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Wennberg, Milano among NHL's Top 60 prospects

by Staff Writer / Columbus Blue Jackets

The star power in the League today is obvious, from Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers to Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings.

But that's the present. What about the stars of the future?

To answer that question, set out to come up with the 60 best NHL prospects. Three members of the staff, Adam Kimelman, Corey Masisak and Mike Morreale, were enlisted to accomplish that task, along with three NHL scouts, each of whom promised honesty in exchange for anonymity.

The only rule the voters were given was the players have to enter the 2014-15 season with Calder Trophy eligibility.

A first-place vote was worth 60 points, a second-place vote was worth 59 points and continuing in descending order, with the No. 60 player on each list receiving one point. Ties were broken by how many times a player appeared on a ballot; the second tiebreaker was the player with the highest individual ballot placing.

Showing the breadth of talent knocking on the door for full-time NHL employment, 120 players received at least one vote, and 24 were named on all six ballots. Twelve players received a top-five vote and 22 were named in the top 10.

"It was one of those exercises that every time you looked at No. 50 to No. 60 your list changed," said Scout C, who works for an Eastern Conference team. "I would say my list changed a half-dozen times."

"I had another 10 to 15 names that could have gone on instead of the ones I submitted," said Scout A, who works for a Western Conference team.

When the votes were tabulated, it was Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, the third pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, leading the competition.

"In the second half and the playoffs he was easily the best young player in the world not in the NHL," Masisak said. "He is a magician with the puck, and could be equally potent at scoring goals and setting them up."

Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson also received two first-place votes and finished second.

"Gibson was No. 1 because of what he did at the [2013] World Championship, his first year in the AHL was very good and then his play in the NHL was good for the most part," Scout A said. "When you combine that with his size, ability and pedigree, he was the No. 1 prospect outside the NHL in my opinion."

"Coming up with the 60 names to work with was difficult," said Scout B, who works for an Eastern Conference team, "but not as difficult as the process of slotting them in a numerical ranking, especially prospects No. 20 to No. 60."

So if your team's favorite prospect is missing, feel free to yell about it in the comments section.

Here are the two Blue Jackets prospects listed among the top 60:

13. Alexander Wennberg, C, Columbus Blue Jackets, 262 points -- Bigger and stronger than when the Blue Jackets picked him 14th in the 2013 draft, Wennberg brings a high-end offensive game to the lunch-pail Columbus offense. "Alex is a very cerebral hockey player … his transition to the North American style of play will be quick due to his intelligence on the ice," Scout B said.

42. Sonny Milano, LW, Columbus Blue Jackets, 76 points -- After spending the summer vacillating on his future, the 16th pick of the 2014 draft opted to sign with Plymouth of the OHL. But whether it was the OHL or Boston College, where he first committed, the Blue Jackets were going to enjoy watching the energetic, skilled forward who was second on a talented USNTDP U-18 team last season with 86 points. Signing with Plymouth also allows Milano to attend training camp with the Blue Jackets, and while the option exists for him to play in the NHL or the AHL, it's likely Milano spends at least one season in the OHL. Voters liked Milano enough to name him on four ballots, including No. 16 on one.

Read the full list of the Top 60 by clicking here.
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