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 11-20 are below, with previous rank in parentheses. Teams ranked 21-30 can be found here.
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.
20. Philadelphia Flyers (27)
Strengths: The Flyers enjoy terrific depth at center, a position lead by Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and supported by R.J. Umberger and Patrick Sharp, who played half a season in the NHL last year. Dennis Seidenberg still qualifies as a prospect by Hockey’s Future criteria for another handful of NHL games and goaltender Antero Niittymaki was undefeated in his brief stint with the Flyers in 2003-04.
Weaknesses: Aside from center, the Flyers quickly thin out at all other positions past the top prospects. There is not a noteworthy defender behind Seidenberg and Rosario Ruggeri and goaltending depth is average at best past Niittymaki.
Top Prospects: Jeff Carter (F), Mike Richards (F), Dennis Seidenberg (D), R.J. Umberger (F), Antero Niittymaki (G).
Not Eligible: Joni Pitkanen due to career NHL games played. Radovan Somik and Boyd Kane due to age.
19. Florida Panthers (23)
Strengths: Having Nathan Horton, Anthony Stewart and Rostislav Olesz in the system gives the Panthers a formidable top trio of forwards all of who might be considered possible franchise players. On the blueline there is a pair of exciting players on the horizon in Lukas Krajicek and Filip Novak. Secondary help up front comes in the form of talented wingers Dany Roussin and Rob Globke.
Weaknesses: Adding David Shantz at the 2004 draft was an absolute must for Florida’s future goaltending situation, but this is still an area that can and should be upgraded more. Depth on the blueline and on the wings is not as strong due to the graduation of several players in recent years.
Top Prospects: Nathan Horton (F), Anthony Stewart (F), Lukas Krajicek (D), Rob Globke (F), David Shantz (G).
Not Eligible: Vaclav Nedorost, Denis Shvidki, Jay Bouwmeester, Branislav Mezei and Stephen Weiss due to career NHL games played.
18. Boston Bruins (12)
Strengths: The Bruins have a very balanced prospect core, but their biggest strength is on the blueline. They have tough defensive defensemen in Mark Stuart and Andrew Albert, a puck mover in Lars Jonsson and an all-around defenseman in Milan Jurcina. Boston also has a very good goaltending prospect in Hannu Toivonen, who some scouts feel has a higher ceiling than Calder Trophy winner Andrew Raycroft, while Jordan Sigalet and Mike Brown are capable of developing into NHL back-ups. In Brad Boyes and Sergei Zinovjev they have projected second line scoring forwards.
Weaknesses: Several players have as yet been unable to make the move up from prospect status to regular NHL player. Andy Hilbert, Martin Samuelsson and Ivan Huml all fall into that category. Boston also lacks potential first line goal-scorers.
Top Prospects: Hannu Toivonen (G), Mark Stuart (D), Brad Boyes (F), Sergei Zinojev (F) and Andy Hilbert (F).
Not Eligible: Patrice Bergeron and Andrew Raycroft due to career NHL games played.
17. Ottawa Senators (10)
Strengths: Ottawa’s four top prospects: goalie Ray Emery, defenseman Andrej Meszaros and forwards Antoine Vermette and Patrick Eaves give Ottawa an aggressive, puck playing future NHL starting goalie that has dominated the AHL, an all-around, if not overly physical defenseman, a talented playmaker and a gritty potential second line scorer who can line up at any forward position. After Emery the Senators have Billy Thompson, Kelly Guard and Jeff Glass in net. Ottawa also has players to fill second and third line supporting roles such as Alexei Kaigorodov, Brandon Bochenski and Igor Mirnov.
Weaknesses: After the top four prospects there is a pretty big drop off and most of the Senators secondary prospects, such as Mirnov and Bochenski, have question marks regarding their all-around game, particularly in their own zone. Ottawa lacks a top line scorer in its prospect ranks.
Top Prospects: Antoine Vermette (F), Ray Emery (G), Andrej Meszaros (D), Patrick Eaves (F), Alexei Kaigorodov (F).
Not Eligible: Jason Spezza and Anton Volchenkov due to career NHL games played.
16. San Jose Sharks (21)
Strengths: San Jose has solid organizational depth at all key positions. They continue to find gems between the pipes year after year and currently hang their hopes on a pair of Germans in Dimitri Patzold and Patrick Ehelechner. There’s also great potential on the blueline with Josh Gorges, Christian Ehrhoff and Matt Carle. Up front, there are a handful of solid prospects on at wing, most notably Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier, and plenty of depth down the middle beginning with Josh Hennessy and Marcel Goc.
Weaknesses: The forward ranks feature quality, but not much quantity, as most of players are more two-way style players. Additional size and strength up front would help as well. The goaltending situation is just the opposite where there are plenty of masked men but not a sure fire NHL starter amongst them.
Top Prospects: Milan Michalek (F), Steve Bernier (F), Matt Carle, Christian Ehrhoff (D), Josh Hennessey (F).
Not Eligible: Rob Davison, Jonathan Cheechoo, Tom Preissing, due to career NHL games played. Niko Dimitrakos due to age. Miroslav Zalesak due to career AHL games played.
