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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (07/11)

July 9, 2013
Top 10 Prospects 2013
Florida Panthers

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Florida Panthers Top 10 Prospects

1. Aleksander Barkov, Center
2. Nick Bjugstad, Center
3. Michael Matheson, Defense
4. Rocco Grimaldi, Center
5. Vincent Trocheck, Center
6. Alex Petrovic, Defense
7. Ian McCoshen, Defense
8. Kyle Rau, Right Wing
9.Quinton Howden, Left Wing
10.Michael Downing, Defense

Organizational Ranking: 5th

System Overview: Florida's top six or seven prospects are on par with just about any system in hockey. Enhancing the appeal, their top names all play varying styles: Barkov is an elite, two-way center, Bjugstad is a huge, skilled center, Matheson is a gifted puck mover, Grimaldi is an energetic, speedy skill forward, and Petrovic is a big, mean defenseman with some skill. Florida also has an elite goalie prospect in Jacob Markstrom. The depth in Florida's system doesn't look as elite as it has been, but it is still pretty good.

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1. Aleksander Barkov, Center
2011-12 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 09/02/1995
Age: 17
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 205
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 53 GP, 21 G, 48 P, 19:31 ATOI (Tappara, SM-Liiga)
Acquired: First round, second overall in 2013 by Florida

Year in Review: Barkov had one of the greatest U18 seasons of all time for someone in a top European league. He played tough minutes, and he was a leading offensive player in the SM-Liiga.

The Good: Barkov's hockey sense is off the charts. His creativity, two-way instincts, and vision are elite. He has the ability to slow the game down and dictate the flow. He is a very skilled player, and while he does not show a proclivity to dangle around defenders, he has a high level of ability with the puck. He is a strong player for his age, he protects the puck well, and he can muscle off of his checks effectively. Barkov is also solid in the faceoff circle.

The Bad: Barkov has no significant weakness, but if there were any one area of concern, he could be a tad bit quicker of a skater.

Projection: He could be an All Star, if not possibly an elite center, and one of the league's best two-way forwards.

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2. Nick Bjugstad, Center
2011-12 Ranking: 2nd
Date of birth: 07/17/1992
Age: 21
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 220
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 40 GP, 21 G, 36 P (Univ. of Minnesota, WCHA)
Acquired: First round, 19th overall in 2010 by Florida

Year in Review: Bjugstad did not dominate as expected in his junior season, but he still ended up as a Third-Team WCHA All-Star, while improving his all-around game.

The Good: Bjugstad is the prototypical toolsy forward. He is a legit 6'6", 220-pound forward, with above-average to plus hands, good offensive instincts, and a bomb of a shot. He skates very well for a big man. He has the ability to make unique plays, showing creativity and playmaking skill that was on display over his last two seasons. Bjugstad's defensive game has also developed to a solid level.

The Bad: Bjugstad is a hard player to pin down. He can go stretches without making the most of his abilities, and he sometimes makes questionable decisions (although that area of his game has improved). His production does not reflect the elite potential he has. He could stand to be a little meaner, too.

Projection: He has the upside of a top line center, but his realistic projection is a few notches below that.

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3. Michael Matheson, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 10th
Date of birth: 02/27/1994
Age: 19
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 178
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 36 GP, 8 G, 25 P (Boston College, Hockey East)
Acquired: First round, 23rd overall in 2012 by Florida

Year in Review: Matheson had a good freshman season at Boston College, emerging as a quality offensive defenseman. He was named to the conference's All-Rookie team.

The Good: Matheson is a very talented offensive player, with high-end skating and puck-moving skills. He has a unique look to his game, as he is such a smooth skater and natural puck handler. He makes high level dekes and passes look effortless, and he has the ability to complete highlight reel plays.

The Bad: Matheson's physical and defensive game still need rounding out. While those areas are not as worrisome as they were last year, he still needs to put on a lot of bulk to succeed at the pro level. He also can still be the victim of some defensive miscues, and his shot could be better, too.

Projection: He has top pairing tools, but there is above-average risk on his projection.

