While the NHL and NHLPA continue to attempt to find common ground in their pursuit of a new collective bargaining agreement, TSN Scout Craig Button has compiled a Top 30 list of prospects that are already affiliated with NHL clubs.
The Edmonton Oilers, who have had the first overall pick at the NHL Entry Draft for the last three years, have the top player on the list, Justin Schultz, who the team signed as a free agent in the off-season, and 2012 first overall pick Nail Yakupov in the fifth spot.
"Debate raged leading up to both the 2011 and 2012 drafts on how the Edmonton Oilers 'needed' to draft a defenseman with the first overall pick," Button told TSN.ca. "The Oilers chose to go with an elite type forward in both instances; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011 and Nail Yakupov in 2012.
"This past June the Oilers wooed free agent college defenseman Justin Schultz and when he chose the Oilers, it added a dynamic player on the blue line who would complement their stable of dynamic forwards. Justin leads the AHL in scoring as of December 14, 2012 and has shown to be everything, and perhaps even a little more, the Oilers were hoping for."
Button feels that Schultz would fit in very well with the Oilers when the lockout finally gets resolved.
"Justin possesses all of the necessary elements to be a catalyst for what looks to be exciting times ahead for the Edmonton faithful. His combination of excellent skating, passing, thinking, anticipation and the desire to make a difference when it matters most, gives the Oilers a look of a player they have not had since the days of Paul Coffey. While Paul remains one of, if not perhaps the best skater in NHL history, Justin looks to provide similar type impact from his defense position.
"As the Grail Knight said in Indiana Jones and the last Crusade, 'you must choose, but choose wisely,' and it appears the Edmonton Oilers and Justin Schultz have followed that advice."
The Oilers are the only team on the list to have three prospects, as defenceman Oscar Klefbom is ranked 18th.
Three other Canadian teams have two players on the list. The Winnipeg Jets have prospects Mark Scheifele (7th) and Jacob Trouba (21st), while the Calgary Flames see Sven Baertschi (8th) and John Gaudreau (20th) crack the Top 30.
The Ottawa Senators boast a pair of Swedish forwards in Jakob Silfverberg (16th) and Mika Zibanejad (23rd). The Toronto Maple Leafs have the fourth ranked prospect in Morgan Rielly, and the Montreal Canadiens' lone prospect is Alex Galchenyuk (6th).
The Vancouver Canucks are the only Canadian team without a prospect in the Top 30.
For a complete list, go to http://www.tsn.ca/draftcentre/feature/?id=9601
The players on the list played less than 10 games in the NHL and are still under 24-years-old. The ranking is an amalgamation of player's potential as well as how well they are playing over the course of the past year, including this season.