With top scorers like Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn in hand, the Dallas Stars are not lacking for high-end talent at the NHL level. The story in their prospect pipeline is slightly different, however, as the Stars’ system ends up dropping a couple places in the latest edition of the Hockey’s Future NHL Team Rankings.
The Stars fall from their top-10 perch, but not very far as they head the 11-20 group in these rankings. Dallas is one of three Central Division clubs to land in this group, with the Metropolitan Division also garnering three entries. Atlantic and Pacific Division clubs appear twice each, with the split once again being an even five apiece between Eastern and Western Conference clubs.
Most of the teams in this middle group saw a decline since the last round of rankings, with only two – Vancouver and Philadelphia – showing some upward movement.
Here, then, are the NHL teams ranked 11 through 20 in the Winter edition of the 2015-16 Team Rankings.
20. Washington Capitals (13)
Strengths: The Washington Capitals have a few standouts prospects left, but that type of talent is limited. The top end includes the explosive defensemen Madison Bowey and Connor Carrick, talented KHL goaltender Ilya Samsonov, and shifty winger Jakub Vrana. Aside from Carrick, each of these players could be considered on a “Best of” list of prospects at each position in the world right now.
Weaknesses: The Capitals still have some standouts, but the shine has definitely worn off of the overall pool as players like Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky have graduated to the NHL. They have some big names at the very top, but that is where it ends. Everything else with the Capitals is pretty ho-hum. Washington also suffers from the unique problem of having the least number of “prospects” by HF’s standards. With no real center or left wing depth, and a wealth of mid- to lower-tier depth prospects making up most of their picks, there is no question that the team’s prospect depth has slipped overall.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Madison Bowey, D; 2. Ilya Samsonov, G; 3. Jakub Vrana, RW; 4. Riley Barber, C/W; 5. Connor Carrick, D
Key Additions: Ilya Samsonov (Draft), Jonas Siegenthaler (Draft),
Key Losses: Evgeny Kuznetsov (Graduation), Andre Burakovsky (Graduation), Nate Schmidt (Graduation)
19. Florida Panthers (18)
Strengths: With six goaltending prospects, the Florida Panthers are deep between the pipes and also boast an above average group of defensemen. Recent 2015 draftee Samuel Montembeault is perhaps the best young goalie in the organization, but is still a long way from making an impact at the NHL level. Mike Matheson, the organization’s first-round pick in 2012, is having a great start to his pro career with Portland of the AHL, and his former teammate Ian McCoshen, another top prospect, is in his junior season at Boston College. Behind those two defensemen are a few more with some NHL promise, including recent draft pick Thomas Schemitsch, who has a good combination of size and offensive instincts while Michael Downing is playing first-pairing minutes in his third season with the University of Michigan.
Weaknesses: Because the organization has graduated many high-end prospects in the past few seasons, the team’s depth is lacking, particularly up front. There are some undersized yet skilled prospects among the group, including Rocco Grimaldi and Denis Malgin, but too many career AHL talent and role players. Lawson Crouse, meanwhile, gives the Panthers a forward prospect capable of playing in the top six, but many question if he has the speed and skill to do so. The organization is particularly lacking on the right side, with Logan Shaw being the only right wing of note.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mike Matheson, D; 2. Lawson Crouse, LW; 3. Ian McCoshen, D; 4. Rocco Grimaldi, C; 5. Jayce Hawryluk, C
Key Additions: Lawson Crouse (Draft), Samuel Montembeault (Draft), Colin Stevens (Free agent)
Key Losses: Vince Trocheck (Graduation), Zach Hyman (Trade – TOR)
18. Calgary Flames (11)
Strengths: The Calgary Flames farm system is flushed with a balanced mixture of talented and gritty prospects. There have been some big losses due to graduation over the last two years, but credit management for restocking the system with the necessary pieces. Top prospects Sam Bennett, Markus Granlund and Michael Ferland have settled into roles in Calgary while Joni Ortio begins his second NHL season. Down in Stockton, Emile Poirier, Tyler Wotherspoon, Bill Arnold and Kenny Agostino are progressing well and could be ready for NHL duty in the near future. Down in the college and junior ranks, there are a few notably skilled players, including Nick Schneider, Andrew Mangiapane, and Mark Jankowski.
Weaknesses: Due to the high turnover of graduates, Bennett is the only elite top-line scoring option in the system. While the defense is deep, the organization needs more mobile, puck-moving defenseman. The Flames are also thin on the right wing.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Sam Bennett, C; 2. Emile Poirier, RW; 3. Markus Granlund, C; 4. Tyler Wotherspoon, D; 5. Michael Ferland, LW
Key Additions: Oliver Kylington (Draft)
Key Losses: Josh Jooris (Graduation), Sean Monahan (Graduation)
17. Montreal Canadiens (14)
Strengths: The Montreal Canadiens have a large number of prospects who could become solid competitors, both offensively, and defensively. The team is also tremendously balanced at each position, particularly at wing. Forwards like Mike McCarron, Sven Andrighetto, Nikita Scherbak, Charles Hudon and Jacob de la Rose all have the potential to score goals reliably for the big club. The Canadiens also have a terrific group of defensemen, in spite of the fact that Jarred Tinordi’s development seems to have stalled. Goaltenders Michael McNiven and Zachary Fucale will both push for backup jobs in the future.
Weaknesses: Although the Canadiens have a deep group of prospects, none of them are considered elite. The team hasn’t picked higher than 25th since 2012, and it shows on their depth chart. Also, with the parent club remaining among the top clubs in the Eastern Conference, many players who are perhaps ready for a call-up will have to continue developing in the AHL, at the risk of having their progress stall.
16. Philadelphia Flyers (22)
Strengths: The Philadelphia Flyers prospects failed to make an impact on the NHL roster in 2014-15, so the system benefits from age and experience. The only changes have been additions, with both Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov improve the depth chart considerably. Although Konecny combines with a much-improved Scott Laughton to make the team very strong down the middle, the Flyers are strongest on the blueline. While Samuel Morin won gold at the World Junior Championship last season, it was Travis Sanheim’s turn to join the Canadian National Junior Team this season. Meanwhile, Shayne Gostisbehere is turning heads as a call-up to the big club.
Weaknesses: The Flyers are lacking on the wings, where the team lacks elite talent. Only Nicolas Aube-Kubel has the potential to play in the top half of the lineup, and the rest of Philadelphia’s wingers are role players at best. The Flyers also lack a sure-thing in goal. Although Anthony Stolarz and Matej Tomek have played brilliantly this season, neither will displace Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth anytime soon—nor do they need to.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Ivan Provorov, D; 2. Travis Konecny, C; 3. Travis Sanheim, D; 4. Scott Laughton, C; 5. Samuel Morin, D
Key Additions: Travis Konecny (Draft), Ivan Provorov (Draft)
Key Losses: None