This is the second in a four-part series covering our top-100 prospects for the 2015-16 season. Each piece will cover 25 prospects and then we will have a second four-part feature that will cover the top-10 prospects of each individual team by division. Now, onto the rankings.
(Note: Only players with less than 25 games played are included.)
51. Adam Erne (F, Tampa Bay Lightning): Erne, who was the QMJHL playoff MVP, keeps chugging along. Between the regular season and playoffs this past season, he had 62 goals in 82 games for Quebec (QMJHL). The number is even more impressive when you take into account that his running mate Anthony Duclair spent the first half of the season in the NHL. His defensive game is underrated and he skates well for a kid who is well over 200 pounds. If everything breaks right, there's no reason to think that Erne can't turn into a second line, goal-scoring winger. He could be in the NHL sooner than people think. He should open next season in the AHL.
52. Ilya Samsonov (G, Washington Capitals): The Caps were planning for the future when they spent the 22nd overall pick this past June on Samsonov. He was the best goaltending prospect in the draft by a mile, but there's a real chance that he won't come to North America until 2018. His KHL contract reportedly runs for three more seasons. A big (6-3, 205), agile keeper, Samsonov simply needs more experience. He has all the traits to be a number one goaltender at the NHL level. He will either spend next season with Magnitogorsk in the KHL or their junior club in the MHL.
53. Ty Rattie (F, St. Louis Blues): A hard worker with elite hands, Rattie has spent two productive seasons with Chicago (AHL). He also has gotten into 12 career games with the Blues. Rattie's biggest problem has always been his skating, but he's improved a bit in that area. The issue that he's currently facing is that there doesn't seem to be any room for him on the St. Louis roster. He's the top of player who has to be playing a top-six role and getting power play time to be effective. He's a goal scorer, not a checker. The 2011 second-round pick had 106 goals and 231 points during his final two seasons in the WHL. If the Blues don't plan on giving him a real opportunity, they should trade him. He has to have considerable trade value.
54. Shayne Gostisbehere (D, Philadelphia Flyers): A torn ACL limited Gostisbehere to seven games this past seasons (two with the Flyers, five in the AHL). The limited action will probably force him to spend the early part of this coming season in the minors. Gostisbehere is an undersized (5-11, 170), mobile defenseman. He makes a great first outlet pass and he can help on the power play. He's the kind of player that would have struggled before the rule changes that put an end to all the clutching and grabbing. The Flyers have eight defensemen under NHL contracts, so it's hard to see any room for Gostisbehere to begin the season. It would still be an upset if he didn't spend a significant chunk of the season in Philadelphia.
55. Malcolm Subban (G, Boston Bruins): Subban is one of the few top prospects that has some uncertainty surrounding his role for this coming season. The Bruins have to be thrilled with the development of Subban during his two seasons in Providence (AHL), but there's still no clear role for him in Boston. The 2012 first-round pick is far too good to be along term backup and that seems to be the only role for him in Boston with Tuukka Rask around. There are certainly plenty of teams that would love to have him, but it's hard to tell what Bruins GM Don Sweeney is thinking these days. Subban is either going to open this season as Rask's backup or he's going to spend another season in Providence. Neither is an ideal situation. Subban is amongst the most athletic goaltenders that you will ever see, but having a 21-year-old getting limited playing time is never a good thing. It's a situation to keep an eye on.
56. Nikolay Goldobin (F, San Jose Sharks): With no room for him in San Jose and realizing that he had nothing left to learn playing junior hockey, the Sharks smartly loaned Goldobin to HIFK in Finland last season so he could play against men. He played well and then he finished the season playing for the Sharks' AHL affiliate. Goldobin is a sniper. He has a terrific wrist shot and the ability to find soft spots in coverage. He still needs to get a bit stronger, but the skill set is certainly there. The Sharks are an organization that has never been afraid to promote younger players, so it's entirely conceivable that Goldobin could make his NHL debut this season. He figures to play in the AHL until the Sharks deem him to be ready.
57. Nikita Scherbak (F, Montreal Canadiens): Scherbak is a purely offensive player. His numbers in his second WHL season (27G, 82P in 65GP. were nearly identical to his first. He improved in several areas, but he didn't take that big step forward that the Habs were looking for. As is the case with many young Russian players, especially forwards, the defensive side of his game needs work. While he's an extremely gifted player, the 2014 first-round pick has enough holes in his game that he's probably looking at a full year's development in the AHL.
58. Julius Honka (D, Dallas Stars): Because Honka was technically on loan when he was drafted out of Swift Current (WHL), he was eligible to play in the AHL this past season. He was very impressive considering he played about a third of the season as an 18-year-old. Honka is a small (5-10, 180), offensively gifted defender. His numbers in the AHL (31P in 68GP. were very impressive when you take his age into account. The Stars really couldn't have asked for more in his first pro season. Honka needs to put on another 10-12 pounds and work on his defensive positioning, but he's definitely trending in the right direction. It's certainly possible he could make his NHL debut at some point this upcoming season.
