Hockey’s Future Organizational Rankings, Spring 2012: 1-10

By Ian Altenbaugh

Photo: Forward John Huberdeau is the top prospect for the Florida Panthers and one of the top forwards not currently playing hockey at the professional level. (Cliff Welch/Icon SMI)

Below is the final part of Hockey's Future's 2012 Spring Organizational Rankings. The rankings were determined by taking each NHL team's entire prospect pool into consideration as well as the likelihood those prospects are to meet their maximum potential. For reference, each team's top five prospects are included, as well as the players they have graduated, traded, or added to their pool over the 2011-12 season. To be eligible, a player must meet HF's prospect criteria. The rankings are done twice each season, in the fall and spring.

1. Florida Panthers

Strengths: With NHL talent heading every position–some of whom have All-Star potential, the Florida Panthers are set to open the tap on a stream of prospects that will start pouring into south Florida for the foreseeable future. In fact, the system is so loaded with talent, the Panthers could split off a second team entirely and have a somewhat competitive squad based only on prospects. Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, and Quinton Howden supply firepower, size, and speed up front, while Colby Robak and Alex Petrovic top the blue line corps. In the nets, Jacob Markstrom is arguably the best netminder in the world outside of the NHL.

Weaknesses: Right wing lacks true scoring punch, and the defense, though well-stocked with two-way players, is also short on pure offensive threats. After moving Tyler Plante and Marc Cheverie last offseason, the goaltending depth is thin, though University of Denver backstop Sam Brittain is a promising talent.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, 2. Jacob Markstrom, G, 3. Nick Bjugstad, C, 4. Quinton Howden, LW, 5. Colby Robak, D.
Lost to Graduation: Erik Gudbranson, Michal Repik.
Lost to Trade: Angelo Esposito, Evgeni Dadonov, Jake Hauswirth, Evan Oberg, A.J. Jenks.
Added: Ondrej Roman, James Wright, Mattias Lindstrom, Justin Bernhard.

2. Minnesota Wild

Strengths: The Wild prospect pool is stacked with top-end talent, most notably at forward. Mikael Granlund is one of the top prospects in the world and is set to make his pro debut next season. Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips are also potential top-six forwards, while Jason Zucker, Johan Larsson, and Brett Bulmer should all be top-nine contributors. Left-wingers Eric Haula and Mario Lucia also have long-term upside. 2011 First round draft pick Jonas Brodin is a blue-chip defense prospect while Matt Hackett headlines a talented quartet of goaltenders.

Weaknesses: There isn't much to not like about the Wild system, though there is steep drop off in talent after Brodin amongst Wild defense prospects. Former first round pick Tyler Cuma can't stay healthy and aside from Chay Genoway, the other defenseman in the organization project mostly as third-pairing or depth type defenseman.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mikael Granlund, C, 2. Charlie Coyle, RW. 3. Jonas Brodin, D, 4. Matt Hackett, G, 5. Zack Phillips, C.
Lost to Graduation: Justin Falk, Marco Scandella, Nick Palmieri, Jared Spurgeon.
Lost to Trade: Casey Wellman.
Added: Steven Kampfer.

3. Ottawa Senators

Strengths: The Senators have top-end skill at all forward positions led by Mika Zibanejad, Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen, and Shane Prince. Despite graduating five prospects and trading another key one this season, the team still has a group of players who can provide depth at the NHL level including Stephane Da Costa, Jim O'Brien, Andre Petersson, and Robin Lehner. Ottawa has a very young NHL team so the organization has the luxury of giving their future prospects more time to fully develop properly for the NHL.

Weaknesses: The organization has no goaltending prospects behind Robin Lehner at any level of hockey and needs to address this hole. The Senators have a lack of high-end talent on defense with the graduation of Jared Cowen and the trade of David Rundblad, but do have a good quantity with lower potential.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mika Zibanejad, C, 2. Robin Lehner, G, 3. Jakob Silfverberg, LW/RW, 4. Stefan Noesen, RW, 5. Mark Stone, RW.
Lost to Graduation: Bobby Butler, Erik Condra, Jared Cowen, Kasper Daugvins, Colin Greening.
Lost to Trade: David Rundblad.
Added: Cole Schneider.

4. Edmonton Oilers

Strengths: The Oilers continue to ice one of the youngest teams in the league so it's no surprise that the system continues to be littered with high-end prospects at all positions, led by star-in-the-making Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. They have the luxury of again having the first overall pick at the draft this summer so another jewel will be added to the system to replace Nugent-Hopkins once he graduates. Defense remains a bit of a sore spot at the NHL level, but with Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin and David Musil in the system, help is on the way. All three of those blueliners have top-four potential.

Weaknesses: Tyler Bunz offers up hope for a potential goaltender of the future, but the Oilers are not overly deep or proven between the pipes. There is depth up-front, but there is also a slight drop off in terms of overall talent and quality of prospects after you get past the likes of Nugent-Hopkins, Teemu Hartikainen, and Tobias Reider.

Top 5 prospects: 1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, 2. Oscar Klefbom, D, 3. Martin Marincin, D, 4. Anton Lander, C, 5. Teemu Hartikainen, LW.
Lost to Graduation: Jeff Petry, Linus Omark.

5. Anaheim Ducks

Strengths: The Ducks are loaded with offensive upside, with Emerson Etem, Peter Holland, and Kyle Palmieri establishing themselves as top players in their respective leagues. They have diversified their holdings in terms of both style and background over the past couple of seasons and now have a wide array of forwards and defensemen who can fill a variety of different roles. The Ducks also have an excellent goaltending prospect in John Gibson.

