As we start the process of establishing a list of the top 50 NHL-affiliated prospects in hockey, Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Seth Jones, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan and Valeri Nichushkin became too good to be part of Future Watch.
We’re just starting work this week on our annual Future Watch issue, which lists the top 10 prospects in each organization, then ranks the top 50 league-wide.
The process takes just over a month to complete because there’s a lot of back-and-forth communication between ourselves, a large network of NHL scouts and our web of NHL writers. It will be available to subscribers and on newsstands in early March, right around trade deadline time.
We soon realized the list of young NHL players who completely bypass the Future Watch project is rather large this year. They are, of course, the players who go directly from the 2013 draft to NHL duty the same year, with nary a sniff more time in development leagues. It’s typically three or four players every year, but this season it’s six.
They include fab freshmen Nathan MacKinnon (first overall to Colorado), Aleksander Barkov (second to Florida), Seth Jones (fourth to Nashville), Elias Lindholm (fifth to Carolina), Sean Monahan (sixth to Calgary) and Valeri Nichushkin (10th to Dallas). We’re kind of sad they don’t pass through the Future Watch turnstile, but their fast track to the big league is obviously well-earned and better for the player, team and fans.
A few others, such as Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov in Buffalo, got brief NHL stints before returning to their development leagues.
Among the other early 2013 first-rounders who remain in development levels, Jonathan Drouin (third to Tampa Bay), Darnell Nurse (seventh to Edmonton) and Bo Horvat (ninth to Vancouver) are expected to rank quite high on our Future Watch top 50 list. We’ll see in the coming weeks.
How do the number of fast-trackers this year (six) compare to previous seasons? It looks to be the best since 2008.
Here are the players who jumped directly from the draft to the NHL in the past decade.
2012 draft (two): Nail Yakupov (1st to Edmonton) and Alex Galchenyuk (3rd to Montreal). Mikhail Grigorenko played 25 games with Buffalo, Stefan Matteau played 17 games with New Jersey and Scott Laughton played five games with Philadelphia.
2011 draft (four): Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1st to Edmonton), Gabriel Landeskog (2nd to Colorado), Adam Larsson (4th to New Jersey) and Sean Couturier (8th to Philadelphia). Mark Scheifele played seven games with Winnipeg.
2010 draft (five): Taylor Hall (1st to Edmonton), Tyler Seguin (2nd to Boston), Jeff Skinner (7th to Carolina), Alexander Burmistrov (8th to Atlanta) and Cam Fowler (12th to Anaheim). Nino Niederreiter played nine games with the Islanders.
2009 draft (five): John Tavares (1st to Islanders), Victor Hedman (2nd to Tampa Bay), Matt Duchene (3rd to Colorado), Evander Kane (4th to Atlanta) and Ryan O’Reilly (33rd to Colorado).
2008 draft (six): Steven Stamkos (1st to Tampa Bay), Drew Doughty (2nd to Los Angeles), Zach Bogosian (3rd to Atlanta), Luke Schenn (5th to Toronto), Mikkel Boedker (8th to Phoenix), Josh Bailey (9th to Islanders) and Viktor Tikhonov (28th to Phoenix).
2007 draft (three): Patrick Kane (1st to Chicago), Sam Gagner (6th to Edmonton) and David Perron (26th to St. Louis).
2006 draft (two): Jordan Staal (2nd to Pittsburgh) and Phil Kessel (5th to Boston).
2005 draft (one): Sidney Crosby (1st to Pittsburgh).
Part of the reason why only one player made the immediate jump in 2005-06 is because the 2004-05 lockout delayed 2004 draft picks from fast-tracking, which strengthened the rookie class of 2005-06.
Four players from the powerful 2003 draft made the immediate move to the NHL (Eric Staal, Nathan Horton, Nikolai Zherdev and Patrice Bergeron), plus another four (Marc-Andre Fleury, Dustin Brown, Brent Burns and Ryan Kesler) played between 21 and 36 games.
As for Future Watch 2014, we’re talking to the scouts right now and we’re as eager as you are to see where prospects fall among the top 50. We’re not sure who our cover boy will be either. Perhaps Drouin or Chicago prospect Teuvo Teravainen? I’ll keep you posted.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN