Below is the bottom third of the NHL organizations in terms of prospects as voted on by Hockey’s Future staff. Each team’s entire prospect pool was considered to determine the ranking. For reference, just the top five prospects are listed. To be eligible, a prospect must meet HF’s prospect criteria. The rankings are done twice a year, in the fall and spring.
21. Ottawa Senators
Strengths: Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen are two skilled but contrasting types of defensemen who highlight a deep and diverse group along the blue line. The Senators also have a nice collection of checkers, agitators, and two-way forwards such as Cody Bass and Zack Smith. Weaknesses: There are questions about whether some of the more skilled forwards such as Loui Caporusso and Jim O’Brien can contribute offensively at the NHL level. There is concern as to whether Ilya Zubov will ever again play in North America. Robin Lehner is the sole goaltending prospect in an organization that has historically had problems in net. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Erik Karlsson, D, 2. Jared Cowen, D, 3. Patrick Wiercioch, D, 4. Jim O’Brien, C, 5. Robin Lehner, G. Lost to graduation: Brian Lee, D, Brian Elliott, G, Peter Regin, C.
Strengths: Defense is the strong point of the Avalanche pool with five of their top seven prospects on the blue line. There are some intriguing prospects at center. Weaknesses: The wings lack both quality and quantity. Overall, many players at the top of the depth charts are not ready for the NHL, despite the need to rebuilld. The Avalanche have yet to see a payoff after trying to shore up goaltending depth. There have been several misses in this department. Top five prospects: 1. Kevin Shattenkirk, D, 2. Stefan Elliott, D, 3. Ryan Stoa, C, 4. Colby Cohen, D, 5. Tyson Barrie, D. Lost to graduation: Matt Duchene, C, Ryan O’Reilly, C, T.J. Galiardi, C, Chris Stewart, RW.
Strengths: Carter Ashton, a scrappy winger in the mold of former Lightning coach Rick Tocchet, is one of the few sure things in the pipeline. Down the middle, Tampa Bay has a couple of solid two-way prospects in Dana Tyrell and James Wright. At left wing, Alex Hutchings and Alex Killorn both saw steady improvement this season. Dustin Tokarski had a great rookie year in goal for Norfolk of the AHL. Ty Wishart and Vladimir Mihalik provide the Lightning with two hulking shutdown defensemen. Weaknesses: The Lightning lack goaltending depth. There’s no top-pairing defenseman in the prospect pool, and many of the blueline prospects play one-dimensional games. There are a lot of two-way players up front, but no real game-breakers, save for Richard Panik, who is becoming known for maddening inconsistency. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Carter Ashton, RW, 2. Dustin Tokarski, G, 3. Richard Panik, RW, 4. Dana Tyrell, C, 5. Ty Wishart, D. Lost to graduation: Victor Hedman, D.
Strengths: Eric Tangradi, Nick Johnson, and Dustin Jeffrey are all offensively gifted top-six forwards who are close to NHL ready. The organization’s greatest strength however is the deep and diverse group of multi-talented defensemen, many of whom are also close to NHL ready. The Penguins have several promising goaltenders in the pipeline. Weaknesses: Outside of Tangradi and Despres, there are no blue-chip quality prospects. Also, many players skill players such as Ben Hanowski and Nick Petersen are a few years away from making an impact. Several prospects, such as Nathan Moon and Keven Veilleux, will not likely reach their potential.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Eric Tangradi, LW, 2. Simon Despres, D, 3. Dustin Jeffrey, C, 4. Brian Strait, D, 5. Ben Hanowski, LW. Lost to graduation: Alex Goligoski, D.
25. San Jose Sharks
Strengths: The Sharks are strong down the middle. Top prospect Logan Couture leads the charge in front of Steven Zalewski and Benn Ferriero, who is looking like a steal from the Phoenix system. Goaltending depth is strong with four goaltenders among the team’s top ten prospects. Jason Demers, Nick Petrecki, Derek Joslin, and William Wrenn give the Sharks a variety of different styles of defensemen. Weaknesses: There is not much in terms of offensive talent on either wing, with more two-way energy players filling in that part of their depth chart. Size continues to be an issue at most positions. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Logan Couture, C, 2. Nick Petrecki, D, 3. Thomas Greiss, G, 4. Jason Demers, D, 5. Alex Stalock, G. Lost to graduation: Jamie McGinn, LW.
