It’s time for another run at ranking the best NHL prospects. More than 20 such players who were listed on our fall top 100 have graduated from prospect status, and nearly a full additional season since has seen plenty of players rise or fall in how we view their potential. So expect plenty of movement here in our updated top 50 ranking of the top prospects in hockey.
Perhaps the biggest change from the fall edition is the top of the list — there is no longer a true No. 1. Jack Hughes, Kaapo Kakko, Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes have all graduated, leaving behind a bit of a debate atop the ranking.
Even so, there is a host of promising players in NHL pipelines. Here are my top 50 as of mid-March.
Criteria note: To be eligible for this list, players must be under 26 years old and cannot have played in more than 25 NHL games this season. Players who are projected to lose rookie status over the course of this season or have spent the bulk of the season on the NHL roster were also removed from consideration (i.e. Arizona Coyotes forward Barrett Hayton, who has not yet crossed the games-played threshold but has been with the Coyotes all season).
Age: 22 | Previous rank: 8
Current team: CSKA Moscow (KHL)
The wait may soon be over. Assuming Kaprizov signs as expected, he will come in as the reigning two-time KHL goal-scoring champion. Kaprizov has an Olympic gold medal and a Gagarin Cup title, and no player has posted more points in his KHL career before turning 24. He competes for pucks and makes plays. While there may be an adjustment to the North American style, the Wild should reasonably expect him to be an impact player, a Calder Trophy contender and quite possibly their biggest home-drafted star since Marian Gaborik.
Age: 18 | Previous rank: 9
Current team: Boston University (Hockey East)
One of the most dynamic talents with the puck on his stick currently outside of the NHL, Zegras’ ability to find teammates and make quick decisions with the puck is at an elite level. His stickhandling can make defenders miss, but he still needs to add muscle to his frame and clean up the defensive elements of being a center. He is as dynamic as they come, and the Ducks have an exciting young talent on their hands.
Age: 19 | Previous rank: 24
Current team: Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
There was a chance Cozens could have made the Sabres this season, but I think the team made a pragmatic decision in sending him back to the WHL. He is top-three in the WHL in points per game and was a force at the World Junior Championship. An absolute horse, Cozens can fly up and down the ice and is finishing plays a lot better than he did a season ago. There’s a consistency to his game. He has gotten better and better as the season has worn on and looks far more prepared to step into the Sabres’ lineup as early as next season.