59. Ivan Barbashev (F, St. Louis Blues): After putting up 25 goals and 68 points two seasons ago, Barbashev raised those totals to 45 goals and 95 points this past season. He was a force for Russia at the World Juniors and his offensive game has really developed since he was selected 33rd overall in 2014. Barbashev is an offensive player who isn't afraid to be physical despite the fact he isn't overly big. Barbashev is going to succeed in the NHL due to his offensive abilities, but his defensive game isn't a liability. He could be ready for spot duty in St. Louis after a brief apprenticeship in the AHL.
60. Nick Schmaltz (F, Chicago Blackhawks): Schmaltz made some positive strides during his freshman season at The University of North Dakota, but he still has work to do. A playmaker with some of the slickest hands in the game, Schmaltz put up 26 points in 38 games, 21 of which were assists. He also played for Team USA at the World Juniors, but he didn't make much of an impact. The biggest concern surrounding Schmaltz's game is that he tends to over handle the puck and he doesn't use his teammates enough. It's something that can only improve with experience. He's going to take on a more important role for the Sioux this coming season and he's going to get another shot at the World Juniors. It certainly wouldn't be a surprise to see Schmaltz's overall production increase this coming year.
61. Haydn Fleury (D, Carolina Hurricanes): A real argument can be made that no top prospect in the league had a worse year than Fleury. He put up 28 points for Red Deer (WHL), one year after putting up 46 points. Carolina spent the seventh overall pick on Fleury in the 2014 draft and the early returns haven't been good. He was also one of the first cuts from Canada's World Junior camp. At his best, Fleury is a physical workhorse defenseman who can impact the game in all areas. He needs a big time bounce back season in his final year of juniors. His stock has absolutely cratered in the last 12 months.
62. Chris Bigras (D, Colorado Avalanche): Now here's a guy who needed a bounce back season and produced in a big way. Bigras finished the season with 71 points for Owen Sound (OHL), one year after finishing with just 26 points. He was also very impressive during a late season run in the AHL. I'd be shock if Bigras was a big time point producer in the NHL. His upside is more of a second-pairing type defenseman. A guy who moves well and can get the puck out of his team's own end. Colorado signed Francois Beauchemin and traded for Nikita Zadorov this off season, so it certainly seems likely that Bigras will spent the majority of this coming season in the AHL.
63. Oliver Kylington (D, Calgary Flames): An awful poor and inconsistent draft season caused Kylington, who was once considered to be a sure fire top-10 pick, to drop all the way to 60th overall. My comparison for Kylington was, and still is, Keith Yandle. A guy who's not very big and doesn't have a huge shot, but who's skating ability and vision will make him a huge asset on the power play. Like many young defensemen, he just needs to get stronger and work on his play in his own zone. Kylington received permission from his Swedish club to play this upcoming season in North America. He will either play for the Flames, their AHL affiliate or in the WHL for Brandon, who own his junior rights.
64. Nicholas Merkley (F, Arizona Coyotes): The Coyotes continue to load up on skilled forwards. I thought Merkley was a mid-first round pick this past June and he fell to the 30th overall selection. Merkley, who is more of a playmaker and a scorer, finished with 70 assists and 90 points in 72 games for Kelowna (WHL. this past season. Merkley busts his tail every shift and the only two concerns surrounding him is that he's not very big and he doesn't skate at an elite level. Arizona will certainly allow him to develop in the WHL. There's a really good chance that he will represent Canada at this year's World Junior Championship and he should be primed for another huge year in Kelowna.
65. Ville Pokka (D, Chicago Blackhawks): Pokka was the main asset Chicago received when the dealt Nick Leddy to the Islanders just before the start of last season. Pokka spent his first season in North America with Rockford (AHL. and he played well, with 30 points in 68 games. Pokka is more of an offensive defenseman. He isn't particularly big (6-0, 195. but he moves the puck well and he has a big shot. Pokka played against men for several seasons in Finland and he's awfully close to being ready for NHL duty. He's likely to begin next season in Rockford, but his debut with the Blackhawks should come before too long.
66. Mike Matheson (D, Florida Panthers): It's not that Matheson played poorly during his three seasons at Boston College, he just didn't dominate like I expected him to. I thought he was a potential top-pairing guy when he was the 23rd overall pick in 2012, but I think now he's more like a number three or number four guy. His value is always going to be as a puck moving, power play contributor. His defensive game is still a work in progress. I still think he's a regular and will have a productive NHL career, but I don't think he's the impact guy that I did at one point. Matheson will begin his first professional season in Portland (AHL).
67. Charles Hudon (F, Montreal Canadiens): Hudon's first professional season with Hamilton (AHL. was a rousing success. He put up 57 points in 75 games and he was named an AHL All-Star and to the AHL's All-Rookie Team. Pretty good for a 2012 fifth-round pick. Hudon's offensive abilities are what will carry him to a successful NHL career. He isn't very big, and he doesn't do a ton besides score. Thankfully, he's very good at that. He doesn't have a lot to prove in the AHL. I certainly wouldn't be surprised if he was a contributor at the NHL level this season.
