Hockey’s Future Organizational Rankings, Spring 2012: 11-20

By Ian Altenbaugh

Below is the middle third of Hockey's Future NHL Organizational rankings 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.

11. New York Rangers

Strengths: The Rangers have a strong, diverse group of defensive prospects led by Tim Erixon, Dylan McIlrath, and Stu Bickel. Forwards Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin are already contributing in a top-six capacity for the Rangers while J.T. Miller and Christian Thomas shouldn't be too far behind. The Blueshirts also have several players with long-term promise such as Michael St. Croix, Andrew Yogam, and Ryan Bourque.

Weaknesses: Though there are several defensive prospects who can adequately move the puck, none project as a powerplay quarterback. For as many talented forwards as there are in the prospect pool, the team continues to lack a true top-six center. The organization also lacks a potential number one goaltending prospect.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Chris Kreider, LW, 2. Tim Erixon, D, 3. Dylan McIlrath, D, 4. Carl Hagelin, LW, 5. J.T. Miller, RW.
Lost to Graduation: Ryan McDonagh.
Lost to Trade: Tomas Kundratek.
Added: Casey Wellman, Francois Bouchard, Casey Wellman.

12. Los Angeles Kings

Strengths: Even after graduations, trades, and a recent lack of emphasis on drafting defense, the Kings' system remains deep on the blue line, with Derek Forbort and Slava Voynov leading the way. They also have four goaltenders in their system, at least one of whom is bound to make the big show.

Weaknesses: While the Kings have a couple of wingers with high potential in Tyler Toffoli and Linden Vey, their overall scoring punch is lacking. At the moment, the system lacks an elite caliber prospect at any position.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Slava Voynov, D, 2. Tyler Toffoli, RW, 3. Andrei Loktionov, C, 4. Jake Muzzin, D, 5. Derek Forbort, D.
Lost to Graduation: Jonathan Bernier, Alex Martinez.
Added: Brian O'Neill, Alex Roach, Stefan Legein.

13. Phoenix Coyotes

Strengths: Defense, defense, defense. Brandon Gormley and David Rundblad should eventually join NHLer Oliver Ekman-Larsson to form a young, dynamic group along the blue line. There are also several other defensive prospects in the system, most notably Connor Murphy, who should develop into solid NHLers. The Coyotes have a lot of speed amongst their forward prospects.

Weaknesses: For a club that mostly got lucky that Mike Smith delivered great results this year, the Coyotes do not have much in the pipeline in goal past Mark Visentin. Similarly, they do not have blue chip forwards stocked underneath an aging group on their NHL roster.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. David Rundblad, D, 2. Brandon Gormley, D, 3. Connor Murphy, D, 4. Chris Summers, D, 5. Andy Miele, C.
Lost to Graduation: Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Lost to Trade: Justin Bernhardt.
Added: Marc Cheverie, David Rundblad, Scott Arnold, Brendan Shinnimin, Brock Trotter.

14. Buffalo Sabres

Strengths: Perhaps the greatest strength in the Buffalo system comes from having prospects such as Brayden McNabb, Marcus Foligno, Corey Tropp, and T.J. Brennan all currently transitioning into capable NHL players. Joel Armia adds his prodigious talent to the right wing, and there is good depth in role players at every position.

Weaknesses: The recent graduation of Jonas Enroth has left a sizeable hole in goal for the organization. Although it could be argued that with Enroth and All-Star Ryan Miller manning the nets in Buffalo, the lack of goaltending prospects may not be a weakness for the organization as a whole. Beyond Joel Armia, the Sabres lack first-line quality forwards.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Joel Armia, RW, 2. Brayden McNabb, D, 3. Mark Pysyk, D, 4. T.J. Brennan, D, 5. Marcus Foligno, LW.
Lost to Graduation: Luke Adam C, Jonas Enroth G, Cody Hodgson C.
Lost to Trade: Zack Kassian, Marc-Andre Gragnani.
Added: Cody Hodgson, Bryan Flynn.

15. Carolina Hurricanes

Strengths: Defense holds the key to the Hurricanes organization. Although there are some suitable forwards in the group, the back end is populated with some tremendous talent in the form of offensive wizard Ryan Murphy and Hobey Baker finalist Brian Dumoulin. Center is another area of strength, with Zac Dalpe and 19-year-old Swedish forward Victor Rask, who put up 63 point in 64 games in his first season in the WHL since coming to North America. The Hurricanes are thin in goal but Mike Murphy is a solid prospect, and with Cam Ward expected to guard the nets for the near term, the position has not been an area of focus for Carolina management.

Weaknesses: The Hurricanes have some skill on the wings, but the recent graduation of Drayson Bowman leaves the system with mostly complementary or more defensive, bottom-line players. Chris Terry gives them some two-way scoring on the left side, but the system lacks top-end scoring power on the wings.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Ryan Murphy, D, 2. Brian Dumoulin, D, 3. Zac Dalpe, C, 4. Victor Rask, C, 5. Jeremy Welsh, C.
Lost to Graduation: Justin Faulk, Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk.
Lost to Trade: Mattias Lindstrom.
Added: Evgeni Dadnov, A.J. Jenks, Joe Sova, Jeremy Welsh, Beau Schmitz.

