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Three prospects worthy of Top 60 consideration

by Adam Kimelman / NHL.com

The pipeline of talent flowing into the NHL likely never has been as rich as it is right now. So when narrowing a list of top prospects to 60 players, it's going to leave some future talent on the outside.

Three players who could have been on the list are Buffalo Sabres forward Hudson Fasching, New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock and Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros.

Fasching was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the fourth round (No. 118) of the 2013 NHL Draft and traded to the Sabres in March. A 6-foot-2, 213-pound power forward, he had 14 goals and 30 points as a freshman at the University of Minnesota last season and two goals and four points in five games for the United States at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. He'll likely have a prominent spot on the team that plays for the U.S. at the 2015 WJC.

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"It's hard to work hard for some people," Sabres general manager Tim Murray said. "It's not hard for him to work hard. … We can talk about the talent level, we all know he has that, but he's got a high drive and that's what we're looking for."

The 19-year-old earned a spot in the top 60 on the ballot of four voters, with a high of No. 33.

"Hudson Fasching was one of the most underrated prospects in his draft year and remains in my opinion one of the most underrated prospects still," Scout B, who works for an Eastern Conference team, said. "Skating was the concern then, but he has improved that since he arrived at the University of Minnesota. His style of play and high character match what currently works in a long playoff run. He may not be the flashiest player but he knows his role and plays to it consistently. He was very effective at the recent World Junior camp in Lake Placid (N.Y.)."

Pulock, the 15th pick of the 2013 draft, has been one of the more offensively gifted defenseman in the Western Hockey League. Last season, as the captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings, he was second among WHL defenders with 23 goals and fourth with 63 points. He had at least 14 goals in three of his four junior seasons and likely will start this season with Bridgeport in the American Hockey League.

"He's an offensive defenseman and has a big body, is mobile, and has a cannon for a shot," Islanders director of player development Eric Cairns said. "That shot is a dangerous weapon and he likes to use it a lot."

The 6-2, 212-pound 19-year-old was named on two ballots, including No. 45 on one.

"Pulock was one of those bubble names that was in and out," said Scout C, who works for an Eastern Conference team. "He could have been easily in the last 10 names."

The same could be said for Saros, a 2013 fourth-round pick (No. 99) of the Nashville Predators. The goaltender had a 1.76 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 44 games with HPK in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, and was named the rookie of the year. He also had a 1.57 GAA and made the all-tournament team in helping Finland win a gold medal at the 2014 World Juniors, and won a silver medal with Finland at the 2014 IIHF World Championship.

The only issue anyone can find with Saros is his size; he's listed at 5-10, 178 pounds.

"You have to special to be smaller and I think he's special," NHL Network analyst and former NHL goaltender Jamie McLennan said.

Saros was named on one ballot, at No. 22.

"Others will bet against his size, but Saros just keeps getting results," NHL.com's Corey Masisak said. "He's been fantastic internationally and he was elite in Finland's top division while spending most of the season as an 18-year-old. Finland is pretty good at this goaltending thing and he could be the next great one."

Much like Fasching and Pulock, Saros could find himself higher in the voting next season.

"Pulock and Saros could easily be on the list this year," Scout C said. "They also could be on the list next year."

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