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. Colorado Avalanche
Strengths: A quick look at the Avalanche system and it is easy to identify that they boast some of the most impressive defensive prospect depth in the league. The group features top prospects Kevin Shattenkirk and Stefan Elliott as well as a prospect who is already skating with Colorado in Jonas Holos. Throw in 2010 picks Stephen Silas and Troy Rutkowski, and the system is well stocked on the blue line for years to come. In net, they have addressed an area that was a concern prior to the draft. Calvin Pickard and Sami Aittokallio were two of the highest ranked goaltenders in the entry draft and both are now property of the Avalanche. Weaknesses: The Avalanche could use more top-end winger depth to compliment the current group of young centers that their system has produced. Although the team has a plethora of offensive defenders, adding a tough top-four defensive rearguard would round out that position. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Kevin Shattenkirk, D, 2. Stefan Elliott, D, 3. Joey Hishon, C, 4. Calvin Pickard, G, 5. Ryan Stoa, LW. Lost to graduation: Ryan Wilson.
Strengths: The Canucks boast an impressive pair of skilled pivots who are the crown jewels of their system in Cody Hodgson and Jordan Schroeder. No one can deny Hodgson’s talent level, though his back injury concerns are real. Schroeder has been impressive in the early days of his pro career after a pair of quality seasons at the University of Minnesota. On the back end, 2009 third round pick Kevin Connauton has flashed elite offensive ability. Weaknesses: In a word, depth. The Canucks have some fine talent at the high end, but it falls off quickly. They lost Michael Grabner in an offseason trade and had no picks in the first three rounds of the 2010 draft, leaving a bare cupboard unstocked. After the top five prospects or so, there is very little to get excited about. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Cody Hodgson, C, 2. Jordan Schroeder, C, 3. Anton Rodin, RW, 4. Sergei Shirokov, LW, 5. Kevin Connauton, D. Lost to Trade: Michael Grabner.
23. Phoenix Coyotes
Strengths: The Coyotes might not be one of the more financially sound teams in the NHL, but in terms of defensemen, they are extremely wealthy. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, selected sixth overall in 2009, and Brandon Gormley, selected 13th overall in 2010, lead a stable of very talented blueliners. After Ekman-Larsson and Gormley, the likes of David Schlemko, Chris Summers, Maxim Goncharov, and Michael Stone all figure to be wearing NHL uniforms in the near future. Goaltending was a weakness in the past but the addition of first round pick Mark Visentin breathes some life into the position. Weaknesses: While the Coyotes do possess some talent up front, the overall depth at forward has to be the organization’s biggest weakness. Brett MacLean and Viktor Tikhonov are the only two players who are close to NHL ready at this point, while most of the other forward prospects are still developing their skills in college or the CHL. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, 2. Brett MacLean, LW, 3. Viktor Tikhonov, C, 4. Brandon Gormley, D, 5. David Schlemko, D. Lost to Trade: Jared Staal.
Strengths: The Bolts have a lot of offensive potential on both wings with the likes of Carter Ashton, Alex Hutchings, and Richard Panik. There is also a great depth and variety of defensemen, with Brock Beukeboom, Radko Gudas, Adam Janosik, and Geoff Schemitsch being the most recent additions. The organization also has solid depth in net, with Dustin Tokarski and Cedrick Desjardins the closest to making an impact at the NHL level. Weaknesses: Many of the offensively gifted forwards in the organization, such as Hutchings or center Mitch Fadden have yet to prove they can make an offensive impact at the professional level. While top prospect Brett Connolly is an offensively-dynamic talent, he is still a season removed from a major hip injury, and will have to prove he is fully healthy. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Brett Connolly, C, 2. Carter Ashton, RW, 3. Dustin Tokarski, G, 4. Dana Tyrell, C, 5. Richard Panik, RW.
Strengths: The Thrashers added a pair of good international prospects over the past two drafts with Carl Klingberg in 2009 and Alexander Burmistrov in 2010. These top forward prospects may not be in the pipeline for long, given Atlanta’s struggles at the NHL level and their willingness to let their top prospects develop with the big club. Though the organization does not possess any elite defensive prospects, they have some size and mobility in the pipeline with the likes of Arturs Kulda, Paul Postma, and Julian Melchiori. Weaknesses: After Burmistrov and Klingberg, many of Atlanta’s forward prospects are of the boom or bust variety including top prospects Patrice Cormier, Angelo Esposito, and Akim Aliu. The organization also lacks top end talent on defense and in goal. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Alexander Burmistrov, C, 2. Carl Klingberg, LW, 3. Patrice Cormier, C, 4. Spencer Machacek, RW, 5. Arturs Kulda, D. Lost to Trade: Jeremy Morin, Ivan Vishnevskiy.