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4. Rocco Grimaldi, Center
2010-11 Ranking: 3rd
Date of birth: 02/08/1993
Age: 20
Height: 5'6"
Weight: 170
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 40 GP, 13 G, 36 P (Univ. of North Dakota, WCHA)
Acquired: Second round, 33rd overall in 2011 by Florida

Year in Review: Grimaldi bounced back from an injury-riddled season, including being named to the All-WCHA Rookie Team and winning World Junior gold (albeit with an up-and-down tournament).

The Good: Grimaldi possesses a ton of offensive tools. He is a top of the line skater, puck handler, and shooter who can simply be dynamic with the puck, creating a ton of scoring chances. His speed and agility make him so tough to check, and when they combine with his high level of skill, he creates open ice for himself very well. Grimaldi also has a hard, accurate shot, and he sets up plays well. One of his best elements is his work ethic; he is a tough guy, and he still wins battles despite his small size.

The Bad: Grimaldi is 5'6". That is not a typo, nor is it a poor measurement. He has every tool a team could want in a player, aside from the fact that some NHL defensemen may be able to knee him in the face. He is strong for his size, but he could continue to bulk up.

Projection: He could be a great second line center who plays on a top power play unit.

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5. Vincent Trocheck, Center
2011-12 Ranking: 9th
Date of birth: 07/11/1993
Age: 20
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 190
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 63 GP, 50 G, 109 P (Plymouth, OHL)
Acquired: Third round, 64th overall in 2011 by Florida

Year in Review: Trocheck had a stellar season. He led the OHL in scoring, he was named the league MVP, and he was part of Team USA's Gold Medal-winning squad at the World Juniors.

The Good: Trocheck is a very well-rounded forward who took his game to a new level this season. He is a highly-skilled player who can make all sorts of plays with the puck, and he displays a great level of coordination. Trocheck is also a smart two-way player, possessing above-average vision and great defensive awareness. He also is quality at the faceoff dot. Trocheck has solid speed, and while he is not tremendous in that area, he plays the game with such a high level of energy and pace, guaranteeing that he is always buzzing around the rink. He works very hard, and he drives the high percentage areas.

The Bad: Trocheck does not have a real weakness aside from his size. He will need to continue to get stronger to play his style at the top level.

Projection: He could be a good second line center.

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6. Alex Petrovic, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 6th
Date of birth: 03/03/1992
Age: 21
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 193
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 55 GP, 4 G, 17 P (San Antonio, AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 36th overall in 2010 by Florida

Year in Review: Petrovic was solid, but not outstanding in his rookie AHL season. He earned a late season callup to the Panthers, where he looked impressive, albeit in a small amount of games.

The Good: Petrovic is a well-rounded defenseman who can contribute at both ends. He is a solid to above-average puck mover, with impressive offensive ability for a big man. He is a tough, 6'4'' defenseman who excels in the physical game, and he makes opponents pay a price when they match up against him. He displays solid instincts offensively and defensively, and he projects as a tough-minutes player who can play a second power play unit.

The Bad: Petrovic's skating is merely fine, and while it is not below average, his speed will not impress anyone. He could stand to get a little stronger, and he will have the odd brain cramp decision-wise.

Projection: He could be a good second pairing defenseman.

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7. Ian McCoshen, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 08/05/1995
Age: 17
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 205
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 53 GP, 11 G, 44 P (Waterloo, USHL)
Acquired: Second round, 31st overall in 2013 by Florida

Year in Review: McCoshen quietly had an excellent third USHL season, where he was named a First Team All-Star in the league.

The Good: McCoshen is a very smart defenseman with high-end overall hockey sense. He makes quick decisions, he does not tend to make a lot of mistakes, and he positions himself quite well. He is calm with the puck, and he does not collapse under pressure from rushing forwards. McCoshen skates well in every direction, and he has puck moving ability.

The Bad: He could be a little more physical and tougher on his checks. McCoshen also does not have a high level of offensive skill. He needs to continue to gain strength.

Projection: He could be a quality second pairing defenseman.

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8. Kyle Rau, Right Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 7th
Date of birth: 10/24/1992
Age: 20
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 173
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 40 GP, 15 G, 40 P (Univ. of Minnesota, WCHA)
Acquired: Third round, 91st overall in 2011 by Florida

Year in Review: Rau followed up his great freshman season with more of the same, scoring at a high rate and displaying good defensive value for a player of his size.

