Top prospects for non-playoff teams

Updated: April 10, 2012, 12:48 PM ET
By Corey Pronman

With the playoffs set, several teams are facing some form of disappointment heading into the summer, but for those 14 clubs there is help along the way. The following are notes on prospects that could make noise next year, or in the very near future. These notes are based on my own observations of the players and the many discussions I've had with scouts and front office executives.

Anaheim Ducks: Sami Vatanen, D (JYP-SM-Liiga)
It's not often that 5-foot-9 defensemen make the NHL -- there were six who played this year -- but NHL sources believe Vatanen is ready to challenge for a big-league job next season. He torched Finland's top league this year with an eye-popping 42 points in 49 games. He's an elite skater with great hockey sense and a tremendous compete level, which he needs for his size. Vatanen has all the makings of a fan favorite type of player who can put up points as well.

Buffalo Sabres: Joel Armia, RW (Assat-SM-Liiga)