26. Minnesota Wild
Strengths: As a result of picking defensemen and two-way forwards with their top picks in recent years, skilled Finnish forward Mikael Granlund is the first top offensive prospect to join the organization since the early 2000s. Outside of Granlund, newly-signed Casey Wellman and two-way forwards Colton Gillies and Cody Almond have shown NHL potential. Marco Scandella and Tyler Cuma are both talented blueliners that should be joining the Wild sooner rather than later. Weaknesses: Outside of Granlund, the forward prospect pool is lacking in offensive ability. The blue line group is lackluster, devoid of depth and top-end talent. The team is in dire need of prospects on the right wing. There is no bona fide goaltending starter in the system, nor much depth. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mikael Granlund, C, 2. Marco Scandella, D, 3. Tyler Cuma, D, 4. Colton Gillies, LW, 5. Matt Hackett, G.
27. San Jose Sharks
Strengths: Many organizations believe that the best way to build a successful team is to build from the net out and that is exactly what the Sharks are beginning to do. With Evgeni Nabokov gone to the KHL, Thomas Greiss, Alex Stalock and Harri Sateri will all have the chance to be the Sharks goaltender of the future, but they may have to wait a few years with the recent acquisitions of Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki. The Sharks have also accumulated a solid and diverse defensive group with Jason Demers, Derek Joslin, William Wrenn and the towering Taylor Doherty. Weaknesses: The Sharks are not exactly loaded with forward prospects as Logan Couture is the only player with steady NHL duty in his immediate future. Although the talent level may be low, the Sharks do have some depth with Couture, Patrick White, Benn Ferriero and Charlie Coyle. There may also be some pleasant surprises in the mix from left winger Brandon Mashinter and center Marek Viedensky. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Logan Couture, C, 2 Thomas Greiss, G, 3. Jason Demers, 4. Alex Stalock, G, 5. Charlie Coyle, RW.
Strengths: On the blue line, Philly boasts a deep and versatile group with shutdown man Kevin Marshall, two-way defender Oskars Bartulis, and several skilled puck-movers in Joonas Lehtivuori, Marc-Andre Bourdon, and Erik Gustafsson. The Flyers have made a commitment to drafting top tier goalies, having been a franchise plagued by bad goaltending for years, and now have a very promising group of young netminders at their disposal. Sergei Bobrovsky has had a strong start to the season with the Flyers, while 20-year-old Joacim Eriksson is not far behind him on the Flyers pecking order. A pair of 2009 draft picks, 19-year-old Adam Morrison and 21-year-old Nicola Riopel, add some depth to the group. Weaknesses: In terms of pure offensive threats, the Flyers seem to be thin as there just does not seem to be that much talent among forwards. Despite the perceived lack of depth, the Flyers should benefit from the fact that players such as Eric Wellwood, Patrick Maroon, Mike Testwuide, Stefan Legein and Luke Pither will all play important roles for the Phantoms in the AHL this year and will undoubtedly gain a lot of professional experience. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Joacim Eriksson, G, 2. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, 3. Kevin Marshall, D, 4. Patrick Maroon, LW, 5. Joonas Lehtivuori, D. Lost to Trade: Jonathan Matsumoto.
29. Dallas Stars
Strengths: The addition of Jack Campbell to an already solid pair of netminders in Richard Bachman and Tyler Beskorowany gives Dallas one of the stronger goaltending pipelines in the league. Scott Glennie headlines a strong group at right wing along with NCAA prospects Alex Chiasson and Reilly Smith. Though Ondrej Roman and Curtis McKenzie are not elite prospects, they add some positional balance and two-way play to the Stars’ forward pool. Weaknesses: The Stars only have a handful of forward prospects with top-six potential, with center and left wing being especially barren. The blue line also lacks talent and depth behind Philip Larsen. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jack Campbell, G, 2. Scott Glennie, RW, 3. Philip Larsen, D, 4. Alex Chiasson, RW, 5. Ondrej Roman, C. Lost to Graduation: Tom Wandell.
30. Calgary Flames
Strengths: The Flames are deficient in a number of areas, but a couple things they have in spades coming up through the ranks are grit and leadership. Players like Greg Nemisz, Brett Sutter, and Matt Pelech embody the Sutter-esque tireless work ethic and lead-by-example mentality. There are also some quality puck-movers on the back end in Tim Erixon and T.J. Brodie for the Flames faithful to look forward to. Weaknesses: That said, there is almost a complete lack of elite talent in the Flames system. The team’s 2007 first round pick Mikael Backlund has top line talent and has been progressing nicely, however the talent of the prospects drops sharply after that. Even once highly-touted netminder Leland Irving has failed to progress as expected, joining the ranks of an underwhelming bunch in Calgary. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mikael Backlund, C, 2. Tim Erixon, D, 3. Greg Nemisz, RW, 4. Mitch Wahl, C, 5. T.J. Brodie, D.