Top 25 Under 25, no. 12: Mark Stone
Although Mark Stone dropped in our rankings after his first pro season, he's still got plenty of time to make his case--and this season, he'll get a good chance.
After gradually climbing up our rankings (he was 10 in 2012 and nine earlier this year), Mark Stone has taken a bit of a hit after his first pro season and fallen down to 12 overall. Still, his rookie pro season was in many ways set back for reasons out of his control (the lockout pushing him down the depth chart and then a broken finger pushed him right out of it), and he's still very highly touted among fans as well as those in the organization.
Stone's junior career (and the ridiculous levels of offensive production during it) has been covered ad nauseum, but here are some numbers just to remind you...
Last season started very slowly for Stone in the AHL; after the lockout and the injuries mentioned above, he only put up 19P (8G, 11A) in his first 35GP in a largely defensive role. But then, Stone broke loose: In the final 19 games of the season, Stone added another 19P (7G, 12A), which pushed him to the team lead for scoring.
Despite leading the Binghamton Senators in scoring, though, Stone still falls a few spots in our rankings, due to a couple of more promising young players joining the team and a couple others who leap-frogged him. Part of our concern has to do with whether or not Stone has what it takes to make the big jump to the NHL. Although it was a small sample size, Stone didn't stand out at all in his four NHL games this season and was given less ice time in each game before being sent back to the AHL.
But Stone is far from written off as a Senators' prospect. He still has undeniable offensive instincts, and will likely be playing on the B-Sens' top line this season--and he'll be expected to lead the way offensively. He remains at the top of the list of potential call-ups for Ottawa, and will be among the first brought to Ottawa if the team is hit by injuries or looking for an offensive spark. There's even an outside chance he could get himself a top-six roster spot by beating out a couple of others, but that seems unlikely for now; instead, he'll have to start in Binghamton and work his tail off until Ottawa calls on Luke Richardson looking for some reinforcements.
It's not yet a make-or-break season for Mark Stone, as he's still only 21 years old and has two years left on his entry-level contract. But by stepping up and standing out, Stone could very well jump quite a few spots up the Senators' prospect depth chart in short order.