16. Boston Bruins

Strengths: The top five Boston prospects are as good as any in the league. Dougie Hamilton projects to a top pairing stud and there are several highly skilled forwards on their way to provide further scoring depth to the Bruins. The Bruins also have several promising depth defensemen in Torey Krug, David Warsofsky, and Tommy Cross.

Weaknesses: There is a dramatic decline in talent past the top five. Many prospects such as Zach Hamill, Ryan Button, and Jamie Arniel have not developed as hoped. The team could also use an upgrade to their goaltending pipeline.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Doug Hamilton, D, 2. Ryan Spooner, LW, 3. Alexander Khokhlachev, C, 4. Jared Knight, RW, 5. Torey Krug, D.
Lost to Graduation: Jordan Caron
Lost to Trade: Yannick Riendeau, Marc Cantin.
Added: Torey Krug, Adam Morrison.

17. Tampa Bay Lightning

Strengths: The Lightning have developed depth at every position, with hard-working character forwards the preferred target of GM Steve Yzerman. Dustin Tokarski and Jaroslav Janus have emerged as an elite goaltending tandem this season while defenders Mark Barberio and Radko Gudas have pushed themselves to the edge of big-league contention.

Weaknesses: Outside of Vladislav Namestnikov the few projected top end forwards have fairly serious flaws and there is little depth behind them. The immediate need in the organization is for a prospect with puck-moving skills from the blue line.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Richard Panik, LW, 2. Vladislav Namestnikov, C, 3. Mark Barberio, D 4. J.T. Brown, RW 5. Alex Killorn, LW
Lost to Graduation: Brett Connolly, Keith Aulie.
Lost to Trade: Carter Ashton, James Wright.
Added: Sebastien Piche, Evan Oberg, J.T. Brown, Danick Gauthier, Jon Kalinski, Cory Conacher.

18. Toronto Maple Leafs

Strengths: As a credit to the increased strength of the prospect pool, the organization has survived the loss of three top prospects without losing much depth. There are several forwards pushing hard for both scoring and checking roles and several defenders who will contend for a spot in training camp. The Toronto Marlies were an AHL powerhouse this year and the addition of Brad Ross and Greg McKegg could make them even better next.

Weaknesses: There aren't any blue chip goaltending prospects in the pipeline. Behind the recently graduated Gardiner there is little in the way of puck movers on the blue line. Projections for their top forwards prospects fall short of the first line mark at the moment.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nazem Kadri, C, 2. Joe Colborne, C, 3. Matt Frattin, RW 4.Carter Ashton, LW 5. Jesse Blacker, D.
Lost to Graduation: Jake Gardiner, James Reimer.
Lost to Trade: Keith Aulie, Luca Caputi, Dale Mitchell.
Added: Carter Ashton, Nicolas Deschamps, Spencer Abbot.

19. Dallas Stars

Strengths: The Stars have stockpiled a clutch of big defenseman in Jamie Oleskiak, Patrick Nemeth, and Brendon Dillon. They also have a plethora of scoring forwards with Alex Chiasson, Reilly Smith, Matej Stransky, and Brett Ritchie. The stars also have a handful of talented character players led by Austin Smith.

Weaknesses: There aren't many left-handed shots among the forward depth charts. Oleksiak is a solid puck-mover but the Stars lack a defenseman who can run the powerplay. Top prospect Jack Campbell has been fairly disappointing since he was drafted in 2010.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jack Campbell, G, 2. Alex Chiasson, RW, 3. Jamie Oleksiak, D, 4. Scott Glennie, RW 5. Reilly Smith, RW.
Lost to Graduation: Philip Larsen, Thomas Vincour.
Lost to Trade: Ondrej Roman.
Added: Jake Hauswirth, Angelo Esposito.

20. Pittsburgh Penguins

Strengths: The Penguins boast an enviable bevy of NHL caliber defensemen including Simon Despres, Robert Bortuzzo, and Scott Harrington. Blueliner Joe Morrow is a potential top-pairing puck-moving defenseman who is also close to NHL ready. The organization has a large, talented group of forwards playing at the NCAA level. There are several talented roleplayers in the system as well, led by forwards Paul Thompson and Brian Gibbons.

Weaknesses: Though it is partially by design, the Penguins possess little in the way of center depth. They also lack depth in net, something that proved to be an issue at the NHL level this past season. Some of their most talented forward prospects such as Beau Bennett and Tom Kuhnhackl have struggled to stay healthy over the past two seasons.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Joe Morrow, D, 2. Simon Despres, D, 3. Beau Bennett, RW, 4. Eric Tangradi, LW, 5. Scott Harrington, D.
Lost To Graduation: Dustin Jeffrey, Joe Vitale.
Added: Adam Payerl.