I’m not quite certain where to slot Ryan Stone. It’s fairly likely that 5 years from now he’ll have played more NHL games than a few of the 13 kids slotted ahead of him on this list.
It’s also established that no matter what happens from here on out there is/was a time when Stone was one of the 12 best forwards on a big league roster. If he does that 82 times for the next 5 seasons then this ranking will be a large insult (history tells us 5 years from now there will be two or three men with over 350 NHL games in that time) but it is also true that because of his advanced age (for a prospect) Ryan Stone is what he is at this point in his career.
Should he have a career, Stone will make it as a role player. He’s a rugged winger, an honest player, a solid 3rd or 4th line option whose weaknesses (scoring, footspeed) are offset by toughness and an understanding that playing time is directly related to doing the little things that keep the other team at bay. I don’t know Ryan Stone from Adam, but would guess he’s not a dummy based on his positioning and decision-making this fall. I don’t know what kept him out of the league before this but he looks good now and his contract will be a pure bargain if he continues to be effective with his ice-time.
How much can he score in the NHL? Desjardins NHLE suggests a 25-point season would be a reasonable expectation and that’s pretty much in line with an Ethan Moreau among Oiler forwards with a similar job description.
I think former Penguins assistant GM Chuck Fletcher hit the nail on the head two years ago when talking about Stone: “He’s a kid who we feel will play in the NHL, from day one of camp next year. (NOTE: which would be 2008 fall) That size and grit and physical play are things we want to add more of down the road. The way he’s playing, we see him as a pretty logical fit here in short order. He’s a straight line player–strong on the boards, he goes to the net, he crashes into people. His hockey-sense is above average and, for a player who can bang and crash, his hands are OK.”
What happened? Well, the Penguins had a veteran-laden forward group (wingers included Matt Cooke) and they needed to add some help at the deadline to make sure they had a good chance to win the Stanley. So, they traded one of their young men for immediate help, and it worked. For both teams.