The Hockey’s Future Organizational Rankings are an assessment of the overall state of each NHL team’s system of prospects. An overall ranking is given, and strengths and weaknesses are identified. The ranking will be posted in installments every few days. Teams ranked 21-30 are found below, with previous rank in parentheses.
The rankings were compiled by a committee of staff members using Hockey’s Future’s prospect criteria. For information on individual prospects for each of the NHL teams, feel free to visit the various team, league, or country pages here at Hockey’s Future.
30. Colorado Avalanche (30)
Strengths: Aside from Wojtek Wolski and Marek Svatos, the Colorado Avalanche has simply a handful of boom or bust players. University of New Hampshire forward Sean Collins is a college star, Ryan Steeves has promise and newly drafted Denis Parshin might be the most talented player in the system, however, all have significant obstacles to overcome. Center Cody McCormick spent time in the NHL last year but contributed little statistically. On the blueline, Johnny Boychuk, Mikko Kalteva and Tomas Slovak are average and few would consider goaltender Peter Budaj a possible future starter.
Weaknesses: With no impact players on the blueline, in goal and arguably at center, Colorado has considerable holes in its organization to fill. The trade deadline transactions that saw Keith Ballard go to Phoenix and Tom Gilbert head to Edmonton were considerable blows to the backend.
Top Prospects: Wojtek Wolski (F), Marek Svatos (F), Denis Parshin (F), Johnny Boychuk (D) and Sean Collins (F).
Not Eligible: John-Michael Liles, Brett McLean and Riku Hahl due to career NHL games played.
29. Toronto Maple Leafs (26)
Strengths: Toronto has two very strong prospects, defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo and center Alexander Steen. Colaiacovo is a NHL ready defenseman who is almost certain to be a top-pairing power play regular. Steen is a season away from the NHL and projects to be a good second line center at least. Toronto also has quite a few depth players like Brendan Bell, Jay Harrison, Kyle Wellwood, Ian White and John Mitchell who will make the bottom 6 forwards and bottom defensive pairing.
Weaknesses: Aside from Steen and Colaiacovo, Toronto lacks any top-6 forwards or top-4 defensemen in the system; offensive production has to come from somewhere but it won’t be from this collection of prospects. Although the Maple Leafs have three goalies, Justin Pogge, Todd Ford and Jean-Francois Racine in their top 20 prospects, it’s unlikely that any of them will be NHLers even as backups.
Top Prospects: Alexander Steen (F), Carlo Colaiacovo (D), Brendan Bell (D), Jay Harrison (D) and Kyle Wellwood (F).
Not Eligible: Alexei Ponikarovsky and Matt Stajan due to career NHL games played.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning (24)
Strengths: Tampa Bay has managed to amass a wealth of very big bodies for the future of both their forward and defensive units. The stable of big, mobile defensemen includes Mike Egener, Andy Rogers, Gerard Dicaire, Matt Smaby and Andreas Holmqvist. Size and grit at the wing position can be found in checkers Darren Reid, Mark Tobin, Evgeni Artukhin, and Dennis Packard.
Weaknesses: Tampa Bay lacks high-end, marquee prospects at every position. Russian forward Alexander Polushin is the closest to a bluechipper Tampa has, but after a very promising start in the Russian Super League last year, he injured his knee and was out for the season. Quality goaltending is a particular weakness for the Lightning organization. Although they have six goaltending prospects, all over 6’1, none are regarded as top prospects. Center is another very thin position.
Top Prospects: Alexander Polushin (F), Mike Egener (D), Andy Rogers (D), Gerard Dicaire (D), Adam Henrich (F).
Not Eligible: Dmitry Afanasenkov, Nikita Alexeev, Martin Cibak due to career NHL games played.
27. Carolina Hurricanes (28)
Strengths: Over recent years the Hurricanes have stockpiled goaltending prospects above all else. Their top prospect is Cam Ward out of the WHL. Their stable was further solidified in 2004 when they drafted Justin Peters, one of the top goalies available in the draft, as well as Magnus Akerlund in the fifth round. Beyond goaltending, newly drafted Andrew Ladd is considered a top quality forward prospect the ‘Canes can add to their rebuilding front lines.
Weaknesses: Aside from a handful of skaters led by Ladd, the Hurricanes have few solid prospects outside of the crease. After cleaning house and parting ways with a number of players in the offseason such as Brad DeFauw, Brett Lysak and the trading of Tomas Malec, their overall system depth decreased to be filled in with lower caliber, defensive defensemen.
Top Prospects: Cam Ward (G), Andrew Ladd (F), Justin Peters (G), Magnus Kahnberg (F), Danny Richmond (D).
Not Eligible: Radim Vrbata, Eric Staal, Pavel Brendl, Ryan Bayda and Bruno St. Jacques due to career NHL games played.
26. Dallas Stars (16)
Strengths: The Texas pipeline keeps producing a plethora of two-way forwards that have become a signature of the Stars. Antti Miettinen, Junior Lessard and Loui Eriksson lead the way. Even after the trade of Jason Bacashihua there are three respectable netminders in the organization. The defense is the true strength though for Dallas with Trevor Daley, Mark Fistric and Shawn Belle marking a good mix of offensive blueliners and stay-at-homers.
Weaknesses: There are not a lot of game-breaking offensive potential up front. The Stars also need power forwards and a definite upgrade in the size and strength of their forward corps.
Top Prospects: Trevor Daley (D), Junior Lessard (F), Dan Ellis (G), Antti Miettinen (F), Shawn Belle (F).
Not Eligible: John Erskine, Steve Ott and Niko Kapanen due to career NHL games played.
