementary
one. A big season with London could help change that perception but an
early training camp injury will cost him the first 20 or so games of the year.
He’s due for some good luck soon, one would think.
2013-14 Stats: 66 GP, 14-20-34, 120 PIMS, +11 rating
Previous HW Ranking: 4th
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 11th
NHL ETA: 2016-17 – For him to not be ‘pigeon-holed’ into a fourth line
role with the big club, he’s going to need to spend a fair amount of time in a
top six role in Hamilton to work on his offence. He hasn’t demonstrated
yet that he could handle that type of role right away with the Bulldogs so he is
very much looking like a longer-term project despite having an NHL-ready frame.
#8) Sven Andrighetto
Right Wing/Left Wing, Hamilton, AHL
3rd round pick (86th overall) in 2013
There weren’t many bright spots with the Bulldogs last year but the rookie
Swiss winger was one of them. Injuries and a lack of competent depth
thrust Andrighetto into a top six role early and he held onto it for most of the
season. He still needs to work on his defensive zone play but offensively,
he showed that he has some upside to put up some points in the pros. There
are a couple of things to watch for this year with Andrighetto – can he avoid
the dreaded sophomore slump that has hit almost every Bulldog in the last couple
of years and assuming he can, can he improve upon his production despite there
being more depth and talent up front? If the answer to both of those is
yes, we may see him in a Montreal uniform before too long.
2013-14 Stats: 64 GP, 17-27-44, 48 PIMS, -16 rating
Previous HW Ranking: 19th
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 6th
NHL ETA: 2015-16 – Assuming he can avoid the sophomore slump and pick up
where he left off, he should be pushing for a top nine NHL role next year.
If not, bump his ETA back a year (as we’ve done too often with Hamilton second
year players lately.) It’s likely that he makes his NHL debut sometime
this season as an injury call-up as well.
#7) Artturi Lehkonen
Left Wing/Right Wing, KalPa, SM-Liiga
2nd round pick (55th overall) in 2013
Luck has not been on Lehkonen’s side lately when it comes to staying healthy.
His season ended after the World Juniors due to an ankle injury while an
offseason illness kept him off the ice for a good chunk of the summer. The
year before, he dealt with concussion trouble. Despite all that, he is one
of Montreal’s most talented prospects and he has the upside to be a legitimate
top six player down the road. He was the best player on his Finnish League
team on a lot of nights last year despite being one of the younger players in
the league and he is more than capable of playing in his own end as well.
In fact, he led his team in scoring despite missing 29 of 60 games. He’s
now in Sweden and is off to a strong start in the early going this season.
2013-14 Stats: 33 GP, 7-13-20, 4 PIMS, -2 rating
Previous HW Ranking: 11th
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 8th
NHL ETA: 2017-18 – He’s under contract for the next two years in Sweden
and after that, he’ll likely need a year (or at least part of one) in the minors
to adapt to the smaller rinks. One thing that he will need to work on is
bulking up as right now, he’s much too frail and gets pushed off the puck too
easily when pursued by bigger opponents. The quicker that happens, the
#6) Jiri Sekac
Left Wing/Right Wing, Lev Praha, KHL
Free agent signing in 2014
We don’t hear too often about the Habs winning a bidding war so to speak for
a free agent but Sekac chose the Canadiens over many other suitors back in July.
After several quiet seasons, it all came together for the 22 year old last
season as he became a go-to player both offensively and defensively for his
now-defunct team. While he was a top-six player in Russia, he profiles
more as a top-nine player in the NHL, the role that he finds himself in to start
the year with Montreal after a strong preseason. Making the team out of
camp was step one for Sekac, the next battle will be to hold onto a spot with
quite a few players and prospects waiting in the wings. Given that his
career high in games played is 58, that may be a bit more challenging than you
2013-14 Stats: 47 GP, 11-17-28, 24 PIMS, +1 rating, 81 shots,
Previous HW Ranking: N/A
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 3rd
NHL ETA: 2014-15 – When our writers voted in August, there were some
questions as to how NHL ready he actually was. If training camp was any
indication, he has likely silenced a lot of doubters. He looks like he can
handle a third line role right away and that’s a good spot for him to start.