Hockey’s Future Spring 2005 Organizational Rankings (1-15)

By HF Staff

Hockey’s Future’s 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 can be found here, and 1-15 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.

15. Philadelphia Flyers

Strengths: The Flyers have very good depth at center with Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, R.J. Umberger and Patrick Sharp. Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg has gotten his feet wet at the NHL level and will be a mainstay on the Flyers blueline for years. Bernd Bruckler, Rejean Beauchemin, David Tremblay and Dov Grumet-Morris are all legitimate goaltending prospects, though none are blue chippers.
Weaknesses: The graduation of Joni Pitkanen, and the trades of Vandermeer and Jeff Woywitka, left the Flyers with very little defensive depth. They are also a little thin on the wings, with Stefan Ruzicka the top prospect at the position.
Top Prospects: Jeff Carter (C), Mike Richards (C), R.J. Umberger (C), Stefan Ruzicka (RW) and Patrick Sharp (C).

14. Atlanta Thrashers

Strengths: The strength of the Thrashers organization lies in blue chippers Kari Lehtonen and Braydon Coburn, both of whom would have played in the NHL this season. Defense is the Thrashers most solid category, with seven of the top 10 prospects at this position. Boris Valabik, Nathan Oystrick and Brian Sipotz fill the stay at home role, while Grant Lewis and Jim Sharrow are more offensive. The Thrashers also have several good two-way forwards in Jim Slater, Derek MacKenzie and Karl Stewart.
Weaknesses: There’s not much offensive talent in the pool to serve as secondary scoring behind Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk. Most of Atlanta’s forward prospects are safe bets, guys who work hard but have little “home run” potential.
Top Prospects: Kari Lehtonen (G), Braydon Coburn (D), Boris Valabik (D), Jim Slater (C) and Grant Lewis (D).

13. Florida Panthers

Strengths: The Panthers are very strong down the middle, with three of the organization’s top prospects listed at center with Nathan Horton, Rotislav Olesz, and Dany Roussin as well as four others in their top 20. Florida is stocked with sizeable forwards who are more than willing to play an aggressive, physical, style of play. Anthony Stewart, Rob Globke, and Horton all clearly fit the mold of power forwards and all three will play professional hockey at the start of the 2005 season. The team also has a number of very large defensemen in the system. In general, the Panthers possess tremendous size in their young prospects.
Weaknesses: Since the graduation of Jay Bouwmeester, the Panthers do not have a top notch defensive prospect. This past season Lukas Krajicek did not play as well as anticipated in the AHL, and Filip Novak struggled to come back from missing an entire season of hockey due to injury. Depth at goaltending is another issue. David Shantz played well when getting playing time in the OHL, but was unable to secure the starting job, and he is the only goaltending prospect of note in the Panthers system.
Top Prospects: Nathan Horton (C), Rotislav Olesz (C), Anthony Stewart (RW), Stefan Meyer (LW), Dany Roussin (C).

12. Minnesota Wild

Strengths: It’s not difficult to imagine the four best centers the Wild have in the system, Patrick O’Sullivan, Mikko Koivu, Rickard Wallin and Adam Courchaine, all effectively fulfilling roles in the NHL one day. Aside from center, the Wild have a top tier goaltending prospect in the form of Josh Harding, who as an AHL rookie posted a 2.01 GAA and .930 save percentage in 32 games this season.
Weaknesses: After Harding, the Wild’s goaltending depth can be called into question, as it’s unlikely any of their other netminders will reach the NHL in notable fashion. Another weakness for the Wild is a lack of offensive wingers. Roman Voloshenko, although skilled, has some issues that might keep him from fulfilling his potential. Minnesota has only three or four other notable wingers, but they are still considerably less than sure bets.
Top Prospects: Patrick O’Sullivan (C), Mikko Koivu (C), Brent Burns (D), Josh Harding (G), and A.J. Thelen (D).

11. Columbus Blue Jackets

Strengths: The Blue Jackets have a little bit of everything in a fairly well balanced group of prospects. With Nik Zherdev in the system, Columbus possesses a potential elite scoring forward. Dan Fritsche and Alexandre Picard are two players who can score while bringing an aggressive, physical style of play. The team also possesses very good depth at the forward position, including smaller, highly-skilled players such as Sergei Mozyakin and Joakim Lindstrom, and role players like Tim Konsorada and Tim Jackman. Pascal Leclaire is the goaltender of the future for this organization.
Weaknesses: Columbus doesn’t have any elite level defenders, and even with Aaron Johnson, Ole Tollefsen, and Kyle Wharton, there is no great depth across the blue line. Beyond Leclaire there also is little in terms of goaltending depth, although Daniel Lacosta’s second half was much more promising than the first.
Top Prospects: Nik Zherdev (RW), Pascal Leclaire (G), Dan Fritsche (C), Alexandre Picard (LW), Adam Pineault (RW).