Strengths: Recent trades of Niclas Berfors and Patrice Cormier have hurt the organization. However, 2008 first-round pick Mattias Tedenby and 2009 first-round selection Jacob Josefson have both had excellent seasons in Europe. The organization is strongest on the wing and along the blueline, with Nick Palmieri, Matt Halischuk, and Alexander Vasyunov developing as forwards in Lowell. Defensemen Matt Corrente, 2009 third-round selection Alexander Urbom, Brandon Burlon and Tyler Eckford are also solid prospects developing well within the system. Weaknesses: The Devils lack elite prospects at any position. Jeff Frazee remains the lone goaltender in the New Jersey system, and there are many questions as to whether he will be an NHL backup, much less the organization’s future replacement for Martin Brodeur. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mattias Tedenby, LW, 2. Jacob Josefson, C, 3. Matt Corrente, D, 4. Alexander Urbom, D, 5. Jeff Frazee, G. Lost to trade: Niclas Bergfors, RW, Patrice Cormier, C.
27. Calgary Flames
Strengths: The Flames have two skilled power forward prospects in Greg Nemisz and Mikael Backlund. On the blue line, defenseman Tim Erixon has the skills to develop into a top-four defenseman. The organization is also flush with moderately skilled checking forwards. Goaltender Leland Irving helps bring depth to the organization in net. Weaknesses: There is a lack of depth and quality on the blue line. Most prospects have limited potential and are not likely to make an impact at the NHL level. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mikael Backlund, C, 2. Greg Nemisz, RW, 3. Tim Erixon, D, 4. John Negrin, D, 5. T.J. Brodie, D. Lost to trade: Keith Aulie, D.
Strengths: The Flyers have a good group of blueline prospects. Erik Gustafsson has been signed as a free agent out of college, joining Kevin Marshall and Marc-Andre Bourdon as legitimate NHL blueline prospects. Weaknesses: Three of the Flyers former top five prospects have graduated in the last few months. Their graduations leave a huge gap in the organization. Goaltending is still a big question mark. Joacim Eriksson is an excellent prospect who has completed an outstanding regular season, however, should he not adjust well to North American play if he comes over, there is not much behind him. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Joacim Eriksson, G, 2. Kevin Marshall, D, 3. Marc-Andre Bourdon, D, 4. Patrick Maroon, LW, 5. Oskars Bartulis, D. Lost to graduation: Claude Giroux, RW/C, James vanRiemsdyk, LW, Ryan Parent, D.
29. Dallas Stars
Strengths: Scott Glennie. With the loss of Ivan Vishnevskiy, 2009 first-round selection Scott Glennie is the only elite prospect within the organization. Glennie is having an outstanding season with the WHL Brandon Wheat Kings and will get a good look from the NHL club next fall. The Stars are deep on the right wing. Weaknesses: There is very little top talent within the Dallas organization. Defense is incredibly thin, with only five prospects there. Defense must be addressed at the upcoming draft. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Scott Glennie, RW, 2. Philip Larsen, D, 3. Alex Chiasson, RW, 4. Ondrej Roman, C, 5. Perttu Lindgren, C. Lost to graduation or trade: 1. Ivan Vishnevskiy, D, Jamie Benn, LW, Fabian Brunnstrom, LW.
30. Minnesota Wild
Strengths: The Wild’s two top prospects, defensemen Tyler Cuma and Marco Scandella, are both defense-first players who were drafted with the philosophy of the previous Wild regime. Colton Gillies and Cody Almond fit this same mold, illustrating impressive defensive instincts but not much offensive potential. Matt Hackett is one Wild prospect who looks to have untapped potential, and could secure the starter’s job for Minnesota’s AHL affiliate as soon as next season. Weaknesses: There’s very little high-end offensive potential anywhere in the pipeline, with no prospects up front that are a safe bet to make their top-six, nor much offensive skill on the back end. With only one prospect at right wing, the Wild have a serious depth problem at that position. Also troubling is the lack of quality center and goaltending depth. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Tyler Cuma, D, 2. Marco Scandella, D, 3. Colton Gillies, LW, 4. Matt Hackett, G, 5. Maxim Noreau, D. Lost to trade: Nick Leddy, D.