Emerging Russian players dominate the top of the 2020 edition of TSN Hockey’s list of the Top 50 NHL-affiliated prospects, taking four of the first five spots in our annual rankings.
Only players considered to have not achieved full-time NHL status are included in the list.
New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin, who dominated the AHL with a 1.93 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in 23 starts for the Hartford Wolf Pack before being recalled on Jan. 6, takes top spot this year after being 10th in last year’s rankings.
Shesterkin gave up two goals on Colorado's first three shots in his NHL debut Tuesday night but settled down to finish with 29 saves in a 5-3 win over the Avalanche.
He has all the tools necessary – skill, poise, sense and technical ability – to be a success at the NHL level and is the heir apparent to Henrik Lundqvist on Broadway.
Shesterkin is joined in the top five by Florida Panthers prospect Grigori Denisenko (No. 2 for a second consecutive year), a 19-year-old Lokomotiv Yaroslavl right wing who had nine points (three goals, six assists) in seven games for Russia at the World Juniors; Minnesota Wild property Kirill Kaprizov (No. 3), a 22-year-old CSKA Moscow left winger who has 37 points (19 goals, 18 assists) in 39 KHL games this season; and defenceman Alexander Romanov (No. 5), a 20-year-old Montreal Canadiens prospect who is also playing for CSKA Moscow this year.
Romanov showed what a bold player he can be at the World Juniors, commanding games with his hockey IQ, enthusiasm, competitiveness and skill level. He brings tremendous confidence to the ice, initiating plays instead of waiting for the action to come to him.
The lone non-Russian in the top five is 18-year-old Canadian defenceman Bowen Byram (No. 3), the fourth-overall pick by the Colorado Avalanche in 2019 who is currently playing for the Vancouver Giants of the WHL.
Elsewhere in the top 10, Toronto Maple Leafs defence prospect Rasmus Sandin jumped 20 spots from last year, landing at No. 6 in these rankings.
The 19-year-old opened the season by playing in six games for the Leafs before being sent back to the AHL Marlies. He was also a huge part of Sweden’s run to a bronze medal at the World Juniors, serving as an alternate captian and scoring 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in seven games.
Sandin makes plays in every single area of the game and in all situations. He mixes an exceptional hockey IQ with a lightning-quick processor.
The rest of the top 10 consists of Arizona Coyotes pick Jan Jenik (No. 7), a 19-year-old Czech winger who has 22 goals and 56 points in 27 games for the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs but suffered a significant knee injury at the World Juniors that will keep him out indefinitely; Anaheim Ducks Trevor Zegras (No. 8), an 18-year-old Boston University forward who led the World Juniors with nine assists in five games for Team USA; Buffalo Sabres prospect Dylan Cozens (No. 9), an 18-year-old centre who returns to the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes after helping Team Canada to gold at the World Juniors; and Canadiens pick Cole Caufield (No. 10), a 19-year-old American right wing who has 12 goals in 18 games for the University of Wisconsin this season.
Caufield is one of the leading goal scorers in the NCAA as a freshman. The World Juniors poses different challenges for players, and it was no different for Caufield, who finished with just one goal and one assist in five games.
The encouraging sign was that he looked more dangerous with each passing game at the tournament, displaying the mind of a goal scorer and working to generate opportunities. While the numbers weren’t up to expectations, his process was solid. The experience will be beneficial to his overall development.
On the team side, the Ottawa Senators lead the way with five players in the top 50 – Belleville Senators defenceman Erik Brannstrom (No. 24), Ives Tampere blueliner Lassi Thomson (No. 32), University of North Dakota defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker (No. 42), Belleville centre Josh Norris (No. 44) and North Dakota forward Shane Pinto (No. 50).
The Vancouver Canucks lead the rest of the Canadian clubs with three players – SKA right wing Vasili Podkolzin (No. 14), Rogle left wing Nils Hoglander (No. 35) and Northeastern University forward Tyler Madden (No. 40).