15. New Jersey Devils (4)
Strengths: The Devils possess a very strong prospect core starting from the crease on out. Potential franchise goaltender Ari Ahonen continues to develop nicely, waiting in the wings behind current franchise goaltender Martin Brodeur. Despite losing both David Hale and Paul Martin from their list of prospects, the organization still has a pair of quality blueliners in Anton Kadeykin and Matt DeMarchi. Down the middle, New Jersey is one of the deepest franchises, with 2004 WJC standout Zach Parise, recent first rounder Travis Zajac, as well as Adrian Foster and Ivan Khomutov. On the wings, the Devils feature Tuomas Pihlman and Barry Tallackson on left, and Finn Teemu Laine and Russian Aleksander Suglobov on the right.
Weaknesses: While the organization has no glaring weakness, depth is an issue. The club has only two promising defensive prospects in Kadeykin and DeMarchi, and on the wings, the pool of talent, although strong, could be deeper. Among forward prospects, the team lacks a physical presence.
Top Prospects: Zach Parise (F), Ari Ahonen (G), Aleksander Suglobov (F), Travis Zajac (F), Tuomas Pihlman (F).
Not Eligible: David Hale and Paul Martin due to career NHL games played.
14. Buffalo Sabres (7)
Strengths: Buffalo’s main strength is up front with 14 of its top 20 prospects being forwards. Most prominent amongst these are potential top six candidates Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford and Daniel Paille. Buffalo also has a few players who could develop into solid third liners. They still have one of the top goaltending prospects outside of the NHL in Ryan Miller.
Weaknesses: The Sabres future blueline is dreadfully thin. Andrej Sekera, a two-way defenseman, is the most promising, with players like Michael Funk, Denis Denisov and Denis Ezhov likely to be career minor leaguers with occasional time on a third pairing in the NHL. Buffalo also lacks depth in goal with none besides Miller in its Top 20 prospects.
Top Prospects: Thomas Vanek (F), Ryan Miller (G), Derek Roy (F), Jason Pominville (F) and Drew Stafford (F).
Not Eligible: Taylor Pyatt and Jeff Jillson due to career NHL games played.
13. Phoenix Coyotes (5)
Strengths: There is one word that best describes the future of the Coyotes up front: big. There’s plenty of size with the forwards, especially down the middle. Jakub Koreis, Kiel McLeod and the newly drafted Blake Wheeler are all beefy forwards the team has amassed. There’s also a great sprinkling of speed throughout the organization, the showcase trait of both Fredrik Sjostrom and Enver Lisin. On the blueline, the mix is equally divided between slick offensive types such as Keith Ballard and gritty physical players like Matthew Spiller.
Weaknesses: A lot of the size up front comes attached with another word: potential. Whether or not all the players pan out will dictate Phoenix’s future success. Phoenix is slowly gaining depth through the drafting of “safer” prospects, however a large number of projects remain. The forward wings, especially on the left side, are shallow. As for goaltending, they have all of the eggs in David Leneveu’s basket.
Top Prospects: Keith Ballard (D), David Leneveu (G), Fredrik Sjostrom (F), Matthew Spiller (D), Matt Jones (D) and Blake Wheeler (F).
Not Eligible: Jeff Taffe and Krystofer Kolanos due to career NHL games played.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets (8)
Strengths: Aside from the blueline, the Columbus Blue Jackets boast a potential franchise player at every position. Alexandre Picard, Danny Fritsche and Nikolai Zherdev together occupy all three forward positions. Between the pipes, the Blue Jackets also have former first round selection Pascal Leclaire, who continues to improve his professional game with the AHL Syracuse Crunch.
Weaknesses: One weakness is the abundancy of ‘project’ players. Arsi Piispanen, Adam Pineault and Andrei Plehanov are all excellent prospects, however, they have several years of development ahead of them and aren’t close to being guaranteed a smooth road. Also, the Blue Jackets lack significant depth at any position, and despite having five NHL Entry Drafts under their belt, do not have much to brag about beyond their high profile prospects.
Top Prospects: Nikolai Zherdev (F), Danny Fritsche (F), Pascal Leclaire (G), Adam Pineault (F), Alexandre Picard (F).
Not Eligible: Andrej Nedorost due to age. Rick Nash due to career NHL games played.
11. Los Angeles Kings (13)
Strengths: Los Angeles possesses an impressive group of defenders on the blueline beginning with Denis Grebeshkov and Tim Gleason who are ready to play in any game situation. Up front, the Kings boast plenty of depth, especially at the wings and a lot of their forwards play a physical hard-nosed game. Notable top six forwards include Dustin Brown, Jeff Tambellini, Lauri Tukonen and Mike Cammalleri.
Weaknesses: The forward ranks are filled with projects, especially down the middle, and there isn’t much in terms of pure scoring potential. Goaltending continues to be a sore point, featuring some projects but no sure-fire NHLers.
Top Prospects: Denis Grebeshkov (D), Dustin Brown (F), Lauri Tukonen (F), Tim Gleason (D), and Jeff Tambellini (F).
Not Eligible: Alexander Frolov due to career NHL games played.
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