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- With a $5 M cap hit, Sergei Gonchar is one of the most expensive d-men in franchise history. The only ones higher are P.K. Subban ($9 M), Andrei Markov ($5.75 M), Mathieu Schneider ($5.75 M), and Roman Hamrlik ($5.5 M).
This next section of our prospect rankings highlights just how poor Montreal's goaltending depth is beyond the NHL roster. Beyond that, the other players in this grouping are very much long-term projects or ones that will need several years before we learn whether they have a chance to live up to the upside we heard about when they were drafted or signed.
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 rankings:
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 ranking):
#35) Robert Mayer
Goalie, Hamilton, AHL
Undrafted free agent signing in 2008
On the bright side, he did improve upon his appalling stats with Hamilton from the 2010-11 season so at least that was a step, albeit a very tiny one, in the right direction. However, issues with consistency and concentration continued to plague him and given the injury problems that Nathan Lawson dealt with, the team suffered considerably with Mayer having to appear in over half of Hamilton's games. At this stage, he's not a lock to even make the 2012-13 edition of the Bulldogs; that, coupled with the last year of his contract (in what is literally year five of a three year deal) means that barring a huge turnaround, he's entering his last year in the organization.
2011-12 Stats: 39 GP, 14-18-1 record, 2.94 GAA, .909 SV%, 0 SO
Previous HW Ranking: 36th
#34) Colin Sullivan
Defenceman, Avon Old Farms, USHS
7th round pick (198th overall) in 2011
When we hear of a defenceman having defensive concerns playing high school hockey, it doesn't take long for alarm bells to ring. Sullivan's offensive game took a small step forward in his last year at this level and while his skating is already above average, the defensive issues are still very concerning. Fortunately, he will have lots of time (as many as four years) to work on his defensive zone coverage so it's not time to write him off just yet, especially since he's going to a Boston College program which was very strong last season.
2011-12 Stats: 24 GP, 7-9-16, 0 PIMS
Previous HW Ranking: 35th
#33) Alain Berger
Left Wing, Hamilton, AHL
Undrafted free agent signing in 2011
If we handed out an award for the biggest prospect disappointment of the 2011-12 season, he'd be one of the contenders. He was touted as a quality offensive power forward except with Hamilton he failed to do much of anything offensively or even play a physical game. He stayed in Hamilton all year as a result of the injuries with the Habs and Bulldogs but even then found himself as a regular healthy scratch. Berger will be battling to stick with Hamilton in a fourth line role this year but he likely would be best suited to go down to the ECHL and try to re-discover his offensive form, it's his only hope to return to prospect relevance.
2011-12 Stats: 47 GP, 1-6-7, 17 PIMS, -19 rating, 61 SOG
Previous HW Ranking: 24th
#32) Erik Nystrom
Left Wing/Right Wing, Modo J20, SuperElit
6th round pick (154th overall) in 2012
Nystrom seems to be a prospect who was drafted as a 'toolsy' player. He is a very strong skater and has good offensive instincts but there's something lacking about his overall game. He had a decent, yet unspectacular, season in the under-20 league before getting the call to play in the Swedish Elite League. That gave him a boost toward having a very strong postseason back at the junior level. Nystrom is on Sweden's radar for the upcoming World Junior Championships although he was an early cut at their summer camp. He has legitimate sleeper upside but will debut here in our rankings with the hopes that he will be able to climb the ladder over time.
2011-12 Stats: 32 GP, 9-19-28, 16 PIMS, -1 rating
Previous HW Ranking: N/A
#31) Peter Delmas
Goalie, Wheeling, ECHL
Free agent signing in 2011
Although he once again started the season as the backup, Delmas worked his way up to the starters' role in Wheeling. Unfortunately, along the way, he went from being a dominant ECHL goalie to just a decent starter which certainly was a step back for him. Taking that next step forward (becoming a regular AHL netminder and not just one who gets a couple of games as a call up) is huge for him to avoid becoming an afterthought. He is the top goalie prospect in the organization but unfortunately, that's not much of a compliment.
2011-12 Stats: 37 GP, 18-14-1 record, 2.50 GAA, .909 SV%, 3 SO
Previous HW Ranking: 27th
- 2012 HW Prospect Rankings: 36-39 posted by B. La Rose