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We now enter the second half of our 2012 rankings with one of the youngest groups of prospects; only one of these players has played at the professional level so far although another will make his AHL debut this season. One common characteristic of these players, all of which are forwards, is their two-way ability, an area that is becoming more and more important in the NHL.
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):
#20) Mark MacMillan
Centre, North Dakota, WCHA
4th round pick (113th overall) in 2010
My expectations of MacMillan's freshman campaign were low. Not only did he need to bulk up significantly but he was also going to a prominent program and figured to see sporadic ice time. It didn't take long for him to move up the depth chart though as before long he was a fixture inside the top six, a spot he held throughout the season en route to finishing a surprising fifth in team scoring. He has intriguing offensive upside while his two-way game is coming along as well. He still needs likely two more years before turning pro (he still needs to build up strength) so don't expect to see him in Hamilton any time soon.
2011-12 Stats: 42 GP, 7-16-23, 26 PIMS, +1 rating
Previous HW Ranking: 22nd
#19) Steve Quailer
Right Wing, Northeastern, H-East (NCAA)
3rd round pick (86th overall) in 2008
Injuries yet again were a concern for Quailer but he did regain the offensive touch that eluded him in 2010-11. He has the body of a power forward; although he doesn't play that style he still can be an effective winger. Although it sounds a little crazy, I look at his upcoming season in Hamilton as a make or break year. At 23 he is a bit old to be a rookie at the AHL level and with the group of younger rookies joining him with the Bulldogs, it won't be long before they're knocking on the door to knock him down a peg on the depth chart. Given the iffy scoring depth in Hamilton (there is quantity but many are unproven at that level), he should have a chance to make his mark...provided he can stay healthy.
2011-12 Stats: 26 GP, 8-17-25, 34 PIMS, +7 rating (team high in
Previous HW Ranking: 25th
#18) Charles Hudon
Left Wing, Chicoutimi, QMJHL
5th round pick (122nd overall) in 2012
It was a pleasant surprise that Hudon was still available in the 5th round back in June. He struggled at times offensively last year but still has above average skills with the puck while his defensive game took some positive steps forward as well although he needs to provide a more consistent effort in that area. He also played well in the Canada-Russia summer series, something that will help him stay on Canada's radar for the upcoming World Juniors. In Drummondville, he will be counted on to really be a go-to scorer; if he can do that this year, the Habs might have a pretty good steal on their hands.
2011-12 Stats: 59 GP, 25-41-66, 50 PIMS, +28 rating, 199 shots
(team highs in +/- and shots)
Previous HW Ranking: N/A
#17) Brady Vail
Centre/Left Wing, Windsor, OHL
4th round pick (94th overall) in 2012
Although scouts rave about his defensive game, it should be noted that Vail was the third highest point producer in Windsor last season. He is one of the Habs' most versatile prospects as he can play all three forward positions and even dropped back to take the odd shift on defence in emergency situations. I believe he has some untapped offensive potential in him; that will be put to the test this season as he will play a regular top six role. His leadership intangibles are worth a mention as well. His defensive game alone gives him a good shot at succeeding in the pros but if his offensive skills improve, Vail has a chance to be an important piece for the Habs moving forward.
2011-12 Stats: 68 GP, 22-30-52, 52 PIMS, +1 rating
Previous HW Ranking: N/A
#16) Joonas Nattinen
Centre/Left Wing, Hamilton, AHL
3rd round pick (65th overall) in 2009
2011-12 didn't get off to the best of starts for Nattinen who found himself a healthy scratch early on. Injuries forced Clement Jodoin to play him and once he got into the lineup, it didn't take long for him to earn Jodoin's trust and move up the depth chart. Before long, he found himself playing in the top six and on both special teams units while playing on the wing instead of his natural centre position. He's still a bit of a raw prospect and is likely at least another full year away from being ready to even be used as a call up. Nattinen won't be a big scorer but his defensive abilities and size will give him a good chance to make the NHL.
2011-12 Stats: 63 GP, 11-10-21, 30 PIMS, -3 rating
Previous HW Ranking: 15th
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 when we reach the top-10 in our rankings.
- 2012 HW Prospect Rankings: 21-25 posted by B. La Rose
- 2012 HW Prospect Rankings: 26-30 posted by B. La Rose
- 2012 HW Prospect Rankings: 31-35 posted by B. La Rose
- 2012 HW Prospect Rankings: 36-39 posted by B. La Rose