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30 NHL Prospects Ready for Prime Time

Posted By Corey Krakower On Jun 15 2011 @ 7:22 pm In Around The Rinks | 4 Comments

Cap space has become one of the best assets a team can have in the NHL’s Salary Cap Era. One of the easiest ways for a GM to give himself cap flexibility is to use roster spots on rookies that carry entry level deals, and that’s precisely what teams are doing. NHL rosters were loaded with rookies during the 2010-11 season, and the trend is expected to continue in 2011-12.

As fans start to piece together projected rosters, here is a list of 30 rookies who are poised to make an impact for their respective teams as early as next season.

Anaheim Ducks

Kyle Palmieri (RW)

Acquired: 1st round pick in 2009

2010/11: Syracuse (AHL); 62 GP – 29G-22A-51PTS

2011/12 projection: Palmieri will likely spend the 2011-12 season bouncing around Anaheim’s top 3 lines.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Cam Fowler, Brandon McMillan

Boston Bruins

Jordan Caron (RW)

Acquired: 1st round pick in 2009

2010/11: Providence (AHL); 47 GP – 12G-16A-28PTS

2011/12 projection: Depending on injuries, Caron, who plays any forward position, can spend one night on the fourth line as a checker, and the next night on the first line creating offense.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin, Adam McQuaid

Buffalo Sabres

Zack Kassian (RW)

Acquired: 1st round pick in 2009

2010/11: Windsor (OHL); 56 GP – 26G-51A-77PTS

2011/12 projection: Kassian is listed at 6’3 and over 220 pounds. In his rookie year, he will probably see a lot of minutes on the third line in a shutdown role and on the penalty kill.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Tyler Ennis

Calgary Flames

TJ Brodie (D)

Acquired: 4th round pick in 2008

2010/11: Abbotsford (AHL); 68 GP – 5G-29A-34PTS

2011/12 projection: Brodie will spend the 11-12 season playing limited minutes at even strength while he polishes his defensive game. He will be expected to contribute on the PP.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Mikael Backlund

Carolina Hurricanes

Zac Dalpe (RW)

Acquired: 2nd round pick in 2008

2010/11: Charlotte (AHL); 61 GP – 23G-34A-57PTS

2011/12 projection: Dalpe will be counted on to play a top 6 role as soon as the 2011 season starts. He is already penciled in on the wing next to Ruutu and Skinner.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Jeff Skinner, Jamie McBain

Chicago Blackhawks

Jeremy Morin (LW)

Acquired: Trade with Atlanta

2010/11: Rockford (AHL); 22 GP – 8G-4A-12PTS

2011/12 projection: Morin was injured for much of 2010-11, but his raw skill is evident. Pressed up against the cap, the Hawks will need Morin to step into their top 3 lines and contribute right away.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Corey Crawford, Bryan Bickell, Nick Leddy

Colorado Avalanche

Joey Hishon (C)

Acquired: 1st round pick in 2010

2010/11: Owen Sound (OHL); 50 GP – 37G-50A-87PTS

2011/12 projection: Hishon is projected to start the year with the Avs in 2011, however, Colorado’s top 3 centers right now are Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly. They will have to either trade Stastny as rumored, or move one of the 4 to wing to make room for their next young star.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Kevin Shattenkirk (traded to St. Louis)

Columbus Blue Jackets

Ryan Johansen (C)

Acquired: 1st round pick in 2010

2010/11: Portland (WHL); 63 GP – 40G-52A-92PTS

2011/12 projection: Johansen ripped it up in the WHL and was one of Canada’s best players at the World Juniors. For a franchise that has needed a center for Rick Nash since its inception, Johansen can finally be the answer.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Matt Calvert, Grant Clitsome

Dallas Stars

Scott Glennie (RW)

Acquired: 1st round pick in 2009

2010/11: Brandon (WHL); 70 GP – 35G-56A-91PTS

2011/12 projection: Dallas’ ownership is in flux, they traded James Neal and they are losing Brad Richards and Jamie Langenbrunner to free agency. That’s 3 spots in their top 9 that need to get filled with a limited budget. Having said that, Scott Glennie will be given every opportunity to play a lot of minutes in his rookie year.

