Hockey’s Future Fall 2007 Organizational Rankings, 11-20

By HF Staff

Teams ranked 21-30 can be found here.

11. Columbus Blue Jackets

Strengths: The Blue Jackets have assembled a fine collection of prospects at both wings, where the team has the greatest depth. With yet another pick in the top ten, they nabbed Czech winger Jakub Voracek seventh overall in the 2007 draft, a power forward who brings both physicality and top notch offensive skill. He joins a promising group of forwards that includes both Derick Brassard and Alex Picard. Additionally, Kris Russell, one of the team’s top defensemen in the system, made the leap to the NHL this season.

Weaknesses: The emphasis on high-end offensive talent in recent drafts by the Jackets has not brought in the talent to match in other areas.  While they have numerous defensemen in the system, there are no potential top pairing NHL starters. With Russell moving on to the NHL and the trade of Adam McQuaid in the offseason, the talent on the backend has been further chipped away. Behind Steve Mason, who is not a sure bet starter, the Jackets have little depth in the net.

Top five prospects: 1. Jakub Voracek (RW), 2. Derick Brassard (C), 3. Kris Russell (D), 4. Joakim Lindstrom (LW), 5. Steve Mason (G). Key Graduates: none.

12. Minnesota Wild

Strengths: Aside from Harding, the Wild have considerable quality and depth at the forward positions, with 2005 first-round pick Benoit Pouliot, James Sheppard and Petr Kalus. Like Harding, the physical and talented Sheppard looks to be a regular fixture with the Wild this season. Danny Irmen provides further depth at wing.

Weaknesses: The Wild seem to lack top-end defensive talent, with Shawn Belle being their best prospect. Despite Belle’s considerable physical attributes, many scouts feel he lacks the hockey instinct to be more than a second or third pairing defenseman.  Defense also lacks overall depth and the return to Russia of Roman Voloshenko cuts into the depth on wing.

Top five prospects: 1. Josh Harding (G), 2. Benoit Pouliot (LW), 3. James Sheppard (C), 4. Petr Kalus (RW), 5. Colton Gillies (C).

13. Colorado Avalanche

Strengths: The Avalanche have tremendous organizational depth along the blueline with 2007 first-rounder Kevin Shattenkirk, hulking Nigel Williams, Kyle Cumiskey, Colby Cohen and high-scoring Raymond Macias.

Weaknesses: After 2007 second-round pick Trevor Cann, who was selected in what was considered a down year for goaltenders, there are no solid goaltending prospects in the Avalanche system.  The Avalanche lack top-end forward candidates outside of Hensick.

Top five prospects:  1. TJ Hensick (C), 2. Kevin Shattenkirk (D), 3. Chris Stewart (RW), 4.cRyan Stoa (C), 5. Nigel Williams (D).  Key graduates: none.

14. Calgary Flames

Strengths: While the Flames do not boast the richest overall pipeline in hockey in terms of talent, they might in NHL legacy, with the names "Sutter" (Brett, son of Flames GM Daryl) and "Nystrom" (Eric, son of former Islander Bob) gracing their top 20 prospects. An above-average prospect, Nystrom is a solid left winger. The Flames do also have some solid top-end talent, including former Everett (WHL) netminder Leland Irving. Four of the Flames’ top six prospects are centers, with Dustin Boyd, Daniel Ryder and Michael Backlund all good bets to be steady contributors at the NHL level. Russian Andrei Taratukhin projects as a third or fourth line grinding player with passing skill.

Weaknesses: The Flames system is almost bereft of quality defensive talent. Mark Giordano, the Flames’ highest rated defense prospect, recently signed to play in Russia because he could not come to terms with the NHL club on a new contract.  Overall, Calgary lacks elite franchise talent.

Top five prospects: 1. Dustin Boyd (C), 2. Leland Irving (G), 3. Daniel Ryder (C), 4. Michael Backlund (C), 5. Andrei Taratukhin (C).  Key graduates: David Moss.

15. Vancouver Canucks

Strengths: Cory Schneider, Alexander Edler and Luc Bourdon could form a powerful back-end for the Canucks for years to come. Boston College goalie Schneider has all the earmarks of a top backstop, while rangy Swede Edler is most likely a top-pairing NHL defenseman. The Canucks boast good depth at defense with big, strong Daniel Rahimi and Taylor Ellington, among others.

Weaknesses:  While 2007 first-round draft pick Patrick White is a very good all-around prospect, after White the forward depth is not particularly strong. Players like Austria’s Michael Grabner or Mason Raymond, could develop into solid second-line players.

Top five prospects: 1. Cory Schneider (G), 2. Alexander Edler (D), 3. Luc Bourdon (D), 4. Pat White (C), 5. Michael Grabner (RW).  Key graduates: none.

16. Nashville Predators

Strengths: Nashville remains loaded with defensive prospects, having taken another top defender (Jon Blum) with their first-round pick in 2007 despite having Cody Franson and Kevin Klein waiting in the wings.  The emergence of both Mike and Mark Santorelli, the scoring abilities of Patric Hornqvist and the steady development of Blake Geoffrion provide some intriguing forward prospects.  The depth in net is adequate, headlined by Jeremy Smith and Mark Dekanich.