10. Buffalo Sabres

Strengths: Buffalo’s prospect pool is loaded with quality forwards. Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford and Daniel Paille are all projected top six forwards. Goaltender Ryan Miller had a great season with the Rochester Americans in the AHL, winning the league’s outstanding goaltender award and could backstop the Sabres for years.
Weaknesses: Outside of Denis Ezhov and Nathan Paetsch, the Sabres future blueline is pretty thin. Buffalo also lacks quality goaltending prospects behind Miller, with only two, neither of which are highly ranked. After Vanek and Paille, the left wing depth is questionable.
Top Prospects: Ryan Miller (G), Thomas Vanek (LW), Derek Roy (C), Jason Pominville (RW) and Drew Stafford (RW).

9. Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Strengths: Anaheim has great depth both up front and on the blueline. Led by Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, the forward corps features plenty of players capable of contributing on both ends of the ice. Getzlaf, Chris Kunitz and Mikael Holmqvist are among the forwards who could play in Anaheim when play resumes. On the blueline, Ladislav Smid, Mark Popovic and Kurtis Foster are three who could also play for the Ducks immediately. Behind them, there is depth in Jordan Smith, Shane O’Brien and Kyle Klubertanz.
Weaknesses: Anaheim is desperately lean when it comes to goaltending. Ilya Bryzgalov is no longer eligible as a prospect and just getting to the NHL would be an accomplishment for either Gabriel Bouthillette or Eddie Ferhi. A power play quarterback needs to be found within the current pool or drafted.
Top Prospects: Ryan Getzlaf (C), Ladislav Smid (D), Corey Perry (RW), Chris Kunitz (LW) and Mark Popovic (D).

8. Los Angeles Kings

Strengths: Los Angeles showed off their impressive collection of prospects this season in Manchester. The breakout seasons of Yannick Lehoux and Brian Boyle boost an already good crop of forwards that include Dustin Brown, Jeff Tambellini, Lauri Tukonen, Mike Cammalleri, and Konstantin Pushkarev. The Kings blueline of the future with be anchored by Tim Gleason and Denis Grebeshkov who are both NHL ready. The underrated Richard Petiot just wrapped up his college career and will begin next season in Manchester.
Weaknesses: Lack of blue chip goaltending prospects has always been the Kings’ Achilles heel and there are no sure-fire NHLers in the pipeline at this time. After Gleason, Grebeshkov and Petiot, the Kings are a little thin on quality defensive prospects.
Top Prospects: Denis Grebeshkov (D), Dustin Brown (RW), Tim Gleason (D), Michael Cammalleri (C), and Lauri Tukonen (RW).

7. New York Rangers

Strengths: The Rangers made a lot of prospect acquisitions and now must wait for them to mature. In goal, Henrik Lundqvist and Al Montoya are both solid prospects with bright futures. On defense, Fedor Tyutin and Maxim Kondratiev could see significant time in the NHL as soon as next season. Up front, all roles are filled, with power forward Hugh Jessiman, sniper Jozef Balej, two-way forward Jarkko Immonen and agitator Brandon Dubinsky.
Weaknesses: New York has solid depth throughout, but there are still some areas they can improve upon. There are still a number of questions with a large part of their forward corps in terms of whether or not these players can fulfill their potential. Meanwhile, there are only three goaltenders in the system, and while the quality is outstanding, extra depth would not hurt.
Top Prospects: Fedor Tjutin (D), Henrik Lundqvist (G), Al Montoya (G), Jozef Balej (RW), and Jarkko Immonen (C).

6. Edmonton Oilers

Strengths: The Oilers have done a lot in recent years to radically increase the NHL potential of their prospect pool. There is a plethora of power forwards and playmakers beginning their professional careers as well as tremendous blueline depth. In goal, Edmonton can feel confident that between Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk they have competent goaltending to last them for many years to come. Rob Schremp and Marc-Antoine Pouliot headline a group of Oiler prospects who put up a lot of points during 2004-05.
Weaknesses: Edmonton has insufficient offense from the blueline and also lack goal scoring. Adding skilled forwards and defensemen who can control a power play are two essential needs to be filled.
Top Prospects: Rob Schremp (C), Marc-Antoine Pouliot (C), Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers (G), Devan Dubnyk (G), and Matt Greene (D).