Weaknesses: The Ducks still lack a bit of grit and for all their potential they not have an elite-level prospect. With the likely departure of Justin Schultz, the Ducks also lack a top-pairing defensive prospect.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Kyle Palmieri, RW, 2. Emerson Etem, RW, 3. Justin Schultz, D, 4. Peter Holland, C, 5. Devante Smith-Pelly, LW.
Lost to Trade: Maxime Macenauer, Timo Pielmeier, Nicolas Deschamps, Jake Newton.
Added: Riley Holzapfel, Luca Caputi, Sebastian Erixon, Dale Mitchell.

6. Chicago Blackhawks

Strengths: The Blackhawks boast one of the deepest prospect pools in the NHL, with dynamic talent and strong depth at every position. Forwards Brandon Saad, Jeremy Morin, Andrew Shaw, and Jimmy Hayes as well as defenseman Dylan Olsen, all look like they are ready to contribute at the NHL level in a full-time capacity. The Hawks also have several forwards such as Mark McNeill, Phillip Danault, and Kevin Hayes who should be top-nine contributors in the next few years.

Weaknesses: Aside from maybe Saad, who was one of the top snipers in the OHL, there is not much in the way of players with elite potential. Most of the defensive prospects such as Adam Clendening or Stephen Johns are still several years away from being meaningful NHL contributors. The Hawks lack any blue chip goaltending prospects in their system, though there is decent depth.

Top 5 prospects: 1. Mark McNeill, C, 2. Brandon Saad, LW, 3. Jeremy Morin, LW, 4. Dylan Olsen, D, 5. Brandon Pirri, C.
Lost to Graduation: Marc Kruger, Nick Leddy.
Lost to Trade: Brian Connelly.
Added: Terry Broadhurst, Carter Hutton.

7. New York Islanders

Strengths: Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson headline a large group of gifted offensive players that also includes Anders Lee and Kirill Kabanov. The Isles are equally as strong on D, with puck-movers Calvin de Haan, Matt Donovan, and Aaron Ness all cutting their teeth at the minor-league level. Tough, mobile defensemen Andrey Pedan and Scott Mayfield also possess NHL upside. Goalies Anders Nilsson and Kevin Poulin both look like potential starting netminders. The Isles have a large group of complementary forwards such as Casey Cizikas, David Ullstrom, and Rhett Rakshani who should develop into NHL regulars.

Weaknesses: The Isles have had difficulty convincing many of their young prospects such as Anton Klementyev, Kirill Petrov, and Mikko Koskinen to play North American minor-league hockey. Others, such as Ty Wishart, Nino Niederreiter, or Jason Clark have hit snags in their development. The organization has had difficulty in the past signing some of their NCAA prospects as well.

Top 5 prospects: 1. Ryan Strome, C, 2. Nino Niederreiter, LW, 3. Calvin de Haan, D, 4. Brock Nelson, C, 5. Matt Donovan, D.
Lost to Graduation: Travis Hamonic.
Added: Yannick Riendeau, Marc Cantin, Mike Halmo.

8. St. Louis Blues

Strengths: The Blues have two elite forward prospects in Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, as well as several possible top-six contributors like Ty Rattie, Philip McRae, and Evgeny Grachev. Goaltender Paul Karpowich joins Jake Allen in the AHL to give the Blues a dynamic goaltending duo in the minors. Ian Cole is a solid defensive prospect who is close to regular NHL duties.

Weaknesses: There is a fairly shallow pool at left wing position in the minor league system and there are no top-pairing prospects on the blue line. Their is concern many of their European prospects, such as Sergei Andronov, Jani Hakanpaa, or even Vladimir Tarasenko may not be interested or willing to play in North America.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, 2. Jaden Schwartz, C, 3. Ty Rattie, RW 4. Ian Cole, D, 5. Jake Allen, G.
Lost to Trade: Nikita Nikitin.

9. Nashville Predators

Strengths: The Predators have great quantity and quality of prospects pushing for NHL duties, including Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, Jonathan Blum, Michael Latta, and Gabriel Bourque. The organization has been one of the best NHL franchise at building from within and though the draft, annually replacing departing free agents with homegrown talent. The Preds have one of, if not the deepest group of goaltending prospects in the NHL, led by the towering Anders Lindback.

Weaknesses: The Predators continue to lack an elite offensive forward, particularly at center. Some of their highly drafted prospects such as Taylor Beck, Zach Budish and Charles-Oliver Roussel are not developing as expected.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Ryan Ellis, D, 2. Jonathan Blum, D, 3. Roman Josi, D, 4. Michael Latta, C, 5. Austin Watson, RW.
Lost to Graduation: Matt Halischuk, Craig Smith.
Lost to Trade: Blake Geoffrion, Robert Slaney.
Added: Jack MacLellan.

10. Detroit Red Wings

Strengths: Forwards Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Joakim Andersson, as well as defenseman Brendan Smith are the latest in a long line of Wings prospects who paid their dues at the minor-league level and are now ready to take a regular shift in the NHL. The Wings also have many extremely promising long-term projects in Teemu Pulkkinen, Tomas Jurco, Calle Jarnkrok, and Riley Sheahan.

Weaknesses: Many of the Wings top prospects such as Jarnkrok or Pulkkinen are long-term projects. Prospects such as Andrej Nestrasil, Landon Ferraro, and William Coetzee have developed much slower than expected and will likely never reach their potential. The Wings lack goaltending depth, a problem that was exposed this season when starter Jimmy Howard went down with injury and the team struggled to find an adequate replacement.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Brendan Smith, D, 2. Gustav Nyquist, LW, 3. Tomas Tatar, LW, 4. Tomas Jurco, RW, 5. Calle Jarnkrok, C.
Lost to Graduation: Cory Emmerton.