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Top 10 NHL Prospects Likely to Make An Impact Next Season

by on 01/22/2012

10. Tim Erixon, New York Rangers

Staal, Girardi, McDonagh and Sauer are the only NHL defensemen the Rangers have signed through next year. Del Zotto and Bickel will probably get re-signed while Eminger, Woywitka, Stralman status is more unknown. Erixon was a late cut after this years’ pre-season and the team will likely take a long look at him next year. He plays a solid two-way game, he can help the Rangers on the power play and create more offensive from the back-end.

9. Jeremy Morin, Chicago Blackhawks

Morin suffered a concussion earlier this season that sidelined him for most of training camp and the pre-season. He has 25 points in 35 AHL games and he’ll likely finish the season in the AHL to play in all situation and get lots of minutes. I expect him to make the team next year in a top 9 role.

8. Dustin Tokarski, Tampa Bay Lightning

Roloson will likely retire after this season and that means the Lightning will need a starting goaltender. It’s unlikely that Yzerman sends what few pieces he has now for a proven goaltender like Schneider or Rask, so expect Tokarski to get a very long look next season. Tokarski has spent the last 3 years in the AHL and is really the only choice the Lightning have within the organization. He has played exceptionally well this year, he sports a 17-9-0 record with a 2.43 GAA and 0.903 Sv%.

7. Joe Colborne, Toronto Maple Leafs

Colborne played 9 NHL games this season and tallied 4 points and remarkably was a +1. While Toronto have a plethora of NHL centers signed through next year but they’ve shown this year they aren’t afraid to have their centers play the wing. Both Kadri and Colborne should make the Leafs next year, while Kadri will likely produce better offensive numbers, Colborne will help the Leafs where they desperately need it, ON THE PENALTY KILL.

6. Brendan Smith, Detroit Red Wings

Lidstrom is old, they’ll need to replace him on the backend and Smith is the most likely candidate. A smooth skating offensive defenseman will fill in for Lidstrom on the power play.

5. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers

There will be nothing left for Huberdeau to learn in the minors next season, he should stick with the team next year. The Panthers are a big surprise this year but they need a center for the second line to be a true contending team. With the addition of Huberdeau next season they’ll be one step closer to being a contending team. We’ve all seen how great  Nugent-Hopkins has been this season, Huberdeau should be no different next year.

4. Jacob Markstrom, Florida Panthers

Theodore is signed through next season, so Markstrom will have to fight for the starting job next year. Markstrom will make the team next year, whether its in are starting or back-up capacity will depend on him.

3. Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild

The Wild NEED Granlund to make the team next year. The Wild have been a one line team for some time now, the insertion of Granlund next year will give them a second line center they can rely on for some offensive and more importantly, take some pressure off Mikko Koivu. On a semi-related side note, I’m curious to see if Charlie Coyle can push for a top 6 spot next year and play along side Granlund.

1B. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues

All expectations are for Tarasenko to leave the KHL and join the Blues next season but is nothing set in stone, the only thing we know is that he’ll likely make his decision after the World Championships. He could play anywhere from the first to third line next year. If the Blues weren’t so deep, he’d be number one on this list.

1A. Yevgeni Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals

It’ll likely be Semin’s last season with the Capitals and that’s great news for Kuznetsov because it will guarantee a top 6 spot for him next year. Depending on what the Capitals plan to do with him next year, Kuznetsov could play on the top line with Ovechkin and Backstrom, have him center the second line or have him on the wing next season.

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