25. New York Islanders (25)
Strengths: There are very few organizations in the league as blessed as the Islanders in regards to their right wing position. The organization boasts prospects such as Jeremy Colliton, Evgeny Tunik, Dmitri Chernykh, and Vladimir Gorbunov, all four of which have top two-line potential. As strong as their right wing is, however, the Islanders could possibly be even stronger at center with the likes of Justin Mapletoft, Sean Bergenheim, and 2004 draftee Petteri Nokelainen. On defense, the Islanders are solid, but not spectacular. Arto Tukio, Wes O’Neill and Alexei Stonkus all possess a degree of talent, but will have to overcome or work around specific flaws in their game before elevating it to the next level.
Weaknesses: One glaring weakness is the lack of quality goaltending prospects, but the Islanders need not be overly concerned with their goalie situation at the moment while young Rick Dipietro is plying his trade in the NHL. The organization also lacks depth down the left wing, and aside from Robert Nilsson, the organization does not have another prospect projected to be an NHL regular. Finally, the lack of a true crease-clearing rearguard needs to be addressed.
Top Prospects: Petteri Nokelainen (F), Robert Nilsson (F), Justin Mapletoft (F), Sean Bergenheim (F), Jeremy Colliton (F).
Not Eligible: Trent Hunter, Radek Martinek, Mattias Weinhandl and Justin Papineau due to career NHL games played.
24. Detroit Red Wings (15)
Strengths: A car crash in 2003 left the Detroit Red Wings top prospect Igor Grigorenko’s future in doubt, but his career appears to be back on track. A potential star goal scorer, Grigorenko is the brightest light on the Red Wings organizational depth chart. Jiri Hudler lacks size but is a natural playmaker with all sorts of talent. Hudler may lack the feistiness that Grigorenko has and this will hurt him in the NHL when faced with bigger, more rugged defenseman than in the Czech Republic. Nicklas Kronwall, Detroit’s first round pick in 2000, looks to be ready to appear as a regular on the Wings blueline. The Wings top pick from 2003, Jim Howard, has the talent to one day be a No. 1 goaltender and he has company in the system by way of two or three other quality keepers.
Weaknesses: Lack of size is a problem with most of Detroit’s prospects both on defense and up front. NHL potential, especially on the left side, is a big concern.
Top Prospects: Igor Grigorenko (F), Jiri Hudler (F), James Howard (G), Stefan Liv (G) and Nicklas Kronwall (D).
Not Eligible: Henrik Zetterberg, Jiri Fischer and Jason Williams due to career NHL games played.
23. Vancouver Canucks (18)
Strengths: The Vancouver Canucks prospects lack what one might consider star potential, but they do have good depth at forward and a strong group of goaltenders. Jason King and Ryan Kesler headline a deep, albeit unspectacular group of forwards. King has already shown strong goal-scoring potential in the NHL and Kesler, playing his first professional season in 2003-04, looks to be more of a third line center. The Canucks top prospect, Alex Auld, having played three seasons mostly in the AHL, will be ready for his first season of backup duty in the NHL. Behind Auld are the newly drafted Cory Schneider and Lukas Mensator.
Weaknesses: The Canucks lack not only a player of potential star caliber, but they also do not have a lot of talent on the blueline. Top prospects Kirill Koltsov and Brett Skinner are both offensive defensemen. Vancouver needs some workhorses to clear the front of the net.
Top Prospects: Alex Auld (G), Ryan Kesler (F), Kirill Koltsov (D), Jason King (F), Evgeny Gladskikh.
Not Eligible: Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Bryan Allen and Tyler Bouck due to career NHL games played.
22. Calgary Flames (19)
Strengths: The Calgary Flames organization boasts a plethora of potential two-way forwards and many role players. Few teams rival the combination of hard work, grit, and leadership among the Calgary prospect core. Fitting that description are newly drafted winger Kris Chucko and center Dustin Boyd. In Dion Phaneuf, the Flames also have perhaps the highest rated blueline prospect not yet in the NHL.
Weaknesses: Beyond Phaneuf, the Flames lack anything close to resembling a blue chip prospect, and lack in both quality and quantity of prospects. There is a particular shortfall of forwards of a pure offensive nature, with the organization seemingly preferring rough-and-tumble, two-way players.
Top Prospects: Dion Phaneuf (D), Kris Chucko (F), Tim Ramholt (D), Eric Nystrom (F), Brent Krahn (G).
Not Eligible: Chuck Kobasew, Jordan Leopold and Matthew Lombardi due to career NHL games played.
21. St. Louis Blues (22)
Strengths: The Blues have outstanding depth at the goaltending position with former first round picks Marek Schwarz and Jason Bacashihua, with support provided by Konstantin Barulin and Tuomas Nissinen. On defense, the Blues are only slightly less deep with Trevor Byrne, Zack FitzGerald, Robin Jonsson and Dennis Wideman as the top blueline prospects that offer a nice mix of size, physical play, and offensive upside. The Blues’ forwards include scorers Konstantin Zakharov and Peter Sejna, a pure skill player in Alexei Shkotov, solid two-way players like Jay McClement and Michal Birner, and potential power forwards such as Carl Söderberg and David Backes.
Weaknesses: The Blues’ system lacks a true top-pairing defenseman, and the talent on the wings as a group lags somewhat behind that of the crop of centers and certainly the pool of goalies.
Top Prospects: Peter Sejna (F), Marek Schwarz (G), Alexei Shkotov (F), Konstantin Zakharov (F), Carl Söderberg (F).
Not Eligible: Matt Walker, John Pohl, and Curtis Sanford due to age.
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