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Future Watch 2015: the NHL's top 10 falling prospects

Which hot NHL prospects have cooled off and slid down our rankings over the past year? Here's a look at the biggest Future Watch fallers.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Earlier this week, I outlined the top rising prospects in THN Future Watch 2015, our ultimate prospect ranking publication. To recap the process:

Scouts from every NHL team rank their organizations' top 10 prospects. That generates a pool of 300 players. A panel of about 15 (the number varies slightly by year) head scouts and GMs uses that 300-player list to create a top 50. Votes are assembled to create an aggregate top 50, and the panel also ranks each franchise's prospect pools.

Which players have plummeted among our top 75 – or out of it – based on last year's ranking? Here's a look at Future Watch's top fallers. Keep in mind anyone ranked last year who graduated to full-time NHL duty doesn't count as a "faller."

1. Stefan Matteau, LW, New Jersey Devils (-42)

Last year: 34th overall

This year: dropped out

Matteau brings a skill set New Jersey can use, but he also represents exactly what's wrong with the organization's development right now. The Devils have little offense from the forward position coming through the pipeline. Matteau is a big, grinding player who flashed some scoring ability in the QMJHL. The goals just haven't come in the AHL, though, and his 2013-14 NHL debut was too early. Now that he looks like a checker rather than a top-six guy, he resembles his father, ex-NHLer Stephane, even more.

2. Brandon Gormley, D, Arizona Coyotes (-39)

Last year: 37th

This year: out

The Coyotes can take solace in the fact Gormley has gotten an extended taste of NHL duty this season with 21 games under his belt, and he has a good chance to start next season there. Now, 23, though, Gormley was approaching bust status. He was the 13th overall pick in 2010. The Desert Dogs like his intelligence and believe he's capable of contributing as a two-way blueliner at the NHL level. His foot speed needs work, though, and GM Don Maloney is quoted in Future Watch saying he wants to see Gormley up the all-around tempo of his game. He's no longer a surefire stud, hence the drop in his overall rank, but the very fact he's in the NHL right now shows the Coyotes believe he can be a good pro.

3. Mike Matheson, D, Florida Panthers (-38)

Last year: 22nd

This year: 60th

Quite the fall for Matheson after ranking as a top-25 prospect in the world a year ago. His case is rather muddy. He gets another highly positive scouting report in this year's Future Watch. He's compared to Brian Campbell for his skating, and Matheson rates as the Panthers' No. 1 developmental prospect. Why the drop, then? For one, he hasn't been as good with Boston College this year as he was last year. Noah Hanifin's outstanding freshman play, plus the presence of Matheson's Eagles and Panthers teammate Ian McCoshen, have overshadowed Matheson a bit. This doesn't look like a case of bias among our panel toward an obscure hockey market like Florida, as Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad rated sky-high in Future Watch during their pre-NHL days.

4. Jamie Oleksiak, D, Dallas Stars (-38)

Last year: 38th

This year: out

It's a red flag when you're a 6-foot-7, 250-pound defenseman and your coach wants "more physical play from you." Oleksiak has the mammoth frame but isn't using it to the best of his potential. Stars coach Lindy Ruff wants Oleksiak to punish opponents more and to move the puck quicker. Dallas had high expectations when they took him 14th overall in 2011. He's running out of time to meet them since he's being pushed by a glut of emerging Stars D-men, including Patrik Nemeth, Jyrki Jokipakka and Julius Honka, not to mention John Klingberg, who leapfrogged Oleksiak altogether and became a full-time NHLer.

5. Hunter Shinkaruk, LW, Vancouver Canucks (-36)

Last year: 40th

This year: out

It's bizarre Future Watch progression to go from first-round pick in 2013 to top-40 prospect in 2014 to unranked in 2015. Shouldn't Shinkaruk, 20, be ascending, not descending? Hip surgery last year is largely to blame. The smallish scoring forward has even been a healthy scratch with Travis Green's AHL Utica Comets at one point this season. He improved in the New Year, however, not on the scoresheet yet, but in his ability to go to the net and do what his coaches want him to. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Shinkaruk back among the risers next year.

6. Tim Erixon, D, Toronto Maple Leafs (-32)

Last year: 44th

This year: out

Erixon's fall his been precipitous to say the least. He's 24, and his puck-moving skills have made him a Future Watch regular for years. But its a damning indictment to see a 2009 first-rounder traded three times, from Calgary to New York, New York to Columbus and Columbus to Chicago. Worse yet, the Hawks waived Erixon. He's now Toronto property.

7. Brian Dumoulin, D, Pittsburgh Penguins (-31)

Last year: 45th

This year: out

He's big and well-rounded but doesn't play to his size. His path to the pros depends a lot on what the Pens want to do with pending unrestricted free agents Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff this summer.

8. Oscar Dansk, G, Columbus Blue Jackets (-30)

Last year: 46th

This year: out

Dansk was a borderline first-rounder in 2012, which is no small feat for a goalie today. He was a powerhouse in net for Sweden at the world juniors. Now he's the Jackets' third-ranked goalie prospect behind Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo. Dansk has tumbled out of the Jackets' top 10. He's an athletic goalie, but his positioning and consistency need work. Still, 21 is downright baby-faced in goalie years. Dansk has time to rebound.

9. Henrik Samuelsson, RW, Arizona Coyotes (-27)

Last year: 49th

This year: out

The big, strong Samuelsson brings good positioning and grit to the table. His skating grades out poorly, though, and the Coyotes aren't satisfied with his conditioning. The fitness assessment comes from GM Don Maloney, so Samuelsson must get cracking.

10. Ryan Hartman, RW, Chicago Blackhawks (-25)

Last year: 47th

This year: 72nd

Most of the highly ranked Future Watch prospects have a healthy amount of offense in their games. The points haven't come yet for Hartman as a pro. He isn't scoring much with AHL Rockford. He still grades out as a handy checking forward someday. There's a home for him in Chicago's lineup. They even called him up for a five-game taste in February.

Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the Post-To-Post blogFor more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazineFollow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin

Future Watch 2015, the world’s most authoritative hockey prospect guide, is available for purchase today.


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