Ranking the prospects: A look back
The Hockey News' 2007 Future Watch hit my mailbox yesterday, and it's made for some pretty solid reading. I honestly don't seen anywhere near as many junior hockey games as I used to, and without guides like this, keeping up on prospects would be mighty tough.
One of the more interesting things the THN crew do in this year's issue is a look back at their Future Watch lists from both five and ten years ago. And the results are interesting.
I think the main thing we learn is that it's unbelievably difficult to project players from their late teens to the NHL, and that those at the top of the heap right now are more than likely not going to be there five years from now.
The magazine lists the Top 50 for each look back; I'll list the Top 15 just to give you a taste (and you can get an online copy of the whole issue here). The comments next to each player are my own:
Five-year rewind (2002)
- Tuomo Ruutu: Injuries have held him back, but he really doesn't seem poised to breakout into anything more than a 60-point player.
- Ryan Miller: A top-10 NHL netminder at this point, and still just 26.
- Stanislav Chistov: A definite dud so far.
- Vaclav Nedorost: Couldn't produce in the AHL, nevermind the NHL, and is a depth player in the Czech league.
- Jeff Jillson: Well... the Berlin Polar Bears this he's a top prospect.
- Mikko Koivu: Has looked, at times, terrific this season. Definite potential here given he's just 23.
- Rick DiPietro: A terrific season this year that is beginning to justify his No. 1 overall status.
- Jason Spezza: Yeap, he fits here (although probably higher on the list).
- Alex Svitov: A bust almost from Day 1.
- Jordan Leopold: Has developed into a pretty solid No. 3 or 4 blueliner — although more was expected after an excellent career at the University of Minnesota.
- Stephen Weiss: Very quietly has emerged as one of the NHL's young bright lights this season in South Florida. (I'm not kidding, he's going to be a star.)
- Jani Rita: Has 32 goals in 55 games with Jokerit in Finland but never amounted to much in North America.
- Mika Noronen: Off in Siberia after sulking his way through backup stints in Buffalo and Vancouver.
- Alex Frolov: On pace for more than 40 goals at age 24 and with a terrible team? He's a star.
- Dan Hamhuis: Definitely underrated, former Prince George captain is a big part of Nashville's climb in the standings.
10-year rewind (1997)
- Marc Denis: He's been a bust in his first season outside of Colombus, losing the starting role to Johan Holmqvist and coming close to breaking John Tortorella's 25-per-cent rule.
- Andrei Zyuzin: Depth defencemen in every sense of the words.
- Erik Rasmussen: Another example of why projecting is hard.
- Chris Phillips: Probably due a ridiculous payday as a UFA this summer, he's eventually lived up to his No. 1 billing (better than picking Zyuzin, anyway).
- Alexei Morozov: Phenomenally talented, he's run up amazing point totals in Russia this season — enough to probably justify this ranking.
- Yogi Svejkovsky: Heh, here's a blast from the past. Jogi was the Capitals' prized prospect until he flamed out at 23 and retired from hockey altogether, three years after dominating the WHL as an import.
- Boyd Devereaux: Began the year with the Toronto Marlies and has shone, at times, with the Maple Leafs.
- Jean-Sebastien Giguere: One of the top netminders in the game.
- Mattias Ohlund: Remains one of the NHL's most underrated defencemen. A huge part in the Canucks success this season, and in the past.
- Jan Bulis: One of those European forwards pundits always call 'enigmatic', which I presume is European for 'kinda crappier than he appears.'
- Brendan Witt: Long-time Capital has lived up to his billing as a rock-solid defensive defender from the Prairies.
- Alexander Volchkov: Who? Another Capitals prospect that flamed out and retired, Volchkov played all of three NHL games and didn't put up points anywhere after starring with the Barrie Colts' trio of underachievers in Bulis and Daniel Tkaczuk.
- J.P. Dumont: Solid second-liner after being picked third overall in 1996.
- Chad Kilger: Will never live up to being picked fourth overall, but has found a suitable role with the Maple Leafs.
- Brendan Morrison: He was a later draft pick but tore up the NCAA in his final year with the University of Michigan, probably boosting his rank significantly. Probably a perennial 60-point guy without his big buddy.