Key rookies in 2010-11: N/A

Detroit Red Wings

Brendan Smith (D)

Acquired: 1st round pick in 2007

2010/11: Grand Rapids (AHL); 63 GP – 12G-20A-32PTS

2011/12 projection: With the loss of Brian Rafalski to retirement and a need to get younger, Brendan Smith will be counted on to play top 4 minutes on Detroit’s blueline almost right away.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Jakub Kindl

Edmonton Oilers

Anton Lander (C)

Acquired: 2nd round pick in 2009

2010/11: Timra (Sweden); 49 GP – 11G-15A-26PTS

2011/12 projection: Lander is a smart, two-way player who is physically ready to handle the rigors of an NHL season. Lander will likely be the Oilers’ third or fourth line center, while also chipping in on the PK.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Linus Omark, Jeff Petry, Devan Dubnyk

Florida Panthers

Erik Gudbranson (D)

Acquired: 1st round pick in 2010

2010/11: Kingston (OHL); 44 GP – 12G-22A-34PTS

2011/12 projection: Gudbranson would have cracked the Panthers’ roster last year had it not been for a contract dispute. Expect Gudbranson to play north of 20 minutes per game right away and for him to be used in all situations.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Keaton Ellerby, Evgeny Dadonov

Los Angeles Kings

Brayden Schenn (C)

Acquired: 1st round pick in 2009

2010/11: Saskatoon (WHL); 29 GP – 22G-35A-57PTS

2011/12 projection: Brayden Schenn dominated in the WHL, was by far the best forward at the World Juniors and stepped right in as a key player for Machester at the end of the AHL season. While Anze Kopitar is LA’s first line center, Schenn and veteran Jarret Stoll will battle it out for the #2 spot.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Kyle Clifford, Alec Martinez, Jonathan Bernier

Minnesota Wild

Marco Scandella (D)

Acquired: 2nd round pick in 2008

2010/11: Houston (AHL); 33 GP – 3G-16A-19PTS

2011/12 projection: This would have been a paragraph abut Mikael Granlund, but he has decided to stay in Finland for another year.  Scandella got a taste of the NHL in 2010-11, and will definitely be a regular on the back end in 2011-12. Scandella won’t be a typical shutdown defenseman, nor will he be a typical puck mover; he’ll be somewhere in the middle.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Clayton Stoner, Jared Spurgeon

Montreal Canadiens

Alexei Yemelin (D)

Acquired: 3rd round pick in 2004

2010/11: Kazan (KHL); 52 GP – 11G-15A-26PTS

2011/12 projection: The Canadiens have waited a long time to get Yemelin over from Russia, and they finally have. He is expected to immediately step in and be an “all situations” defenseman. He is very physical, and can also put up some points, as shown last year in the KHL.

Key rookies in 2010-11: PK Subban, Lars Eller, David Desharnais, Yannick Weber, Ryan White

Nashville Predators

Blake Geoffrion (LW)

Acquired: 2nd round pick in 2006

2010/11: Milwaukee (AHL); 45 GP – 11G-26A-37PTS

2011/12 projection: Geoffrion finished the year with the Predators last year and was in the lineup for all 12 playoff games. A good all-around player, Geoffrion should get a regular shift on the third line, while easily filling a spot in the top 6 when injuries occur.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Matt Halischuk, Anders Lindback

New Jersey Devils

Adam Henrique (C)

Acquired: 3rd round pick in 2008

2010/11: Albany (AHL); 73 GP – 25G-25A-50PTS

2011/12 projection: Henrique is ready for the show, but the Devils will need to move a few older bodies with big contracts (like Brian Rolston) before a spot for Henrique opens up. New Jersey will not waste Henrique’s talent on a fourth line, so for him to make the team out of camp, it will need to be as the third line center at worst.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Mattias Tedenby, Jacob Josefson, Nick Palmieri, Mark Fayne

New York Islanders

Nino Niederreiter (LW)

Acquired: 1st round pick in 2010

2010/11: Portland (WHL); 55 GP – 41G-29A-70PTS

2011/12 projection: Niederreiter started the year with the Islanders in 2010, and was sent back to the WHL after 9 games. With his size and scoring ability, he will without question be on the top 2 lines for the Islanders, possibly alongside John Tavares.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Michael Grabner, Travis Hamonic, Matt Martin

New York Rangers

Tim Erixon (D)

Acquired: Trade with Calgary

2010/11: Skelleftea (Sweden); 48 GP – 5G-19A-24PTS

2011/12 projection: Erixon is an NHL ready defenseman who did not want to sign with Calgary and essentially forced their hand to trade him. The Rangers were the beneficiary and now have another elite D prospect who will in all likelihood be starting the year on Broadway.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Sauer, Mats Zuccarello

Ottawa Senators

David Rundblad (D)

Acquired: Trade with St. Louis

2010/11: Skelleftea (Sweden); 55 GP – 11G-39A-50PTS

2011/12 projection: It was a toss-up between Cowen and Rundblad, so I went with the older prospect. Rundblad is the real deal; he is a big body presence and is a great puck mover as well. GM Bryan Murray has already said that Rundblad is expected be on the Senators roster out of camp, and will be counted on to be a key piece of Ottawa’s rebuild.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Bobby Butler, Zack Smith

Philadelphia Flyers

Matt Read (RW)

Acquired: Signed as FA

2010/11: Bemidji State (NCAA); 37 GP – 22G-13A-35PTS

2011/12 projection: The only reason Read is listed is because Philly has no other top prospects that are close to NHL ready. He did sign a 1-way deal out of college, which means he will in all likelihood be a member of the Flyers next season. He has always been a point producer, which he showed in an 11 game stint in the AHL where he picked up 13 points. Expect him to be a good depth player for the Flyers.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Sergei Bobrovsky

