Prospect is a term usually given to players who aren't necessarily in the NHL, but prospect website Hockey's Future defines anyone who's played fewer than 65 games before the age of 24 as a prospect.
With that criteria, the website has named Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk as the best prospect in the NHL:
1. Alex Galchenyuk, C - Montreal Canadiens
Height: 6-1, Weight: 203, Spring ranking - 2
Galchenyuk is a high-end offensive talent with excellent vision, hockey sense, and playmaking abilities. The 19-year-old is mature beyond his age, but it is his work ethic and drive to be the best that will push him to exceed expectations. In his rookie season, the big center was a Calder Trophy candidate and should improve his offensive production in 2013-14. He needs to improve his first step acceleration, physicality, and defensive zone positioning to be an absolutely dominant type of player. It will take time and experience for him to become an elite NHL center, but he projects as a franchise player and future star in the NHL.
The announcement came with the requisite skepticism in the twitter-verse, as the far more hyped Nail Yakupov seems to be almost universally seen as the superior player by fans, but that is very much in question based on their performances last season.
There's no question that Yakupov is a dynamic young player, but most of his production last season was generated through an absurd 20.99% shooting percentage, something he's extremely unlikely to repeat.
Yakupov also enjoyed 114.24 minutes on the powerplay, compared to Galchenyuk's 48 minutes. Yakupov's 10 powerplay points accounted for 32.3% of his overall production, whereas Galchenyuk did 96.3% of his producing at even strength, the most among rookies.
Even for those who prize goalscoring as more important than playmaking, the signs show that Galchenyuk could be ahead of Yakupov there too. At even strength, Yakupov produced just 5.56 shots per 60 minutes, 8.13 Fenwick events, and 11.34 shot attempts. Galchenyuk produced 7.53 shots per 60, 10.83 Fenwick events, and 13.68 shot attempts.
Even on the powerplay, Galchenyuk came out looking like the higher end shooter. Yakupov generated 10.17 shots per 60, 13.38 Fenwick events, and 21.41 shot attempts while up a man. Galchenyuk produced 12.68 shots per 60, 19.01 Fenwick events, and 21.55 shot attempts.
Considering that Galchenyuk is not considered a shoot first player, and was coming off of major knee construction that saw him miss nearly an entire development year, you can see why some would consider him superior.
Add in that he's eventually going to play center (a much more important role) and that he's a bigger, stronger player than Nail, and the case for Galchenyuk nearly makes itself.
Hockey's Future isn't exactly the most reliable evaluator of talent, but the logic of placing Galchenyuk at the top is very sound.
More on Galchenyuk:
Galchenyuk's 2013 Top 25 Under 25 profile