5. Nashville Predators

Strengths: The Nashville Predators foundation is their blue line, perhaps the best group of defensive prospects in the league, lead by Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, and Kevin Klein. Nashville’s forwards are a more hit or miss group, highlighted by snipers Alexander Radulov, Konstantin Glazachev and Timofei Shishkanov, as well as character forwards such as the oft-injured Scottie Upshall and Brandon Segal. The organization possesses a strong combination of talent and grit.
Weaknesses: Nashville lacks top flight centermen and goaltending is also an issue. The Predators lack a true potential No. 1 goaltender, with only injury-prone Brian Finley coming close to that claim. They do have quantity, however, with seven prospect goaltenders in the stable.
Top Prospects: Ryan Suter (D), Shea Weber (D), Alexander Radulov (RW), Scottie Upshall (RW) and Brian Finley (G).

4. Montreal Canadiens

Strengths: Montreal has a plethora of very dangerous offensive forwards in their system. With Andrei Kostitsyn, Alex Perezhogin, and Tomas Plekanec, the Habs have three exciting and explosive threats up front who will provide the offense for the Canadiens in the future. Chris Higgins and Kyle Chipchura, who missed most of the past season due to an Achilles injury but returned to be a solid performer in the WHL playoffs, provide the team with two high profile two-way prospects. With three goaltenders in the top 20, the Canadiens also have good prospect depth between the pipes starting with Yann Danis.
Weaknesses: The Canadiens are lacking in defensive prospects. Ron Hainsey, the team’s top defenseman, has failed to live up to the expectations of being the 13th overall pick in 2000, but remains a potential NHL player. Others in the system are unspectacular as a whole, and many of them are high risk to ever make the NHL.
Top Prospects: Alex Perezhogin (RW), Andrei Kostsitsyn (RW), Chris Higgins (LW), Yann Danis (G), and Kyle Chipchura (C).

3. Chicago Blackhawks

Strengths: The Hawks have a trio of defensemen that every team in the league would love to have just one of. Cam Barker, Anton Babchuk and Brent Seabrook make up a powerful defensive corps that will be good at keeping the puck out of their net but succeed at scoring at the other end. Rene Bourque had a breakout year and was named the AHL’s Rookie of the Year. OHLer Dave Bolland is the top ranked prospect forward and should have a long career. Corey Crawford leads a list of potential goaltenders.
Weaknesses: The Russians Chicago has drafted over the years are getting to the point where they need to make an impact, but Pavel Vorobiev, Mikhail Yakubov and Alex Kojevnikov have stagnated in their development.
Top Prospects: Cam Barker (D), Brent Seabrook (D), Anton Babchuk (D), Corey Crawford (G), and Craig Anderson (G).

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

Strengths: In the last two NHL drafts, Pittsburgh has secured both a No. 1 goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury and a No. 1 center, Russian phenom Evgeny Malkin. Beyond those two players lies an impressive crop. The duo of Ryan Whitney and Noah Welch represent the best blueline prospects on the club, both of whom figure to be top four defensemen. Behind Fleury is Andy Chiodo, who has continued to earn time in the net alongside Fleury in Wilkes-Barre. With potential role players like Maxime Talbot, Colby Armstrong, and Ben Eaves, and a couple of highly thought of European scorers like Sergei Anshakov, and Johannes Salmonsson, the Penguins have displayed a knack for finding good players past the first round.
Weaknesses: Although talented, Pittsburgh’s wingers are not sure NHLers. The shine has worn off of Marc-Andre Fleury’s star a bit, and he will have to prove why he deserved to be taken No. 1 overall.
Top Prospects: Evgeni Malkin (C), Marc-Andre Fleury (G), Ryan Whitney (D), Noah Welch (D), and Colby Armstrong (RW).

1. Washington Capitals

Strengths: The Capitals boast both quality and quantity in their prospect pool, starting with Alexander Ovechkin, who some have claimed is the best Russian prospect ever drafted. Beyond Ovechkin, the Capitals have several other forwards who have great potential for the NHL. Alexander Semin is a very skilled offensive winger, while 2003 first round draft choice Eric Fehr could become a terrific sniper. The Capitals are holding their own in goaltending as well, with two Maximes. Maxime Ouellet heads the list of potential NHL masked men, and behind him is Maxime Daigneault. Many in the Capitals Top 20 will move immediately into the NHL when it resumes.
Weaknesses: Defense would be the weakest area for the Capitals. Beyond Steve Eminger, Shaone Morrisonn, there are a few that are surefire NHLers, but most are years away from contributing.
Top Prospects: Alexander Ovechkin (LW), Alexander Semin (LW), Maxime Ouellet (G), Eric Fehr (RW), and Steve Eminger (D).

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