Phoenix Coyotes

Brett MacLean (RW)

Acquired: 2nd round pick in 2007

2010/11: San Antonio (AHL); 51 GP – 23G-27A-50PTS

2011/12 projection: With a tight budget and a bunch of UFAs leaving, a spot will open up for MacLean. He was a big scorer in the OHL, and has improved every year in the AHL. He could be good for 20 goals as early as next season.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, David Schlemko

Pittsburgh Penguins

Simon Despres (D)

Acquired: 1st round pick in 2009

2010/11: Saint John (QMJHL); 47 GP – 13G-28A-41PTS

2011/12 projection: Pittsburgh is loaded on defense, but with the expected emergence of Simon Despres and a need for more depth up front, they will move a defenseman for a forward this summer. Despres is a big defenseman with a great skating stride who is ready for prime time and should have a smooth transition into the NHL.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Mark Letestu, Dustin Jeffrey

San Jose Sharks

Nick Petrecki (D)

Acquired: 1st round pick in 2007

2010/11: Worcester (AHL); 67 GP – 3G-11A-14PTS

2011/12 projection: Never known for his offensive ability, Petrecki is a physical force who enjoys pulverizing his opponents. He is definitely ready for the NHL in terms of size, the question is can he be reliable defensively. With a lot of cap space devoted to forwards, Petrecki will have every opportunity to earn a spot on San Jose’s blueline.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Logan Couture, Benn Ferriero

St. Louis Blues

Stefan Della Rovere (LW)

Acquired: Trade with Washington

2010/11: Peoria (AHL); 66 GP – 8G-8A-16PTS

2011/12 projection: Della Rovere is a pure energy player, who is a very effective checker and penalty killer. His simple game should allow for a quick and easy transition into the NHL. He could be a key part of an elite checking line down the road.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Nikita Nikitin, Ian Cole, Kevin Shattenkirk (trade from Colorado)

Tampa Bay Lightning

Brett Connolly (LW)

Acquired: 1st round pick in 2010

2010/11: Prince George (WHL); 59 GP – 46G-27A-73PTS

2011/12 projection: There were some big question marks when Connolly was drafted due to an injury, but he had a monster year in the WHL with 46 goals in 59 games. He recently signed an entry level contract and should contend for a roster spot, perhaps even on Tampa’s top 2 lines. With Stamkos and Lecavalier down the middle, Connolly is set up to have a successful rookie year.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Dana Tyrell

Toronto Maple Leafs

Jake Gardiner (D)

Acquired: Trade with Anaheim

2010/11: Wisconsin (NCAA); 41 GP – 10G-31A-41PTS

2011/12 projection: Gardiner is a great skater who put up impressive numbers offensively in college. I don’t know if Gardiner will make the Leafs out of camp, but I fully expect he will play at least half the year in Toronto, as they continue to rebuild their defense.

Key rookies in 2010-11: James Reimer, Nazem Kadri, Keith Aulie

Vancouver Canucks

Cody Hodgson (C)

Acquired: 1st round pick in 2008

2010/11: Manitoba (AHL); 52 GP – 17G-13A-30PTS

2011/12 projection: After a slow start, Hodgson finished strong and eventually earned a short callup with the Canucks. He is a smart player who makes those around him better. With Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler as the team’s top 2 centers; Hodgson and Malhotra will battle for the 3 and 4 spots, with Malhotra getting extra minutes on the PK and Hodgson on the PP.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Cory Schneider, Chris Tanev

Washington Capitals

Dmitri Orlov (D)

Acquired: 2nd round pick in 2009

2010/11: Novokuznetsk (KHL); 45 GP – 2G-10A-12PTS

2011/12 projection: Touted as the next Sergei Zubov, Orlov is widely considered to be the most NHL ready D prospect in any organization. While he should have no issue getting a regular shift with the Caps, they will likely need to ship out a defenseman to make room for him.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Michal Neuvrth, John Carlson, Marcus Johansson, Mathieu Perreault


Patrice Cormier (C)

Acquired: Trade with New Jersey

2010/11: Chicago (AHL); 11 GP – 2G-3A-5PTS

2011/12 projection: Acquired in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade, Cormier has been a top end defensive center at every level. He did play a number of games in the NHL in 2010-11, but injuries limited him to an abbreviated season. While he does have the skill level to score 10-15 goals, his niche in the NHL will be as a go-to penalty killer and as a guy who goes up against opposing teams’ top players.

Key rookies in 2010-11: Alexander Burmistrov

NOTE: To qualify as a rookie, the player must not have played in more than 25 NHL games in any previous year nor played in six or more NHL games in each of any two preceding seasons, as well as being under the age of 26 on September 15 of the season in which he is eligible.

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