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. Teams ranked 16-30 are found below.
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, please visit the various team, league, or country pages here at Hockey’s Future.
30. Colorado Avalanche
Strengths: With Wojtek Wolski, Marek Svatos, and Brad Richardson, the Avalanche have a trio of forward prospects who have demonstrated an ability to put up a lot of points in junior hockey, and Svatos had a pretty good first full season of AHL play. These three players will be counted on to produce in the NHL.
Weaknesses: Overall, the Avalanche lack quality depth at every position. The team is very weak in defensive prospects and lacks any prospect with top pairing potential, and may not even get a top four defenseman out of the current crop. Peter Budaj has had a strong season in the AHL, but questions remain if he has the ability to evolve into a starting goaltender for the Avalanche.
Top Prospects: Wojtek Wolski (LW), Marek Svatos (RW), Peter Budaj (G), Johnny Boychuck (D), and Sean Collins (C).
29. Tampa Bay Lightning
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, and Matt Smaby. 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. When a defensive defenseman like Egener tops a list, it’s a sign of trouble. Quality goaltending is a particular weakness for the Lightning organization. Although they have five goaltending prospects, none are regarded as top prospects. Center is another very thin position.
Top Prospects: Mike Egener (D), Adam Henrich (LW), Andy Rogers (D), Alexander Polushin (RW) and Darren Reid (RW).
28. Carolina Hurricanes
Strengths: Over recent years the Hurricanes have stockpiled goaltending prospects above all else. Their top prospect is Cam Ward, who had the fourth-best goals against average in the AHL this season as a rookie, and right behind him is Kevin Nastiuk, currently with the Medicine Hat Tigers. Justin Peters, Rob Zepp, Craig Kowalski, and Magnus Akerlund make Carolina the most goalie-rich Top 20 list in the league. Beyond goaltending, 2004 pick Andrew Ladd is considered a top quality forward prospect the ‘Canes can add to their rebuilding front lines and Danny Richmond is a solid offensive blueliner.
Weaknesses: Aside from Ladd, the Hurricanes have few solid prospects outside of the crease. The Hurricanes could add in every area.
Top Prospects: Cam Ward (G), Andrew Ladd (LW), Kevin Nastiuk (G), Danny Richmond (D) and Justin Peters (G).
27. Toronto Maple Leafs
Strengths: Toronto is very top heavy when it comes to their prospect depth as two very good players lead the way by a fair margin over the rest of the field. Carlo Colaiacovo on the blueline and Alexander Steen up front are the two blue chippers that the Leafs have in their system but there are a handful of depth players to help fill out at least a quality AHL team. Kyle Wellwood, Ian White, Jeremy Williams and Brendan Bell all performed admirably for the Baby Leafs during their final year in St. John’s.
Weaknesses: The overall depth of the Leafs prospect system leaves much to be desired, especially when it comes to NHL caliber forwards. Perhaps the biggest positional concern is in net although Pogge enjoyed an improved year after being dealt from Prince George to Calgary.
Top Prospects: Carlo Colaiacovo (D), Alexander Steen (C), Kyle Wellwood (C), Robert Earl (W), Ian White (D).
26. New York Islanders
Strengths: The Islanders are the strongest at center with the likes of gritty Petteri Nokelainen, speedy Sean Bergenheim and checker Justin Mapletoft. Wingers are also strong, with Robert Nilsson and two–way Jeremy Colliton leading the way. On defense, the Islanders are solid, but not spectacular, with Chris Campoli and Wes O’Neill heading up the group.
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 lack of a true crease-clearing rearguard needs to be addressed.
Top Prospects: Petteri Nokelainen (C), Sean Bergenheim (C), Robert Nilsson (LW), Justin Mapletoft (C), and Jeremy Colliton (RW).
25. Detroit Red Wings
Strengths: Up front, Jiri Hudler and Igor Grigorenko may lead the Red Wings future offensive attack. On the blueline, Detroit is looking for Niklas Kronwall to be able to step in and contribute as soon as play resumes. Meanwhile a starting goaltender could be found in either Jim Howard and Stefan Liv.