Weaknesses: Right wing has thinned out with the graduation of Alexander Radulov and the forward corps overall lacks elite high-end prospects.  The lack of offensive talent relative to other organizations causes Nashville to slide slightly in these rankings.

Top five prospects: 1. Cody Franson (D), 2. Kevin Klein (D), 3. Patric Hornqvist (LW), 4. Jon Blum (D), 5. Cal O’Reilly (C).  Key graduates: Alexander Radulov.

17.  New York Islanders

Strengths: The Islanders maintain a solid core of forwards among their young talent.  They are particularly strong on the wing, with Jeff Tambellini, Blake Comeau, Jeremy Colliton, Steve Regier, Sean Bentivoglio, and Sean Bergenheim all playing professional hockey, and No.1 overall prospect Kyle Okposo leaving the University of Minnesota to do so.  They also have high potential offensive projects Rhett Rakhshani and Maxim Gratchev, acquired at the 2007 entry draft.

Weaknesses: The Islanders most glaring organizational weakness lies between the pipes.  Neither of Stefan Ridderwall and Jase Weslosky are expected to be anything more than minor-league depth netminders.  There is also a lack of talent down the middle.  Danish center Frans Nielsen is almost NHL-ready, but after him, only Shea Guthrie has offensive potential.  Another weakness is on the blue line where Dustin Kohn and Andrew MacDonald head up a short list of rearguards, none of which have top-pair potential.

Top five prospects: 1. Kyle Okposo (RW), 2. Jeff Tambellini (LW), 3. Frans Nielsen (C), 4. Blake Comeau (RW), 5. Rhett Rakhshani (RW).

18. San Jose Sharks

Strengths: Defense and overall balance are the hallmarks of the Sharks talent pipeline. In Couture (C), Devin Setoguchi (RW), towering Ty Wishart and Nick Petrecki (D), and German goalie Thomas Greiss, the Sharks a have a fairly nice core of future stars at every position. Setoguchi is already scoring goals in bunches for San Jose and, just months after signing his first pro contract, Torrey Mitchell has been skating a regular shift with the Sharks.

Weaknesses: After the aforementioned players, the talent level seems to fall off dramatically, especially at the critical position of goalie.

Top five prospects: 1. Logan Couture (C), 2. Ty Wishart (D), 3. Devin Setoguchi (RW), 4. Nick Petrecki (D), 5. Torrey Mitchell (C). Key graduates: Joe Pavelski.

19. Toronto Maple Leafs

Strengths: At the top of the Leafs prospect depth chart, there is no shortage of elite talent and offensive potential.  Justin Pogge appears to be the goalie of the future, and a good one at that.  Jiri Tlusty is an elite prospect with top line potential, Robbie Earl could be a top six winger, and Nikolai Kulemin is a boom or bust prospect who could rapidly raise the club’s fortunes.  On defense, Anton Stralman has raised a lot of eyebrows and could see significant NHL action this season.

Weaknesses: With a lack of draft picks over the past few years, depth remains an issue.  Dale Mitchell, Tyler Ruegsegger, Chad Rau, Chris DiDomenico, Ben Winnett, and Brent Aubin all have some potential, but are likely depth or role players at best.  There is also a lack of size and grit among the forwards.  After Stralman, the blue liners in the organization are probably all fifth and sixth defensemen at best.  Goaltender is dangerously thin as Toronto appears to have placed all its eggs in Pogge’s basket.

Top five prospects: Justin Pogge (G), Jiri Tlusty (C), Nikolai Kulemin (LW), Robbie Earl (LW), Anton Stralman (D).  Key graduates: none.

20. Pittsburgh Penguins

Strengths: The Penguins greatest strength lies on the blue line, with a solid group of both offensive-minded and defensively responsible rearguards.  Kristopher Letang headlines both groups, bringing exceptional offensive skill with solid two-way play.  Then there is the offensively-gifted Alex Goligoski, followed by the solid two-way defenders Carl Sneep and Brian Strait.  Adding depth to the blue line are 2007 draft picks Robert Bortuzzo and Alex Grant.  Goaltending remains strong despite the loss of Bobby GoepfertDavid Brown has dramatically improved and is the top goaltending prospect.  The Penguins have depth down the middle.  Joining Tyler Kennedy, Ryan Stone, and Tim Brent are 2007 draft picks Angelo Esposito, who became the No.1 overall prospect due to his immense offensive upside, Keven Veilleux, and Casey Pierro-Zabotel.

Weaknesses: The addition of potential game-breaker Esposito and skilled center Veilleux helps to replenish the top-end skill among forward prospects, but the drop off is steep after that.  While Jonathan Filewich and Kennedy have posted modest offensive numbers, they are the minority in a relatively thin group up front.

Top five prospects: Angelo Esposito (C), Kristopher Letang (D), Alex Goligoski (D), Jonathan Filewich (RW), Keven Veilleux (C).