Below is the bottom third of the ranking of the prospect depth of the NHL organizations as voted by the Hockey's Future staff. To determine the ranking, each team's entire prospect pool was taken into consideration. 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 each season, in the fall and spring.
21. Montreal Canadiens
Strengths: The organization has a deep and varied group of defensive prospects. Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi, Morgan Ellis, and Greg Pateryn will all be playing in the AHL next season, with Darren Dietz, Mac Bennett, and Josiah Didier coming in the near future. The team has some offensively talented, potential top-six forwards including Brendan Gallagher, Louis Leblanc, Danny Kristo, Patrick Holland, and Michael Bournival. The organization continues to restock its cupboard at the lower levels and has been quite successful at developing their players for the NHL over the last four years.
Weaknesses: Though the Canadiens have a young NHL starter in Carey Price, there is not much in the way of goaltending talent behind him. The forward depth lacks a big, highly skilled center and still needs more size and grit on the wings.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nathan Beaulieu, D, 2. Louis Leblanc, C/RW, 3. Jarred Tinordi, D, 4. Brendan Gallagher, RW, 5. Danny Kristo, RW.
Lost to Graduation: David Desharnais, Alexei Emelin, Yannick Weber.
Lost to Trade: Brock Trotter.
Added: Blake Geoffrion, Patrick Holland, Robert Slaney.
22. New Jersey Devils
Strengths: The Devils have one of the better defense prospects in the game in Jon Merrill, though his off-ice issues are a slight cause for concern. Beyond Merrill, New Jersey is deep and well stocked on the blue line with Alexander Urbom and Eric Gelinas coming off strong seasons in the AHL, and Reece Scarlett having a breakout season in the WHL. Knowing that the Devils will soon need a replacement for Martin Brodeur, they have started to stock up on goaltenders. Scott Wedgewood represents the best long-term hope at the position.
Weaknesses: Mostly due to numerous graduations over the past year, the Devils are very thin at all three forward positions. There are only two centers and right-wingers currently listed on the Devils' depth chart at HF. Reid Boucher is the Devils best offensive prospect, but the caveat with him is that he is also the biggest boom-bust prospect in the organization.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jon Merrill, D, 2. Scott Wedgewood, G, 3. Alexander Urbom, D, 4. Eric Gelinas, D, 5. Brandon Burlon, D.
Lost to Graduation: Mark Fayne, Adam Henrique, Jacob Josefson, Adam Larsson, Mattias Tedenby.
Lost to Trade: Nick Palmieri, Joe Sova.
Added: Timo Pielmeier.
23. Calgary Flames
Strengths: There is finally some light at the end of the prospect tunnel for the Flames as they have started to accumulate some decent skill prospects at the forward position. Sven Baertschi is the most talented prospect the organization has had in years and could make an impact as early as next season. Max Reinhart and Michael Ferland both had breakout WHL seasons while John Gaudreau had a scintillating freshman season at Boston College. Bill Arnold and Markus Granlund are a still developing outside the pro game, but both have good long-term potential.
Weaknesses: After T.J. Brodie, who is close to graduation, the Flames are woefully thin on talent and depth at defense. Despite some decent showings at the NHL level, Leland Irving’s long-term future with the organization is up in the air and with Miikka Kiprusoff getting up there in age, the Flames will eventually need more goaltending depth in the system.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Sven Baertschi, LW, 2. T.J. Brodie, D, 3. Greg Nemisz, RW, 4. Leland Irving, G, 5. Max Reinhart, C.
Lost to Trade: John Negrin, Patrick Holland.
Added: Akim Aliu, Brian Connelly, David Eddy, Brady Lamb.
24. Colorado Avalanche
Strengths: The Avalanche are heavy on promising defensive talent with Stefan Elliot, Tyson Barrie, and Cameron Gaunce all close to being full-time NHL players. In addition to having a young starter in the NHL in the form of Semyon Varlamov, there is a promising group of goaltending prospects led by Kent Patterson and Kieran Millan.
Weaknesses: There is a lack of high-end forwards, particularly on wing. Lack of overall forward depth is a major issue. Center Joey Hishon is still recovering from a concussion and is no sure bet to start next season.
Top 5 Prospects: Sefan Elliot, D, 2. Duncan Siemens, D, 3. Cameron Gaunce, D, 4. Tyson Barrie, D, 5. Mark Olver, C.
Lost to Graduation: Gabriel Landeskog.
Lost to Trade: Michael Carman.
Added: Jake Newton, Michael Sgarbossa, Mike Connolly.
25. Winnipeg Jets
Strengths: The Jets have a number of two-way defensemen including Will O’Neill, Cody Sol, and Julian Melchiori. The progression of goaltender Ed Pasquale in his AHL rookie season gives them a top goaltending prospect, and there is plenty of bottom-six forward prospects, led by Patrice Cormier and Spencer Machacek, who can fit into an NHL checking role.
Weaknesses: Aside from Mark Scheifele there is no definite top-six talent amongst the forwards. Despite his breakthrough in the OHL, Ivan Telegin needs to prove he can take his game to the next level while Swedish winger Carl Klingberg stalled in the second half of his AHL rookie season. Though Paul Postma and Zach Redmond show promise as two-way players, there is a need for defenders who can generate offense from the blue line.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mark Schiefele, C, 2. Carl Klingberg, LW, 3. Patrice Cormier, C, 4. Paul Postma, D, 5. Ivan Telegin, LW.
Lost to Trade: Riley Holzapfel, Akim Aliu
Added: Maxime Macenauer, John Negrin.
