The Hockey’s Future Organizational Rankings are an assessment of the overall state of each NHL team’s system of prospects. An overall rank is given, and strengths and weaknesses are identified. The rankings are compiled twice a year by a committee of staff members using Hockey’s Future prospect criteria. Teams ranked 21-30 can be found here. For information on individual prospects for each of the NHL teams, please visit the various team, league, or country pages here at Hockey’s Future.
11. Detroit Red Wings
Strengths: Detroit has solid depth at forward. Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader are strong heart and soul types that the Wings like in their bottom-six forwards. Dick Axelsson, Ville Leino and the enigmatic Jan Mursak provide Detroit with potential top-six players in the coming years. Detroit also has a strong trio of goaltenders in the system. Daniel Larsson, Thomas McCollum and Jimmy Howard all have the potential to be starting goaltenders in the NHL. Weaknesses: Though Detroit has a handful of solid defensive prospects in Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith and Jonathan Ericsson, there is not much depth in this department. Detroit should also look to address their top-six forward depth if at all possible. Top 5 prospects: 1. Jakub Kindl, D, 2. Brendan Smith, D, 3. Daniel Larsson, G, 4. Thomas McCollum, G, 5. Jan Mursak, LW. Key losses to graduation: none
12. New York Rangers
Strengths: The Rangers had an outstanding 2008 NHL Entry Draft, obtaining a top offensive defenseman prospect in Michael Del Zotto, as well as a potential first line winger in Evgeny Grachev. In addition, Derek Stepan has second line center potential, and Tomas Kundratek could prove to be a second pairing defensive blueliner. When added to the existing crop of 2006 and 2007 draftees, and free agent prospects such as Matt Gilroy, New York has a formidable group of prospects. Weaknesses: The loss of Alexei Cherepanov last fall was a huge blow to the Rangers’ organization. There are no prospects in the current group who can match his creativity with the puck and finesse in the offensive zone. Additionally, the Rangers have no potential first-line playmaking centers in the organization. And although Matt Zaba and Mikka Wiikman are both Top 20 prospects, neither projects to be a consistent No. 1 netminder in the NHL. Top 5 prospects: 1. Artem Anisimov, C, 2. Michael Del Zotto, D, 3. Evgeny Grachev, LW/C , 4. Bobby Sanguinetti, D, 5. Derek Stepan, C. Key losses to graduation: Lauri Korpikoski.
13. Florida Panthers
Strengths: The Panthers possess a balanced group of prospects. Matthias’s power forward style and Michal Repik’s skill and finesse complement one another nicely. The Panthers are probably best equipped along the blue line, with Keaton Ellerby, Colby Robak, and the addition of Jason Garrison as a free agent. Even though Matthias resides at the top of the list, it is Jacob Markstrom, one of the top goaltending prospects worldwide, who anchors the organization’s future. Weaknesses: The forward position is undeniably not the team’s strongpoint. With the Panthers hungry for offense, natural goal scorers are scarce in the system. Top 5 prospects: 1. Shawn Matthias, C, 2. Jacob Markstrom, G, 3. Michal Repik, RW, 4. Keaton Ellerby, D, 5. Jason Garrison, D. Key losses to graduation: Michael Frolik.
Strengths: Even after graduating many of the top prospects in the last two years, the Blackhawks still have a solid group of forward prospects, including Kyle Beach, Billy Sweatt, and Akim Aliu. Other forwards, such as Jack Skille, Evan Brophey, and Igor Makarov, are much closer to cracking the Blackhawks’ lineup. The blue line was restocked in the 2008 draft and that depth stands as one of the main strengths of the system, headlined by Niklas Hjalmarsson. In goal, Corey Crawford leads a strong group that includes Joe Fallon and Josh Unice. Weaknesses: With their surefire prospects graduated, the Blackhawks’ prospect pool lacks the top-end talent it once had. Some of the best prospects remaining, like Beach and Aliu, are of the boom-or-bust variety. The depth on wing, particularly left, is also suspect. Top 5 prospects: 1. Kyle Beach, LW, 2. Niklas Hjalmarsson, D, 3. Billy Sweatt, LW, 4. Shawn Lalonde, D, 5. Igor Makarov, RW. Key losses to graduation: Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, Colin Fraser, Kris Versteeg.
15. Phoenix Coyotes
Strengths: Despite the fact that skilled forwards like Kyle Turris and Mikkel Boedker have graduated this season, the Coyotes continue to boast a talented group of forwards headlined by Viktor Tikhonov and Brett MacLean. Depth and skill along the blue line is also an asset as defensemen Chris Summers and Jonas Ahnelov are both considered to have top-four potential. Weaknesses: Although the Coyotes have a great deal of depth in net with Josh Tordjman and Scott Darling, they lack a true elite goaltending prospect. The organization is also very thin on both wings. Top 5 prospects: 1. Viktor Tikhonov, C, 2. Kevin Porter, C, 3. Jonas Ahnelov, D, 4. Chris Summers, D, 5. Brett MacLean, LW. Key losses to graduation: Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker.