Weaknesses: Detroit’s lack of first round selections has hurt them, as none of their prospects are close to being sure bets. Even with their top prospects, there are question marks. The organization lacks size and additional depth, especially on the wings, would help.
Top Prospects: Niklas Kronwall (D), Jiri Hudler (C), Igor Grigorenko (RW), James Howard (G), and Valtteri Filppula (C).
24. Vancouver Canucks
Strengths: One area of strength for the Canucks is goaltending. With Alexander Auld, Cory Schneider, and Julien Ellis, the Canucks are set in net for some time. Auld played well while in net for the AHL Manitoba Moose and had a good showing at the Spengler Cup. Despite a bad game at the WJC’s, Schneider had a very strong college season, and Ellis was the voted the best goaltender in the QMJHL after carrying Shawinigan to a playoff spot. The Canucks also possess a number of talented defensemen who can contribute on the scoresheet in Kirill Koltsov, Tomas Mojzis, and Brett Skinner, who emerged this season after a very strong collegiate season.
Weaknesses: The Canucks have a very weak group of forwards. They lack any true first line talents, and many of their top forwards are question marks. Ryan Kesler’s offensive ability at the NHL level is doubted, Jason King suffers from inconsistent bouts, Evgeny Gladskikh and Ilya Krikunov are small and had rough seasons, and Marc-Andre Bernier is not nearly physical enough for a player of his size. The team also is missing a physically imposing defensive prospect.
Top Prospects: Ryan Kesler (C), Jason King (RW), Alexander Auld (G), Kirill Koltsov (D), and Cory Schneider (G).
23. Dallas Stars
Strengths: Trevor Daley, Shawn Belle and Mark Fistric lead a good crop of Stars defensive prospects. Forward prospects Antti Miettinen, Junior Lessard and Loui Eriksson could make Dallas one of the best two-way teams in the NHL for years to come. Dan Ellis, Mike Smith and Tobias Stephan are quality goaltenders who provide plenty of depth between the pipes.
Weaknesses: Scoring. The Stars lack blue chip prospects, in particular snipers and playmakers. They are also in need of some more size up front.
Top Prospects: Trevor Daley (D), Shawn Belle (D), Loui Eriksson (RW), Antti Miettinen (LW), and Jussi Jokinen (LW).
22. St. Louis Blues
Strengths: The Blues have quality at the goaltending position with former first round picks Marek Schwarz and Jason Bacashihua as their top two prospects. The Blues’ forwards include solid two-way players Jay McClement and Michal Birner, a pure skill player in Alexei Shkotov, and potential power forwards such as David Backes and Carl Soderberg.
Weaknesses: The Blues system lacks a true top-pairing defenseman, with Roman Polak as the top rated blueliner, and the talent on the wings as a group lags somewhat behind that of the crop of centers and goalies.
Top Prospects: Marek Schwarz (G), Jason Bacashihua (G), Jay McClement (C), Alexei Shkotov (RW) and David Backes (C).
21. Calgary Flames
Strengths: With arguably the top defensive prospect outside the NHL in their prospect stable, Calgary fans can look forward to seeing Dion Phaneuf in the lineup as soon as the CBA issues are settled. Tim Ramholt is another compliment to a young NHL defensive corps and Kris Chucko, Brandon Prust, Eric Nystrom and Dustin Boyd all fit the mold of the gritty, hard-working forwards that Darryl Sutter has identified as his focus for the organization.
Weaknesses: While the effort and the work ethic is clearly evident, where the offensive production will come from in the future is still a work in progress. Brent Krahn is the top goalie prospect for the organization and the jury is still out on whether he is projected to be a starter in the NHL. Blueline depth behind the big two is virtually non-existent.
Top Prospects: Dion Phaneuf (D), Kris Chuko (LW), Tim Ramholt (D), Brent Krahn (G), Dustin Boyd (C).
20. Boston Bruins
Strengths: Boston’s strong points are between the pipes and on defense. With Hannu Toivonen as their top prospect, goaltending won’t be a worry in Beantown in the coming years, especially with Andrew Raycroft already in top form. Meanwhile on the blueline, Mark Stuart continues to impress for Colorado College. Milan Jurcina and recent college grad Andrew Alberts provided key contributions for Providence in the AHL Calder Cup playoffs.
