Top 25 under 25: The 26+

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The Canadiens have a deep prospect system, made deeper by an incredible draft in 2012. There were several names who didn't make the top 25 that could be household names in the future.

EOTP's top 25 under 25 coverage begins today with those under 25 years of age that did not make the cut for the top 25 list.

A top 25 is by definition exclusionary to those that don't make the cut. 46 players were eligible for this year's top 25 under 25, so 21 players weren't going to make the cut regardless. This bottom half is filled with the organization's long term projects, faltering prospects and overall minor talents.

Being deemed in the 26- 46 portion of the depth chart is a pretty good reason to suggest that these players have merely minor league futures to look forward to but its not unheard of for a quality player to emerge from this field. Morgan Ellis was ranked 34 2 years ago but is now a prospect most people expect to eventually make the NHL.

The top group of also rans tend to fall into two categories. The previously well regarded that have fallen off and the more obscure or the youngest talents, who might become something in the future but with little track record to project them on. Being one of these two is what elevates the semi-respectable 26 to 30-ish? prospects from the irrelevant no-hopers you tend to see at the very bottom of the ranks.

After the jump I'll outline the most interesting stories from each category.

Fallers

A number of the players outside the top 25 are those that made it for last year's edition but had disappointing seasons that have lowered their stature and have come to the age where results rather than potential is starting to be the expectation. All four are playing professional hockey in their 20's at this point.

Magnus Nygren (D, 22 years old): Rank 26 (Last year 20)

Nygren's great offensive performances in a strong men's league had a number of us intrigued by the Swedish blueliner last summer. Nygren appears to have failed to make the major strides in his overall defensive game many were hoping for this year though and remains a largely a lower pairing PP specialist in the Eliteserin rather than the puckmoving defenseman we were hoping he could become.

Nygren was probably the most controversial selection amongst the staff. He went as high as 11 and as low as 35

Alexander Avtsin (RW, 21 years old): Rank 27 (Last year 11)

Another offensive talent that has failed to make the step forward expect of him. Avtsin's obvious technical skills are frustrating to see in a player that has not learned to play the overall game at the professional level in two AHL years. Most were willing to forgive a bad 19 year old season in the AHL for a player new to North America but another lackluster year has many starting to write off the Russian winger.

Andreas Engqvist (C, 24 years old): Rank 31 (Last year 15)

Engqvist had a good chance to make some noise this year, with the notably lacking Nokialainen being the center above him on the depth chart. The opportunity to grab a spot as an NHL C was there for the taking. Engqvist responded with a nice year as an AHL first line center but didn't make much of an impression as an NHL 4th line C. Leaving for the KHL lowered his stature in the organization even further.

Alain Berger (LW, 21 years old): Rank 34 (Last year 23)

Berger generated some excitement as a big winger with skill taken from the OHL as a free agent but did not stand out during his first pro year in the AHL. With the influx of new professional talent to Hamilton, we expect Berger to be lost in the shuffle as a minor bet that didn't pay out. Bruce and I both had him at near the bottom of our lists but Andrew and Kevin both still had some faith in him and ranked him in the top 25.

Projects

On the other side of the coin are the young players that are seen to have some kind of professional potential but have warts on their profile and there is generally not enough information available to rate them highly.

Charles Hudon (LW, 18 years old): Rank 28 (newly drafted)

9th best scoring prospect from the 2012 draft according to NHLE. Hudon was expected to have a better season than he did after an excellent 16 year old campaign in the Q (.95 points per game) but hardly improved offensively this year (1.12 ppg). He's played internationally for Canada before and it's not much of a stretch to think he could play on the WJC team in the next two years he's eligible. Hudon has plenty of talent and skills but is small and not particularly fast that apparently scared off many teams leaving him to the 5th round for Montreal, despite suggestions he could be a 2nd round talent in this draft.

Montreal has another small 5th rounder from the CHL in the system that has risen to be one of the team's best prospects. If Hudon has a couple good CHL seasons then we'll likely be talking about him just like we do for Brendan Gallagher.

Hudon was also one of this years younger top scoring prospects being born in June for September cutoff. His "Jeff Skinner Ranking" (http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/juniorhockey/blog/buzzing_the_net/post/jeff-skinner-rankings-nathan-mackinnon-hunter-shinkaruk-project-best-to-the-nhl-2?urn=juniorhockey,wp12275) which factors age and strength of schedule along with scoring equivalencies puts him as a 34.8 points as an NHL rookie, in between star prospects Huberdeau and Rattie.

Charles will have a big opportunity to raise his stock in the eyes of casual fans this year and the next with Team Canada international tournaments. He's in the lineup for the Canada-Russian Superseries soon to start this summer (Aug 9th) and is a good bet to make the WJC squad this year and if not then, the next year.

If Hudon is a hit or miss prospect, the stats say if he hits it could be as one of the top forwards from his draft.

Daniel Pribyl (C, 19 years old): Rank 29 (Last year 24)

If you haven't heard much about Montreal's 2011 6th round draft choice this year it's probably because he's completely off the radar. He played limited minutes in a men's professional league this year and was injured at the world juniors. Not the kind of year that gets a prospect noticed. Pribyl will likely be rising in the depth chart of his Sparta Praha team next year. Perhaps then we'll get some news about how good the 6'3" forward is as a 19 year old.

Mark MacMillian (F, 20 years old): Rank 30 (Last year unrated)

MacMillian has yet to really wow anyone with a terrific season, having played in the relatively weak BCHL and had limited minutes in his freshman year in the NCAA. However, those that follow the North Dakota hockey program noted that he was climbing the depth chart as the season went on and showed a good deal of improvement this year. MacMillian is unusual as a player thought to be undersized not in terms of height but weight, with an average frame carrying limited muscle mass being what holds back a player with notable puck skills. MacMillian looks to be player a top six role next year, perhaps with fellow Habs prospect Danny Kristo on his line and quite a few watchers think he could have a breakout year in 2012-2013.

Predictions for next year

The Free-Faller:

For player that we cared the most about at one point that will be treated as irrelevant this time next year I choose Alexander Avtsin. Avtsin was 8th in the 2010 list, I lay decent odds he'll be below 30 in the next one. HM: Andreas Engqvist

Breakout King:

For the player I think most likely to crack the top 25 from the current 26-46 field I choose Charles Hudon. Hudon is a gamble but I put pretty decent odds on him managing to score at a good pace for an 18 year old CHLer (1.3-1.5 ppg) and have a good World Junior Championship selection camp. By this time next year he might dethrone Gaunce to be considered the best Canadian forward from the 2012 draft. HM: Mark MacMillian

Tune in tomorrow for number 25 on the 2012 list with a returning AHL forward who made the list last year.

#25: Gabriel Dumont
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