The Maple Leafs (Sandin and No. 17 Nick Robertson) and Canadiens (Romanov and Caufield) had two players each, while the Winnipeg Jets’ lone representative is Lukko defenceman Ville Heinola (No. 21). The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers didn’t have any prospects make the list.
For more information on the prospects, go to TSN.ca:
1. Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers
2. Grigori Denisenko, Florida Panthers
3. Bowen Byram, Colorado Avalanche
4. Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild
5. Alexander Romanov, Montreal Canadiens
6. Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs
7. Jan Jenik, Arizona Coyotes
8. Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks
9. Dylan Cozens, Buffalo Sabres
10. Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens
11. Spencer Knight, Florida Panthers
12. Ivan Prosvetov, Arizona Coyotes
13. Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders
14. Vasily Podkolzin, Vancouver Canucks
15. Alex Turcotte, Los Angeles Kings
16. Arthur Kaliyev, Los Angeles Kings
17. Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs
18. Samuel Fagemo, Los Angeles Kings
19. Connor Mcmichael, Washington Capitals
20. Thomas Harley, Dallas Stars
21. Ville Heinola, Winnipeg Jets
22. Nils Lundkvist, New York Rangers
23. Justus Annunen, Colorado Avalanche
24. Erik Brannstrom, Ottawa Senators
25. Moritz Seider, Detroit Red Wings
26. Peyton Krebs, Vegas Golden Knights
27. Alexander Khovanov, Minnesota Wild
28. Matias Maccelli, Arizona Coyotes
29. Joel Hofer, St. Louis Blues
30. Owen Tippett, Florida Panthers
31. Victor Soderstrom, Arizona Coyotes
32. Lassi Thomson, Ottawa Senators
33. Morgan Frost, Philadelphia Flyers
34. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Buffalo Sabres
35. Nils Hoglander, Vancouver Canucks
36. Vitali Kravtsov, New York Rangers
37. Alexander Alexeyev, Washington Capitals
38. Nolan Foote, Tampa Bay Lightning
39. Hugo Alnefelt, Tampa Bay Lightning
40. Tyler Madden, Vancouver Canucks
41. Phillip Tomasino, Nashville Predators
42. Jacob Bernard-Docker, Ottawa Senators
43. K'andre Miller, New York Rangers
44. Josh Norris, Ottawa Senators
45. Jack Studnicka, Boston Bruins
46. Jack Dugan, Vegas Golden Knights
47. Liam Foudy, Columbus Blue Jackets
48. Ty Dellandria, Dallas Stars
49. Akil Thomas, Los Angeles Kings
50. Shane Pinto, Ottawa Senators
Top 5 prospects on each Canadian team
1. Jakob Pelletier (LW)
2. Matthew Phillips (RW)
3. Ilya Nikolayev (C)
4. Glenn Gawdin (RW)
5. Mathias Emilio Pettersen (LW)
1. Philip Broberg (D)
2. Tyler Benson (LW)
3. Evan Bouchard (D)
4. Dmitri Samorukov (D)
5. Raphael Lavoie (LW/RW)
1. Alexander Romanov (D)
2. Cole Caufield (RW)
3. Cayden Primeau (G)
4. Jordan Harris (D)
5. Mattias Norlinder (D)
1. Erik Brannstrom (D)
2. Lassi Thomson (D)
3. Jacob Bernard-Docker (D)
4. Josh Norris (C)
5. Shane Pinto (C)
1. Rasmus Sandin (D)
2. Nick Robertson (LW/RW)
3. Timothy Liljegren (D)
4. Yegor Korshkov (LW/RW)
5. Ian Scott (G)
1. Vasili Podkolzin (RW)
2. Nils Hoglander (LW)
3. Tyler Madden (C/RW)
4. Brogan Rafferty (D)
5. Kole Lind (RW)
1. Ville Heinola (D)
2. Dylan Samberg (D)
3. Declan Chisholm (D)
4. Jansen Harkins (C)
5. Mikhail Berdin (G)