Weaknesses: As much as stopping pucks won’t be a cause for concern for Boston, scoring them might. The B’s forward corps lacks a game-breaking forward and is riddled with prospects who have become question marks, such as Andy Hilbert and Martin Samuelsson.
Top Prospects: Hannu Toivonen (G), Mark Stuart (D), Brad Boyes (C), Milan Jurcina (D) and Andy Hilbert (C).
19. Phoenix Coyotes
Strengths: The Coyotes are led by goalie David LeNeveu, who has NHL starter potential. Matthew Spiller and Keith Ballard will be looked upon to anchor the defense for years to come. The forward corps features an interesting blend of size with prospects like Jakub Koreis, Randall Gelech and Blake Wheeler, and speedsters Fredrik Sjostrom and Enver Lisin.
Weaknesses: Beyond LeNeveu, the Coyotes are extremely thin between the pipes. There are a few good positional prospects, though the talent level drops off significantly. Even though their pool is starting to get younger, Phoenix’s depth could drastically be depleted when some of higher end quality prospects graduate.
Top Prospects: David LeNeveu (G), Fredrik Sjostrom (RW), Matthew Spiller (D), Keith Ballard (D), Enver Lisin (RW).
18. Ottawa Senators
Strengths: The Senators are deep enough that they have talented players slotted in each position. Antoine Vermette is a dynamic middleman who is flanked by Brandon Bochenski and Patrick Eaves. Andrej Meszaros and Kirill Lyamin provide depth on the backend while Ray Emery, Jeff Glass and Billy Thompson more than shore up the goaltending duties. Several key Ottawa prospects enjoyed strong years including Roman Wick, a mid-round pick in 2004, who surpassed expectations and led all WHL rookies in scoring.
Weaknesses: While the depth is certainly there the NHL quality may not be. Past the top seven or eight players on the depth chart, many will likely not make it. There is also a noticeable lack of size amongst the Senators prospects pool on the forward lines.
Top Prospects: Antoine Vermette (C), Ray Emery (G), Andrej Meszaros (D), Patrick Eaves (RW), Alexei Kaigorodov (C).
17. San Jose Sharks
Strengths: San Jose is another organization that features solid depth throughout its ranks. Especially of note are their goaltenders, headlined by Germans Dimitri Patzold and Patrick Ehelechner. On the blueline, the future is a solid skating group who move the puck well, such as Christian Ehrhoff and Michael Vernace. Finally, up front the talent of Milan Michalek cannot be denied, despite barely playing in the last two years. Marcel Goc is ready to play in the NHL, while Steve Bernier and Josh Hennessy are two QMJHL players with bright futures.
Weaknesses: The Sharks still need to address their lack of depth on the wings and find forwards with top line offensive skill. That need becomes even greater if Michalek can’t come back and realize his full potential. Additional size both up front and on defense would help as well.
Top Prospects: Milan Michalek (LW), Christian Ehrhoff (D), Marcel Goc (C), Matt Carle (D) and Steve Bernier (RW).
16. New Jersey Devils
Strengths: Down the middle, New Jersey is one of the deepest franchises, with AHL rookie standout Zach Parise, 2004 first rounder Travis Zajac, as well as Petr Vrana, Ivan Khomutov and Adrian Foster. On the wings, the Devils feature Tuomas Pihlman and Barry Tallackson on left, and Russian Aleksander Suglobov, the surprising Aaron Voros, and Finn Teemu Laine on the right. Potential franchise goaltender Ari Ahonen continues to develop nicely with Albany, with junior Josh Disher behind him on the list. Most of New Jersey’s top prospects are already playing pro, so it shouldn’t be a long wait before they see NHL ice.
Weaknesses: Defense is the area of concern for the Devils, with only one strong prospect in 24-year-old Matt DeMarchi. Among forward prospects, aside from Suglobov, the Devils lack goal scoring talent on the left and right wings.
Top Prospects: Zach Parise (C), Aleksander Suglobov (RW), Ari Ahonen (G), Travis Zajac (C), and Aaron Voros (RW).
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