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We have reached the top-10 of our prospect rankings series.  Only one of
the players in this grouping was part of our top-10 last year; it features a
couple of prospects on the rise plus a couple of newcomers to the organization. 
As was the case with our 6-10 picks last season, this is a collection of players
without too much in the way of NHL experience although most have seen time at
a professional level.


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)


#10) Jacob de la Rose
Left Wing/Centre, Leksand, Allsvenskan
2nd round pick (34th overall in 2013)

After taking what many would call a gamble selection with their top pick back
in June, de la Rose represented a much safer pick for the Habs.  His
size, playing style, and positional flexibility are all assets; he has often
switched roles mid-game from offensive to defensive or vice versa.  What
dropped him to the second round was the questions surrounding his offensive
upside.  If he can put it all together, he could be a very valuable two-way
second line forward but if he continues to have his limitations, he’s likely no
more than a third liner.  He’s off to a good start in the SHL this season
after his team was promoted from the second division and his production is on a
similar pace to last year despite playing against much better competition. 

2012-13 Stats: 38 GP, 6-6-12, 31 PIMS, +8 rating
Previous HW Ranking: N/A
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 8th

#9) Christian Thomas
Right Wing, Connecticut, AHL
2nd round pick (40th overall in 2010) (acquired via trade from NY Rangers in

Thomas has instantly become one of the more controversial prospects that
Montreal has.  Not only was he acquired for Danny Kristo, a player who had
finally signed with them a few months prior, but at 5’9, he’s on the small side
as well.  However, he is a natural goal scorer and that’s something that
can’t be said for too many of the Habs’ prospects.  He had a solid rookie
campaign in the AHL, finishing tied for fourth in scoring for Connecticut while
also making his NHL debut.  An important step for him this year will be to
become more involved in the play; he has a tendency to not be noticeable unless
he has the puck on his stick.  However, he’d need to be healthy first for that to
happen (he has been injured since late in training camp).

2012-13 Stats: 73 GP, 19-16-35, 15 PIMS, +5 rating, 5 PPG, 148
Previous HW Ranking: N/A
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 13th

#8) Tim Bozon
Left Wing, Kamloops, WHL
3rd round pick (64th overall in 2012)

Bozon put up a 36 goal season in his draft year, drawing the attention of
many scouts.  Last year he followed it up with another 36 goal campaign
while adding 20 more assists en route to 91 points, good for a tie for 8th in
WHL scoring.  He isn’t as dynamic a scorer as Thomas is but on the flip
side, Bozon is more of a well-rounded offensive player.  His detractors
have suggested that his inflated point totals were more as a result of his
linemates and not his skill level (much like Patrick Holland’s 109 point season
in 2011-12); they were vindicated to a point after Bozon struggled early to
start the year without his linemates who have moved to the AHL.  However,
he was just starting to get back on track before getting dealt to Kootenay where
he should slide in nicely on their top line.  Another high scoring season
looks to be in the cards.

2012-13 Stats: 69 GP, 36-55-91, 58 PIMS, +37 rating, 14 PPG
Previous HW Ranking: 15th
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 14th

#7) Charles Hudon
Left Wing, Chicoutimi, QMJHL
5th round pick (122nd overall in 2012)

Going into the draft, many scouts saw Hudon going in the 3rd or 4th round but
he surprisingly fell to the 5th where the Habs snatched him up.  Although
his year-to-year point progression hasn’t been all that impressive (60, 66, 71),
his improvements in his two-way game have been.  He has changed from an
offence-only winger to a very reliable defensive forward that can check the
opponents’ best while still being a consistent contributor on the scoresheet. 
Hudon made Team Canada’s World Junior team last year but was forced out of the
tournament with a back injury which still plagues him to a degree today and will
continue to for the foreseeable future.  That’s about the only real
question mark facing him at this stage though and at this stage, he looks like
another 5th round gem from Trevor Timmins and his staff.

2012-13 Stats: 56 GP, 30-41-71, 66 PIMS, +15 rating, 9 PPG, 269
Previous HW Ranking: 18th
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 9th

#6) Louis Leblanc
Right Wing, Hamilton, AHL
1st round pick (18th overall in 2009)

Last year was nothing short of a disaster for Leblanc.  He was injured
early and the issue lingered throughout most of the season.  Even worse was
that he fell into lengthy slumps and often found himself lower on the depth
chart than career minor leaguers and minor leaguers on tryout contracts. 
That didn’t scare too many of our writers away from putting him on their list
though as there is still some upside with Leblanc.  If he can rebound from
his struggles last year, he still projects as a lower-end 2nd line or higher-end
3rd line winger.  As this is the last year on his entry level deal, the
microscope will be out in full force.  A good year will probably vault him
into a regular spot with the big club next year but a poor one will
significantly increase the likelihood that isn’t in the organization when
training camp rolls around in September.

2012-13 Stats: 62 GP, 10-8-18, 53 PIMS, -18 rating, 3 PPG, 161
Previous HW Ranking: 4th
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 10th