16. Edmonton Oilers
Strengths: The Oilers have a wealth of talented defensemen headlined by Jeff Petry and Theo Peckham. The organization is also stocked with talented but occasionally frustrating players like Rob Schremp, Linus Omark, and Jordan Eberle, who all fit the run-and-gun style of play Edmonton is known for. Weaknesses: Many of the players at the top of the Oilers’ prospect list are long on potential but short on production. Even sure-fire players like offer limited upside. Quality goaltending prospects is a concern with Devan Dubnyk as the organization’s top prospect goaltender. Top 5 prospects: 1. Jordan Eberle, RW, 2. Riley Nash, C, 3. Jeff Petry, D, 4. Theo Peckham, D, 5. Taylor Chorney, D. Key losses to graduation: Kyle Brodziak.
17. Vancouver Canucks
Strengths: For Vancouver it is all about Cody Hodgson and Cory Schneider. After earning high praises for his accomplishments over the course of the year, Hodgson seems set to make his entrance to the pro ranks. Schneider, a first-round pick from 2004, finally made his NHL debut in 2008-09. Michael Grabner, relatively anonymous by comparison, has top-six upside. Weaknesses: Beyond the top few, there is a significant drop-off in talent. The system lacks any pedigree along the blue line and scoring depth is also an issue. There is little safety in Yann Sauve, the highest ranking rearguard, and the NHL future of Russian forwards Sergei Shirokov and Ilja Kablukov is difficult to foresee. Top 5 prospects: 1. Cody Hodgson, C, 2. Cory Schneider, G, 3. Jannik Hansen, RW, 4. Michael Grabner, RW, 5. Yann Sauve, D. Key losses to graduation: none.
18. Ottawa Senators
Strengths: The Senators have a jewel of a defender in Erik Karlsson. Behind Karlsson is a nice collection of defenders in Brian Lee, Patrick Wiercioch, Kirill Lyamin, and Vitaly Anikeyenko. Cody Bass, Jim O’Brien and Zach Smith project to be strong character forwards for the Senators in the near future. Weaknesses: Though Andre Petersson, Peter Regin and Ilya Zubov project to be top-six forwards, the Senators could still use skilled forward depth to compliment their current squad. The same could be said for their defensive depth. Even with the depth the Senators do have, there are question marks with their Russian prospects and if they will ever make the jump over to North America. Top 5 prospects: 1. Erik Karlsson, D, 2. Brian Lee, D, 3. Brian Elliott, G, 4. Ilya Zubov, C, 5. Peter Regin, C. Key losses to graduation: Jesse Winchester.
Strengths: The Penguins have a quality mix of prospects from every position and almost every type. The acquisition of Eric Tangradi and the emergence of Alex Goligoski provide the Penguins with two players with game-breaking ability. The organization is also rich with depth defensemen. Forwards Keven Veilleux and Casey Pierro-Zabotel possess upside that suggests they could develop into top-six forwards. Role players like Dustin Jeffrey and Joe Vitale assure that the Penguins will remain well stocked with bottom-six forwards. Weaknesses: The quality of prospects has naturally slipped with graduations to the NHL roster. The prospect pool also lacks elite talent. The goaltending depth past John Curry leaves a lot to be desired. Top 5 prospects: 1. Eric Tangradi, LW, 2. Alex Goligoski, D, 3. Alex Grant, D, 4. Luca Caputi, LW, 5. Dustin Jeffrey, C. Key loss to graduation: Tyler Kennedy.
Strengths: The club’s top three forwards could be in the NHL opening-day lineup next season. Sutter’s already proven he belongs, and Boychuk and Bowman could join him. Between the pipes, the club has the rights to the OHL‘s top goaltender, Mike Murphy, who displayed game-stealing talent throughout the year, along with Justin Peters to back up 25-year-old Cam Ward. The Hurricanes have great flexibility between the pipes. Weaknesses: Overall quality. After the first few prospects, the talent really dips markedly. The organization is does not have a mine of quality players from which to build for the future. Many of the club’s prospects are marginal at best, and beyond the aforementioned players, game-breakers or even premium-quality players are lacking. Top 5 prospects: 1. Zach Boychuk, C, 2. Brandon Sutter, C, 3. Drayson Bowman, LW, 4. Jamie McBain, D, 5. Zac Dalpe, C. Key losses to graduation: none.