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. Those ranked 21-30 are found here.
11. Florida Panthers
Strengths: The Panthers organization is built from the net out. Florida’s most valuable asset is Swedish goaltender Jacob Markstrom — one of the top prospects worldwide, and a potential franchise player. Behind him on the netminding depth chart are Alexander Salak, a solid NCAA tandem of Marc Cheverie and Brian Foster, and wildcard Sergei Gayduchenko. On the blueline, the Panthers boast a solid pair in 2007 first-rounder Keaton Ellerby and Colby Robak. Up front, Michal Repik, and Evgeni Dadonov have top-six upside. There is a variety of skill players, along with grit and character players. Weaknesses: High-end scorers are still an area of need for the Panthers. With six out of seven selections in the 2009 draft utilized for forwards, the team has begun to address the issue, but help is still years away. Top 5 prospects: 1. Jacob Markstrom, G, 2. Keaton Ellerby, D, 3. Michal Repik, RW, 4. Alexander Salak, G, 5. Colby Robak, D. Lost to graduation: Dmitry Kulikov, D, Shawn Matthias, C.
12. New York Rangers
Strengths: The Rangers have excellent depth at both center and on defense. New York has been very successful in drafting top talent players in the middle of the first round, and Chris Kreider, who was drafted out of prep school in 2009, looks to be another of those gems. Weaknesses: The Blueshirts biggest organizational weakness is on right wing. There are only two wingers on the right side in the entire organization, and one, David Kveton, may never again play in North America. There is also uncertainty between the pipes. Chad Johnson has played well in his first professional season, but his upside is still uncertain. University of Alabama-Huntsville netminder Cameron Talbot was signed recently. However, it is unclear whether there is a true NHL backup to Henrik Lundqvist within the system, let alone a starter. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Evgeny Grachev, C; 2. Derek Stepan, C; 3. Chris Kreider, LW; 4. Bobby Sanguinetti, D; 5. Ilkka Heikkinen, D. Lost to graduation: Artem Anisimov, Michael Del Zotto.
13. Buffalo Sabres
Strengths: The current crop of Sabres prospects is led by first-year forward and AHL Rookie of the Year, Tyler Ennis. Ennis and QMJHL forward Luke Adam are the most offensively dangerous forward prospects for the Sabres, while 2009 first-round pick Zack Kassian should provide ample size and toughness on the wing. The Sabres also possess a solid group of defenders, led by 2006 selection Mike Weber and 2009 pick Brayden McNabb. In goal, Jhonas Enroth should make a push for the backup job in Buffalo next season. Beyond Enroth, the Sabres have a couple of interesting college prospects in Connor Knapp and Bradley Eidsness. Weaknesses: The forward depth beyond those prospects in the Sabres’ top 10 is weak, while a couple of recent first-round selections (Marek Zagrapan and Dennis Persson) appear to be busts. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Tyler Ennis, C/LW, 2. Jhonas Enroth, G, 3. Zack Kassian, RW, 4. Luke Adam, C, 5. Mike Weber, D. Lost to graduation: Tyler Myers, Chris Butler.
14. Phoenix Coyotes
Strengths: Oliver Ekman-Larsson tops a solid group of very good potential top-four defensemen in Chris Summers, Maxim Goncharov and Jonasd Ahnelov. Nick Ross and Michael Stone are more in the mold of project picks who could offer Phoenix a very high return. The current group of forwards offers a lot of grit and tenacity, with Viktor Tikhonov, Brett MacLean, Chris Brown, and Jared Staal offering an intriguing blend of size and offensive ability. Weaknesses: Mike Lee was said to be the goaltender they wanted at the draft, but a shaky WJC performance has made his stock questionable. In sheer numbers, Phoenix does not have many prospects up front, with a lot of long shots rounding out their top 20. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, 2. Brett MacLean, LW, 3. Viktor Tikhonov, C, 4. David Schlemko, D, 5. Chris Summers, D. Lost to trade: Kevin Porter.
