HabsWorld.net -- 

We move into the top half of the Habs’
prospects today, featuring the players rated 20 through 11.  Like the
previous group, this one features some key Hamilton Bulldogs from last season,
one of whom made their NHL debut plus some of the team’s more prominent
international prospects.  Of note, more than half the players here received
at least one top-10 vote.

About the Rankings:

This year, a total of 9 members of the HW staff cast their ballots.  To
avoid having one person skew the rankings too much, the high and low were
dropped for each player, so the rankings are determined based on the average of
the other 7 votes (denoted as Average Rating).  Where
applicable, the previous rating is noted for players who were in the Habs’
system last season.

Gone from last year’s list are the following:

Graduated: Max Pacioretty, Tom Pyatt
Released: Shawn Belle, Michael Busto, David Fischer, Mikael Johansson,
Jason Missiaen, Gregory Stewart, Nichlas Torp
Traded: Kyle Chipchura, Cedrick Desjardins

Eligible players must…
1) Be 24 years of age or younger as of October 1st, 2010 
2) Have less than 40 games of NHL experience (regular season + playoffs) 

3) Have NHL affilation to the Canadiens, AHL only contracts are not eligible

Ties are broken by the highest
non-eliminated (high or low) ranking.

The Rankings:

20) C Olivier Fortier, 3rd round (65th
overall) in 2007

A player whose development was
basically stalled last season due to a training camp injury (that saw him count
against the Habs’ cap for several months).  Fortunately he was healthy for
Hamilton’s playoff run where he saw 4th line and PK time, a role he’ll likely
hold in the NHL down the road as he has the skills to be a good depth NHL’er.

Stats: Hamilton (AHL) – 1 GP,
0-0-0, 0 PIMS, even rating
Previous Rating: 17th    High/Low: 10/28   
Average Rating: 20.14

19) RW Steve Quailer, 3rd round (86th
overall) in 2008

It was supposed to be a breakout sophomore campaign for the Northeastern
product but a preseason injury sidelined him for the entire 09-10 season. 
He projects as a strong power forward with a bit of a scoring touch but is now a
step behind the rest of his draft class.  The good news is that he was
redshirted and thus will still be eligible for three more seasons.

Stats: Northeastern (NCAA) – DNP – injury
Previous Rating: 20th    High/Low: 15/32   
Average Rating: 19.86

18) RW Maxim Trunev, 5th round (138th
overall) in 2008

Like many Russians, he slipped in his draft year because of his nationality. 
Unfortunately for the Habs, Trunev hasn’t shown any indication
that he wants to come to North America in the near future which is certainly
disappointing as he could very well be a dynamic offensive winger.  As is
the case with all the Russian prospects, he drops on our list due to the
non-report factor.

Stats: Cherepovets (KHL) – 30 GP, 3-2-5, 10 PIMS, -1 rating
Previous Rating: 12th    High/Low: 11/26   
Average Rating: 18.71

17) C Joonas Nattinen, 3rd round (65th
overall) in 2009

Another centre with size, he split time between the pro and junior leagues in
Finland for the second straight season while also suiting up for the WJC’s. 
He’s a solid two-way player, however, there are a few flaws to his game which
makes him a project.  The only concern for the Habs though is that they
have to sign him by June which means this is a critical year for Nattinen to
prove his worth.

Stats: Blues (SM-Liiga) – 23 GP, 0-3-3, 4 PIMS
Previous Rating: 19th    High/Low: 12/21   
Average Rating: 18.14

16) D Mac Bennett, 3rd round (79th
overall) in 2009

He didn’t quite have the offensive impact some had hoped for in the USHL last
year but that’s okay considering how much his defensive game improved.  His
skating though remains his best asset.  He’s a long-term project (at least
3-4 years away) which soured some writers but he certainly has the potential to
be a top-4 NHL defenceman down the road.

Stats: Cedar Rapids (USHL) – 53 GP, 9-14-23, 34 PIMS, +17 rating
Previous Rating: 14th    High/Low: 7/25   
Average Rating: 16.86

15) RW Ian Schultz, 3rd round (87th
overall) in 2008

No one’s ever going to mistake him for a pure goal scorer, but that’s not his
role.  He’s a gritty defensive forward who has shown that he has at least
some touch around the net.  Add that to the fact he’s willing to fight to
stick up for his teammates, and he’s the type of the players the Habs need in
the immediate future.

Stats: Calgary (WHL) – 70 GP, 24-31-55, 150 PIMS, +6 rating
Previous Rating: N/A    High/Low: 11/24   
Average Rating: 16.29

14) RW Brock Trotter, undrafted free
agent in 2008

Trotter had a breakthrough season with the Bulldogs, earning himself a brief
NHL look in the process.  The knock on him has never been his offence but
rather his overall play and consistency.  He’s hoping a KHL stint will help
hone his skills; he, along with most of our writers feel that if he improves his
game, he could be an NHL regular as early as next season.

Stats: Hamilton (AHL) – 75 GP, 36-41-77, 56 PIMS, +33 rating
Previous Rating: 22nd    High/Low: 5/32   
Average Rating: 14.57

13) D Alexei Emelin, 3rd round (84th
overall) in 2004

We’ve all grown tired of the "is he coming or is he staying" routine that
seems to happen once or twice a year.  That said, he’s shown he’s ready to
step into an NHL lineup…if he ever decides to come to North America.  The
concern over the physical blueliner reporting impacted the rankings heavily – he
has the talent but if he never comes over, how can he have an NHL impact?

Stats: Ak Bars Kazan (KHL) – 46 GP, 1-6-7, 50 PIMS, +5 rating
Previous Rating: 8th    High/Low: 3/34   
Average Rating: 14.00

12) RW Alexander Avtsin, 4th
round (109th overall) in 2009

Most scouts felt he was at least a top-50 talent in his draft class who fell
due to the Russian factor; that same factor scared off some of our writers too. 
There’s no denying he has the talent to become a solid NHL’er, but he’ll need
some seasoning before he’s ready.  The big question is (as it is will all
Russians lately), will he have the patience to be developed or will he bolt?

Stats: Moscow Dynamo (KHL) – 30 GP, 3-6-9, 10 PIMS, +6 rating
Previous Rating: 11th    High/Low: 6/20   
Average Rating: 10.57*

11) RW Aaron Palushaj, 2nd round
(44th overall) in 2007

St. Louis selected the speedy winger right after the Habs selected P.K.
Subban and this year, Palushaj started to show why he was selected where he was. 
Though he struggled at the beginning of the year, he picked up his game after
being traded to Montreal.  He’ll be a top-6 forward in Hamilton where big
numbers will be expected from him.

Stats: Peoria/Hamilton (AHL) – 62 GP, 8-24-32, 30 PIMS, +3 rating
Previous Rating: N/A    High/Low: 7/21   
Average Rating: 10.57*

*Note: Palushaj was rated ahead of Avtsin as he had the highest non-eliminated

Be sure to check HW tomorrow for the release of
the top-10 Hab prospects.