26. Philadelphia Flyers
Strengths: The Flyers had a youth movement for which they never received full credit in the previous rankings. They played seven rookies regularly and dressed more some nights. Forwards Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, and Matt Read all played significant roles during both the regular and post-seasons. Beyond those prospects that saw extended NHL time this season, the Flyers have a large collection of solid role-players and bottom-six grinders.
Weaknesses: With graduations galore, the Flyers are back to being a team that’s razor thin on prospects. Eric Wellwood is a promising forward who will graduate before long. They may be weakest in goal but really have no identifiable areas of strength.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Brayden Schenn, C, 2. Eric Wellwood, LW, 3. Erik Gustafsson, D, 4. Marc-Andre Bourdon, D, 5. Jason Akeson, RW.
Lost to Graduation: Sean Couturier, Matt Reid, Zac Rinaldo.
Lost to Trade: Stefan Legein, Jon Kalinski, Kevin Marshall.
Added: Matt Mangene, Cal Heeter, Matt Konan.
27. Washington Capitals
Strengths: Yevgeni Kuznetsov remains one of the best prospects in the world and is easily the brightest spot in the Capitals organization. Braden Holtby has seen his netminder stock skyrocket following the Capitals recent playoff run and left wing Stanislav Galiev is among the top playoff scorers in the QMJHL this postseason. Dmitri Orlov, still technically a prospect, played 60 games in the NHL this season and didn’t look out of place.
Weaknesses: Once past the top of the Capitals prospect group, the talent level drops off significantly. That has not been a problem for an NHL squad stacked with talent, but it could become a problem if the Capitals are unable to adequately restock the pond. Furthermore, Kuznetsov recently signed a two-year deal to remain in the KHL, further delaying his transition to the NHL.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Yevgeni Kuznetsov, RW, 2. Braden Holtby, G, 3. Dmitri Orlov, D, 4. Cody Eakin, C, 5. Stanislav Galiev, LW
Lost to Graduation: Mathieu Perreault.
Lost to Trade: Francois Bouchard.
Added: Michael Carman, Cameron Schilling, Kevin Marshall, Tomas Kundratek.
28. Vancouver Canucks
Strengths: The Canucks have a good looking crop of right wingers led by Nicklas Jensen and Zack Kassian, who both have top-six potential. The team has high hopes for Anton Rodin and Alex Grenier is a late-bloomer who really came on strong this year. The defensive depth is also slowly improving. Goaltending continues to be an organizational strength as Eddie Lack appears to be ready for the NHL and Joe Cannata just capped off a tremendous four years at Merrimack College.
Weaknesses: Aside from Jordan Schroeder, who himself is no sure bet to make the NHL, the Canucks prospects at center are all raw and relatively unproven. The left-wingers in the system all project as third- or fourth-line players. Though there are a few defenseman in the organization with some upside, there aren’t any blue-chippers on the way.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nicklas Jensen, RW, 2. Zack Kassian, RW, 3. Eddie Lack, G, 4. Jordan Schroeder, C, 5. Chris Tanev, D.
Lost to Graduation: Dale Weise, Marc-Andre Gragnani.
Lost to Trade: Sebastian Erixon, Cody Hodgson, Taylor Ellington.
Added: Zack Kassian.
29. Columbus Blue Jackets
Strengths: The Blue Jackets have good goaltending prospects in Allen York and Mathieu Corbeil. York saw 11 games with the big club in 2011-12, and posted a respectable .920 saves percentage. Corbeil was the backstop with the powerhouse Saint John Sea Dogs that played in their second consecutive Memorial Cup tournament. Columbus also has a set of hard working players throughout the system. Players like Boone Jenner at center, and David Savard at defense project as solid, two-way NHL players. Cam Atkinson had a quality year in the AHL and made the U.S. squad for the 2012 World Championships.
Weaknesses: There is not a lot of pure talent in the system. Ryan Johansen had been one of hockey’s top prospects but graduated from prospect status at the end of the 2011-12 season, leaving the Blue Jackets' system reaching for a replacement. There are some long-shots, such as Petr Straka at right wing and University of Minnesota freshman Seth Ambroz at left wing, but both have flaws that must be overcome.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. David Savard, D, 2. Cam Atkinson, RW, 3. Boone Jenner, C, 4. Matt Calvert, LW, 5. Cody Goloubef, D
Lost to Graduation: Ryan Johansen, John Moore, Nikita Nikitin.
Added: Taylor Ellington.
30. San Jose Sharks
Strengths: The Sharks have a deep pool of defensemen with lots of variety. The organization has a well stocked cupboard of four goalies at the AHL and ECHL level with another, J.P. Anderson, joining them next season. The Sharks have used good scouting at the NCAA level to sign free agents such as Travis Oleksuk, Matt Tennyson, and Sebastien Stalberg.
Weaknesses: The Sharks have been contenders for a long time in the Western Conference and have moved many of their top picks and prospects over the years. The team has only Freddie Hamilton, Matt Nieto, and Travis Oleksuk at the forward position who might be top-six forwards while the rest are possible role or depth players. Most of their prospects are at least a few years away from the NHL.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Freddie Hamilton, C, 2. Matt Nieto, RW, 3. Tommy Wingels, C, 4. Travis Oleksuk, C, 5. Taylor Doherty, D.
Lost to Graduation: Justin Braun, Benn Ferriero.
Lost to Trade: Mike Connelly, Michael Sgarbossa, Mike Connolly.
Added: Travis Oleksuk, Sebastien Stalberg, Matt Tennyson.
Written by HF Staff