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We’re now just one set of rankings away from reaching the top-10.  All
of the players in this group received a top-10 vote from at least one of our
writers.  Compared to the past couple of groups, this collection of
prospects is relatively inexperienced as only one has played at the AHL level
(though two others will in the very near future).  As was the case with
rankings 16 through 20, there are several defencemen amongst these players as


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, 2013
2) The player must have no greater than 50 games of NHL experience (including
regular season and playoffs – Brendan Gallagher has 49 but since he’s a regular,
he has been exempted)
3) The player has to be signed on an NHL contract

Here are the departures from last year’s list (in alphabetical order):

Graduated: Andreas Engqvist
Released: Olivier Archambault, Alexander Avtsin, Alain Berger, Daniel
Pribyl, Ian Schultz, Joe Stejskal, Dustin Walsh
Traded: Danny Kristo, Aaron Palushaj (waivers)


#15) Magnus Nygren
Defence, Farjestad, SHL
4th round pick (113th overall in 2011)

The Swedish blueliner was our biggest riser in the rankings this year,
vaulting up 15 spots after a terrific year where he nearly doubled his point
production.  However, the most impressive part of his campaign was the
steps he took in his defensive play which helped earn him the Salming Trophy as
the SHL’s top defender.  After being relegated to being basically a
powerplay specialist, Nygren became a go-to player, logging the second most ice
time of any player on his team.  He has made the jump across the pond and
will suit up with Hamilton this year.  If he gets off to a strong start
this year, he could challenge for a recall with the big club, especially if one
of Montreal’s powerplay players goes down with an injury.

2012-13 Stats: 51 GP, 13-19-32, 49 PIMS, +11 rating, 9 PPG, 157
SOG, 23:17 ATOI
Previous HW Ranking: 30th

#14) Mac Bennett
Defence, Michigan, NCAA
3rd round pick (79th overall in 2009)

After two straight years inside our top-10, Bennett falls to this spot after
an up-and-down junior season at Michigan.  The offensive defenceman got off to a
torrid start (nine points in his first seven games) but struggled towards the
end of the year (three points in the final ten contests).  His overall game
took some small steps forward but his best skill remains his skating by far. 
Bennett was named captain for the Wolverines for what will be his final
collegiate season and with Jacob Trouba moving on to the NHL, he should also be
the go-to guy on the blueline which should result in a jump in the points
column.  Don’t be surprised to see him in Hamilton late in the year after
Michigan’s season comes to an end.

2012-13 Stats: 32 GP, 6-12-18, 4 PIMS, even rating, 2 PPG
Previous HW Ranking: 10th

#13) Michael Bournival
Left Wing/Centre, Hamilton, AHL
Acquired from Colorado in 2010

Bournival dropped out of the top-10 in our rankings for the first time since
being acquired but that wasn’t due to him having a poor year but that others
ahead of him had terrific years (not to mention what appears to be a quality
2013 draft class).  As was the case with a lot of the rookies last year,
Bournival had his struggles early on with the Bulldogs but became one of their
go-to players in the second half of the season.  He also played significant
time on special teams which I’m sure aided him in cracking Montreal’s opening
roster.  He likely won’t have too much of an impact with the Habs this year but
should be a core player for Hamilton when he gets sent back down.

2012-13 Stats: 69 GP, 10-20-30, 26 PIMS, -3 rating, 2 PPG, 153
Previous HW Ranking: 8th

#12) Darren Dietz
Defence, Saskatoon, WHL
5th round pick (138th overall in 2011)

Although 2012-13 could largely be summed up as disappointing if not worse for
Saskatoon (getting swept in the first round and losing in the Memorial Cup that
they hosted), it was a terrific year for Dietz.  He led all WHL defencemen
in goals while finishing third in points while still providing a physical
presence, all while logging huge minutes on the Blades’ top pairing.  After
being an early cut in Montreal’s training camp, he was recalled and acquitted
himself relatively well in several preseason games.  He likely won’t see
much if any NHL time this year as he gets acclimated to the pro game in Hamilton
but his playing style (decent size, physical, good offensive tools) is something
the big club should benefit from sooner than later.

2012-13 Stats: 72 GP, 24-34-58, 100 PIMS, +9 rating, 13 PPG
Previous HW Ranking: 14th

#11) Artturi Lehkonen
Left Wing/Right Wing, KalPa, SM-liiga
2nd round pick (55th overall in 2013)

Lehkonen finished second on his team in scoring, a particularly impressive
feat considering he was playing in Finland’s top pro league as a 17 year old.  He also was a
dominant force at the World U-18’s where he led his country in points (tied for
fourth overall), averaging better than a point per game.  A big concern
with him last year was that he suffered a pair of concussions which some of our
writers were concerned with when they were picking their top-10 prospects; at
5’11 and just 163 lbs, his size also contributed to him sliding to the back of
the second round.  Lehkonen is off to a strong start with KalPa this year
as he leads the team in scoring early on and should be a key player for Finland
at the World Juniors.

2012-13 Stats: 45 GP, 14-16-30, 12 PIMS, +12 rating, 4 PPG
Previous HW Ranking: N/A

If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to vote for your top-10
prospects.  Click
for the ballot.  The results will be revealed before we begin
posting our writers’ top-10 later this month.