68. Lawson Crouse (F, Florida Panthers): I gave consideration to leaving Crouse off of this list, but he was drafted high enough (11th overall this past summer. and enough respected talent evaluators around the NHL think highly enough of him that I couldn't bring myself to do it. I think he's going to struggle to be a consistent offensive contributor at the NHL level. What he does have is an NHL-ready body (6-4, 215. and the ability to win battles along the boards. I see Crouse ending up as a productive third-liner. There's many people, clearly the Panthers included, who think he's a lock to be a top-six guy. There's no chance that Crouse will be ranked No. 68 at this time next year. He's either going to be ranked considerably higher or he's going to find himself off the list entirely.
69. Jimmy Vesey (F, Nashville Predators): With 32 goals and 58 points in 37 games during his junior season at Harvard, Vesey was the best player in college hockey this past season not named Jack Eichel. He was a final for the Hobey Baker Award and he got valuable experience playing for Team USA at the World Championships late in the season. The Predators took another run at signing Vesey this summer, but he once against spurned them and has decided to return to Harvard for his senior year. Vesey will have the ability to become an unrestricted free agent next summer if he decides he doesn't want to sign in Nashville. With Eichel playing in the NHL this coming season, it's quite possibly that Vesey will be the most talented player in college hockey this year.
70. Emile Poirier (F, Calgary Flames): I was pretty vocal about my displeasure when the Flames drafted Poirier 22nd overall in the 2013 draft. I thought it was a massive reach at the time. To Poirier's credit, he's improved both seasons since then and he's turned himself into one of the better prospects in the league. He was extremely effective (42P in 55GP. in his first season in the AHL and he earned a brief six-game trial with the Flames. Poirier is an offensive player – he has very quick hands and the ability to find open teammates. The Flames have enough offensive depth that Poirier is probably going to begin next season in the AHL, but he should have an impact at the NHL level at some point during the upcoming year.
71. Ryan Hartman (F, Chicago Blackhawks): Hartman had a solid season. He put up 13 goals and 37 points in his first AHL campaign and he got into five games for the Blackhawks. Hartman's long-term potential is as a third-liner who can contribute in all three zones and chip in about 15 goals a season. He's physical, will stick up for his teammates and is responsible defensively. Hartman doesn't have much left to learn in the AHL, but I don't see any room for him in Chicago to begin the season. He's always been a physically mature kid and he doesn't play the type of game that needs refinement in the minors. He will bide his time in Rockford until there is an injury with the big club.
72. Kevin Roy (F, Anaheim Ducks): Roy keeps doing his thing at Northeastern University. Through his first three years and 101 collegiate games, Roy has posted 55 goals and 124 points. The Ducks tried once again this summer to get him to turn pro and Roy once again turned them down and decided to return to the Huskies for his senior season. My only concern surrounding Roy is that I don't think he is going to do much at the professional level if he isn't putting up points. He's more of an offensive specialist as opposed to a responsible two-way forward. I also think he's going to need time in the AHL to learn how to play against men. It's going to be a couple of years before he's ready to help the Ducks. Anaheim caught a bad break when he decided to return to school.
73. Daniel Sprong (F, Pittsburgh Penguins): I acknowledge that this may be a bit high for Sprong, but he has the physical gifts to be a top-25 prospect. He's a terrific skater and he's a wizard with the puck. He needs to get stronger and work on his consistency. I thought he was a clear first-round talent this past June, but he fell to the Penguins at #46. My biggest concern regarding Sprong is that he will avoid physical contact at times. He has the hands to be able to just stickhandle around defenders at the junior level, but that won't work in the NHL. Thankfully, that's correctable. If he becomes more physically engaged on a consistent basis, he has the potential to be a steal.
74. Nicolas Kerdiles (F, Anaheim Ducks): Kerdiles missed nearly three months this past season due to various injuries and he never really got himself on track. The overall numbers (9G, 26P in 51GP. weren't terrible, but more was expected from a kid who was considered to be one of the better prospects in the league entering last year. Kerdiles skates well and has a terrific shot. He has all the tools to be a productive offensive player. His substantial drop down the rankings was due to the missed time due to injury as opposed to any change in his game. I expect him to rise back up the rankings if he can stay healthy this season.
75. Danny O'Regan (F, San Jose Sharks): I've long been a bigger O'Regan supporter than most. After a terrific freshman season at Boston University in 2012-13, O'Regan's game fell off a cliff the following year. Then, after the arrival of Jack Eichel this past season, O'Regan proceeded to put up 23 goals and 50 points in 41 games. The obvious concern is that O'Regan's massive production was the result of playing with Eichel. I think that's entirely possible, but then again, he didn't have Eichel next to him his freshman season and he was terrific then, too. O'Regan decided this summer to return to the Terriers for his senior season, so we are going to see if he can keep up the production with Eichel gone to the NHL.