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October 10, 2011
From Daigle To Datsyuk
Final Roster Cuts, Part 2

by Corey Pronman

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The following is a continuation from my last column and I give some basic thoughts on every team's final rosters from a prospect standpoint. Prospects from my Top 100 will have their ranking in brackets:

Nashville Predators: An injury to Francis Bouillon helped Mattias Ekholm (24) gain an opening night job, and if he plays well out of the gate, it may put pressure on the Preds to keep him up. Craig Smith (51) is here for the long run as a forward who can be effective in bottom and top line roles, and may even get into the Calder discussion.

New Jersey Devils: Adam Larsson (9) made the club, which isn't surprising in the least considering how polished he was coming out of the draft. In my mind, it was always a matter of how much he could do right away, not if he would be in the league.

New York Islanders: The Isles had an interesting camp as Nino Niederreiter (30) was injured while Kirill Kabanov (14) and Ryan Strome (6) got some long looks, with the latter eventually being signed and placed on the roster and Kabanov being sent to the QMJHL as a final cut. I'm not even sure what Strome's role is right now with the team, and while I don't think it's outlandish to think he can stick with the club, there's a good chance this may only be a nine game peek.

New York Rangers: Top defense prospect Tim Erixon (11) was originally sent down out of camp, but one injury later and he's in the opening day lineup. The Rangers quibble with Erixon was his adjustment to the North American ice, which is a fair criticism. However, Erixon's high hockey IQ has the potential to make that adjustment quickly, and may force the team to keep him up if that happens.

Ottawa Senators: There's a lot of fresh blood on this team. Jared Cowen (76), Stephane Da Costa (46), Nikita Filatov (40), David Rundblad (17), and Mika Zibanejad (21) all made the club's opening roster. This will certainly be a season of growing pains and developing the new core. The only one I wasn't overly crazy about was Zibanejad. Even though I think he is ready, I'm not certain he's ready to be a significant top-six player over the course of an NHL season and I'd rather he stayed over in Sweden for a season getting big scoring minutes. His development has gone well, however, and in the course of a few months, he's filled out very nicely.

Philadelphia Flyers: Sean Couturier (5) breaks with the team and is likely there for the long run. He's a pretty advanced player physically and mentally, although the former still has some room to improve with time and with a top-end skill set that should produce a ton in the NHL over his career. Brayden Schenn (4) was cut purely for financial reasons and should be up in a matter of days. Matt Read is an interesting player, as he's a 1986 birthdate signed late last year out of college. He has a decent skill set that's driven by his hockey sense. I wouldn't expect a ton out of Read, but he can certainly be an average pro this year. I'm not a big Zac Rinaldo fan, and I don't see him as anything but a fourth line agitating player who should play very limited minutes.

Phoenix Coyotes: Mikkel Boedker (32) made the roster, which isn't a big surprise seeing as he ended last year on the roster, but hopefully he pushes for bigger minutes this year. Andy Miele (95) being cut was a bit of a surprise, but if he plays well in the AHL, I imagine he should be up shortly.

Pittsburgh Penguins: I'm not sure what's going on with Roberto Bortuzzo. He's a big defenseman that plays a solid defensive game but he remains injured. Aside from that, there's nothing else to talk about for the Pens on the prospect front.

St. Louis Blues: Evgeny Grachev, the former top Rangers prospect who was dealt to the Blues at the Draft, made the club and should be a fine bottom-six player for the team. He's a big forward who skates at a solid level and can provide fine defensive value.

San Jose Sharks: Tommy Wingels is a hard-working forward that can contribute at both ends of the rink, albeit not at a significant level, with a smart, dedicated game that is complimented with some skill. There's not a whole lot to get excited about with Wingels, but at his peak, he can project to be a slightly below average pro player.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Brett Connolly (13) had a nice bounceback season after his injury-shortened 2009-10, and those who like him in the industry are certainly very optimistic about his projection. I'm not sure if he'll score at a top-six rate right out of the gate, but if not, it likely won't be long. Mattias Ritola is a personal favorite of mine as a dark horse candidate and I'm glad to see he made the team. He's extremely skilled with top-end puck skills and creativity. His game certainly has a few holes in it, but he has a lot of potential to dream on.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Jake Gardiner (87) really impressed the Leafs' brass this camp and ended up knocking Aulie, a regular from last year, back to the minors. His defensive game still needs some work, but the team obviously wanted some puck-moving skills and Jake certainly has those. I've said before on these pages that Matt Frattin's development has gone very well, especially with his skating. Right now, he has the look of a player who can be an average to potentially above-average forward this season.

Vancouver Canucks: I'm not surprised to see Cody Hodgson (52) in the lineup as much as I'm curious to see how he is used. If he's just going to get limited minutes as he did last year with the Canucks, I'd demote him back to the AHL where he didn't even play that well in 2010-11 and get him to continue working on his skating and physical game. Dale Weise was a nice pickup off the waiver wire from the Rangers. He certainly can be a third line player in the league, and my write-up on him is located here.

Washington Capitals: Mathieu Perreault made the roster, but he's been juggled between the NHL and AHL quite a bit the last two years. He is more of a skill player, but does have the intangibles to play outside a top six and he needs to convince the Caps he can be that kind of player for the long term to stay in the league.

Winnipeg Jets: There's been no player I've talked about more with people in the industry this summer than Mark Scheifele. Some love him, and some are where I am—which is we think he's a fine prospect, but don't see what the big deal is. Gabe Desjardins at Arctic Ice Hockey has already hit the main points on this topic, but on a bad team like the Jets, I don't advocate keeping anything but the best of talents up, and in cases like with Nugent-Hopkins and the Oilers it may not even be the best route anyways. This is due to how hard it is for 18-year-olds to play in the league, and preserving their ELC years. Despite the Jets love for Scheifele, I'm still not convinced he's that kind of elite prospect as opposed to a good prospect who is advanced but doesn't have a very high upside.

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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