Strengths: Defensive depth is very good, with Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith the top two prospects in the organization. Max Nicastro, Gleason Fournier, Nick Jensen, and Adam Almqvist are all young and have had strong seasons in their respective leagues. The team has managed to find a few promising offensive talents despite a low draft position in Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Jan Mursak, and Landon Ferraro. Weaknesses: Inconsistency has plagued the team’s two AHL goalies — Daniel Larsson and Thomas McCollum, with Jordan Pearce left as the only other goalie in the system. The current group of forwards lacks size, and there is not much in the way of a true defensive defenseman outside of Sergei Kolosov. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jakub Kindl, D, 2. Brendan Smith, D, 3. Daniel Larsson, G, 4. Tomas Tatar, LW, 5. Justin Abdelkader, C. Lost to trade: Ville Leino.
Strengths: Headlining the Canadiens large group of talented forwards is Ivy League Rookie of the Year Louis Leblanc and WCHA Rookie of the Year Danny Kristo. The organization also has two potential top-four defensemen in P.K. Subban and Yannick Weber. Many of their top prospects have already tasted the NHL and are ready to jump to the next level. Weaknesses: Players such as Ben Maxwell and Aaron Palushaj are slow to develop and may not develop into NHL-caliber players. There is also a general lack of size in the system. All of the goaltending prospects have limited upside. Top 5 Prospects: 1. P.K. Subban, D, 2. Danny Kristo, RW, 3. Louis Leblanc, C, 4. Yannick Weber, D, 5. Aaron Palushaj, RW. Lost to graduation: Benoit Pouliot and Max Pacioretty.
Strengths: The Hurricanes prospect pool has both skill and character. It is headlined by the flashy Zach Boychuk, while Drayson Bowman and Zac Dalpe also bring noteworthy skill. The blueliners are not well known, but will be solid contributors. Weaknesses: Although Carolina has hung on to more of its picks lately, the system as a whole lacks depth. The right side is conspicuously thin, lacking top-six potential. Top five prospects: 1. Zach Boychuk, C, 2. Jamie McBain, D, 3. Drayson Bowman, LW, 4. Zac Dalpe, C, 5. Brett Carson, D. Lost to graduation: Brandon Sutter, C.
Strengths: The Blackhawks have a diverse and talented group of defensemen headlined by offensively gifted Nick Leddy and two-way defenseman Dylan Olsen. The organization also boasts one of the deepest groups of forward prospects. Weaknesses: Despite there being a plethora of forward prospects, most have either limited offensive ability such as Jack Skille or character issues such as Kyle Beach or Akim Aliu. Alec Richards, whose upside is limited, is the only goaltending prospect in the system. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Dylan Olsen, D, 2. Kyle Beach, LW, 3. Nick Leddy, D, 4. Akim Aliu, RW, 5. Shawn Lalonde, D. Lost to graduation: Niklas Hjalmarsson.
19. Anaheim Ducks
Strengths: Anaheim is very deep on the blueline, with high-end talent like Luca Sbisa and Jake Gardiner, supported by Mark Mitera, Brendan Mikkelson, Matt Clark, and Sami Vatanen. The Ducks have seen several versatile second or third line players step into the NHL and make an impact, including Matt Beleskey and Dan Sexton, with Brandon McMillan further solidifying that area. Weaknesses: There are a fair number of goalies in the system but no clear front runner to make an impact down the road. High-end forward talent is lacking. Although there was an attempt to fix this with the 2009 draft, neither Kyle Palmieri or Peter Holland have stepped up to fill that gap. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Luca Sbisa, D, 2. Jake Gardiner, D, 3. Matt Beleskey, LW, 4. Kyle Palmieri, RW, 5. Mark Mitera, D
Strengths: Talented puck-moving defensemen Calvin de Haan and Travis Hamonic headline the Islanders list, but the Islanders have solid depth at every position. They stockpiled picks the last two years and those picks are starting to bear fruit. The Islanders have been willing to take some chances on players with issues, and those bets have been good ones. Weaknesses: Goaltending remains the weak area for the organization, despite attempts at addressing it last summer. Questions about de Haan’s size, assertiveness, and now durability, remain. Top five prospects: 1. Calvin de Haan, D, 2. Jesse Joensuu, LW, 3. Travis Hamonic, D, 4. Kirill Petrov, RW, 5. Andrew MacDonald, D. Lost to graduation: John Tavares, C.