The Good: Rau has high-end hockey sense, showing the ability to make great passes. Even when he does not have the puck, his feel for the game is evident. He knows where to position himself, how to force plays with his stick positioning, and how to forecheck effectively. His defensive awareness is also very high. He has a high skill level, as he is a coordinated, creative puck handler. Rau also has a great work ethic. He will battle for pucks well, and he fights through checks.

The Bad: Rau has average-to-solid speed, but he could use a better gear for a player of his size, as he is small. He will need to bulk up a fair amount over the next few years to have a chance at the top level.

Projection: He could be a second line winger.

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9. Quinton Howden, Left Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 8th
Date of birth: 01/21/1992
Age: 21
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 185
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 57 GP, 13 G, 30 P (San Antonio, AHL)
Acquired: First round, 25th overall in 2010 by Florida

Year in Review: Howden was decent in his first professional season. He received defensive responsibility, and he put up solid numbers considering he was on a weak offensive team.

The Good: Howden is a true plus skater who can simply jet up and down the ice. He has above-average size, and he moves like a small man with his great first few steps and top speed. His best offensive skill is his shot, as he can unload accurate snipes from mid-distance. He projects to have a good NHL shooting percentage. He has a decent amount of skill, and he should be good defensively.

The Bad: Howden needs to continue to work on his physical game. His strength needs to come along, as he is a really physical player. His pure upside is also a question mark, as he does not always stand out offensively.

Projection: Howden has the tools to be an above-average regular, but his exact NHL role is uncertain. There is a possibility he may end up a third line winger.

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10. Michael Downing, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 05/19/1995
Age: 18
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 192
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 52 GP, 3 G, 23 P (Dubuque, USHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 97th overall in 2013 by Florida

Year in Review: Downing's performance fluctuated as the season went on, but he had a good second half, and he was part of the eventual USHL champions.

The Good: Downing is a big, tough defenseman with good mobility. He is pretty strong for his age, and opposing forwards realize it when he closes his gaps on them. Downing has solid offensive skill, displaying a good first pass, and even the occasional offensive flash beyond that.

The Bad: Earlier in the season, there were concerns about Downing's hockey sense and overall decision making. However, it picked up as the season went along. As he heads to the University of Michigan, it will be closely monitored how well he handles the faster pace of the college game.

Projection: He has second pairing potential.

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The Next Five

11. Jacob Markstrom, Goaltender: Markstrom remains a very good goalie prospect, although maybe not as strong of a prospect as he once was. He is a tremendous athlete who moves well for his giant frame, and has the butterfly to cover an entire net.

12. Yaroslav Kosov, Right Wing: He does not have one standout area, but Kosov has size, speed, skill, and grit.

13. Logan Shaw, Right Wing: Shaw is an intriguing prospect who played well as an overage player in the QMJHL. He has good size and above-average skill.

14. Francis Beauvillier, Left Wing: Beauvillier has a ton of speed. He plays tough, kills penalties, and has a decent amount of offensive ability.

15. Alexander Delnov, Left Wing: Delnov is an extremely talented player who flashes plus speed and puck skills. He is a tad undersized, and he still has things to learn, but the upside is there if it all clicks for him.

The Sleeper: Matt Buckles, Center

Buckles is a tough, hard-working player who possesses some offensive skill and finishing touch. He impressed in the OJHL, and he is going to Cornell next season.

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Florida Panthers Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2012 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. Aleksander Barkov, Center
2. Jonathan Hubderdeau, Left Wing
3.Dmitry Kulikov, Defense
4. Drew Shore, Center
5. Nick Bjugstad, Center
6. Michael Matheson, Defense
7. Erik Gudbranson, Defense
8. Rocco Grimaldi, Center
9. Alex Petrovic, Defense
10. Ian McCoshen, Defense

Huberdeau won the Calder this year, likely the start of what will be a star career. His skill level is ridiculous, and once he fills out, enabling him to handle the physical rigors of the NHL, he could dominate. Kulikov continues to develop towards being a top-pairing defenseman. His offensive skills are his specialty, but Kulikov can still defend fine. Gudbranson's development has been slow, but he still could be a #3 defenseman. He is such a great skater and physical player, but he needs to continue to work on his reads and overall decisions.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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Premium Article From Daigle To Datsyuk (07/07)
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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (07/11)
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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (07/11)

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