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We have reached the top-10 in this years’ prospect rankings.  Unlike
last season where three of the players in this range had already played in the AHL, none
of these prospects had played in a professional game in North America until
this past Saturday when the Hamilton Bulldogs kicked off their season. 
These players for the most part are still a couple of years away from the NHL
but the overall skill level is better than it has been in recent years.


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


#10) Mac Bennett
Defenceman, Michigan, CCHA
3rd round pick (79th overall) in 2009

As expected, Bennett took on a larger role with the Wolverines in his
sophomore campaign, doing just enough to hold onto a top-10 spot in our
rankings.  Offensively, he already is above average for the NCAA level
while his skating abilities are right up there with the best of the Habs’
organization.  He still needs to shore up his defensive game although that
also improved as the year went on.  Bennett has the option to declare
himself a free agent this offseason (assuming that option still exists in the
CBA); watch for Marc Bergevin to push to get him signed as soon as his season in
Michigan ends.

2011-12 Stats: 41 GP, 4-17-21, 18 PIMS, +16 rating
Previous HW Ranking: 9th
Fans’ Ranking: Outside the top-10

#9) Morgan Ellis
Defenceman, Shawinigan/Cape Breton, QMJHL
4th round pick (117th overall) in 2010

Ellis was well on his way to having a very strong final season in the QMJHL
before he was dealt to the eventual Memorial Cup winners in Shawinigan. 
After the trade, he took his game to another level.  He became a
significant offensive threat (averaging over a point per game) while playing top
minutes night in, night out.  He also earned the Kevin Lowe Award for the QMJHL’s top defensive defenceman.  His strong play continued all the way through the
postseason and Memorial Cup.  I don’t think Ellis will be particularly
dominant in any particular aspect of the game in the pros but at the same time,
he should be able to play effectively in most roles.  That’s a skill set
that is always welcome.

2011-12 Stats: 60 GP, 15-37-52, 56 PIMS, +18 rating, 199 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 13th
Fans’ Ranking: 9th

#8) Michael Bournival
Centre, Shawinigan, QMJHL
3rd round pick (71st overall) in 2010 (acquired via trade from Colorado)

Although most claim that Brendan Gallagher nearly made the Habs in training
camp, I contend that it was Bournival that had the better chance of the two. 
The captain of the Memorial Cup champions isn’t going to be a big time scorer in
the NHL but will still be a valuable asset for the Habs.  He plays with a
high energy level and is a very strong defensive player while his offensive
skills are good enough that he can slide in as a quality third liner or perhaps
even a second liner in the right situation.  I think Bournival will be one
of the players who benefits most from the lockout; a strong start to his season
in Hamilton would go a long way in his attempt to earn a roster spot when Habs’
camp opens up.

2011-12 Stats: 41 GP, 30-26-56, 56 PIMS, +15 rating, 27 shots,
55.7% faceoff win percentage
Previous HW Ranking: 6th
Fans’ Ranking: 7th

#7) Danny Kristo
Right Wing, North Dakota, WCHA
2nd round pick (56th overall) in 2008

The good news is that he managed to avoid significant controversy with off
ice incidents last year.  Sadly, that won’t be the case this season as
Kristo already has been suspended twice by his team.  In terms of on-ice
play, Kristo played with the consistency that eluded him in his previous two
years with the Fighting Sioux en route to by far his best season yet. 
Kristo’s offensive abilities and speed make him a legitimate second line
candidate although his all-around game remains a bit of a work in progress. 
With last seasons’ top scorer (Brock Nelson) going pro, this is Kristo’s team to
carry; with a strong showing, he should contend for the Hobey Baker Award (NCAA
Player of the Year) in 2012-13.

2011-12 Stats: 42 GP, 19-26-45, 33 PIMS, +17 rating (team high
in assists)
Previous HW Ranking: 4th
Fans’ Ranking: 8th

#6) Sebastian Collberg
Right Wing/Left Wing, Frolunda, SEL
2nd round pick (33rd overall) in 2012

Collberg made his best impressions playing internationally for Sweden last
season, averaging over a point per game in the World Under 18’s (6-4-5-9) and
the World Juniors (6-4-3-7).  In regular play though, his skills didn’t get
too much of a chance to shine as he spent most of the year playing in the SEL as
a fourth liner/13th forward, a trend that has continued into this season. 
He is a high risk/reward prospect as his offensive skills could be good enough
to play on the top line in the NHL but defensively he needs a lot of work,
something he isn’t really getting sitting on the bench most nights. 
There’s no doubt the speedster has the chance to become a solid NHL’er, I just
hope his earlier public disenchantment with his ice time doesn’t set back his
development too much.  It also should be noted that he is effectively stuck
in Sweden, he can’t sign with the Habs during the lockout and he is ineligible
to play in the CHL.

2011-12 Stats: 41 GP, 0-0-0, 2 PIMS, -8 rating
Previous HW Ranking: N/A
Fans’ Ranking: 6th