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Top NHL prospects for the 2016-17 NHL season

Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine were the top two picks in the 2016 NHL draft. Where do they rank among all NHL prospects? Getty Images

Welcome to the fourth annual top NHL prospects list I've published for ESPN. This is based on the countless games I've watched, live and on tape, conversations with scouts and executives, and statistical research throughout the past season (and well before in that, in most cases).

Defining a prospect is important when assessing a pool since many players live on the boundaries of being a prospect or not. For purposes of this ranking, a player is no longer a prospect if they play 25 games or more in any NHL season, or over 50 total in their career.

We separate the goalie rankings because frankly, there would be two or fewer of them here every year if we had a combined list, given how little value top goalie prospects have relative to their skater counterparts.

The tiers for this edition are as follows: The top two, then No. 3 on his own tier, followed by a tier of No. 4 through No. 13 and then a gradual decrease from there.