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 rankings were compiled twice a year 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.
16. Ottawa Senators
Strengths: With consistently impressive scouting, the Senators have good overall depth and array of different talents. Up front, Antoine Vermette, Brandon Bochenski and Patrick Eaves are all talented and on the verge of graduating, while Russian Super League superstar Alexei Kaigorodov remains overseas. The blue line was bolstered at the 2005 draft with the ninth overall selection, Brian Lee. He joins stud 2004 pick Andrej Meszaros as well as Kiril Lyamin and Christoph Schubert on a backend with skill and size. Although he struggled in 2004-05, Ray Emery remains the goalie of the future, with Billy Thompson and 2005 CHL Goalie of the Year Jeff Glass behind him.
Weaknesses: Although this is a well-rounded group, the club does not have a truly elite, cornerstone prospect. This is particularly evident up front, where players like Vermette and Eaves may top out as great complimentary players. With several rookies in the Ottawa lineup this season, this group may look weak in a year’s time.
Top Prospects: Antoine Vermette (C), Ray Emery (G), Andrej Meszaros (D), Patrick Eaves (RW), Brian Lee (D)
17. Florida Panthers
Strengths: The Panthers are very strong up front, with their top four prospects all at forward. Three are sizeable forwards who are more than willing to play an aggressive, physical, style of play. Nathan Horton, Kenndal McArdle and Anthony Stewart all clearly fit the mold of a power forward, while Rostislav Olesz is more of a slick playmaker. 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: Overall depth is a problem in the system. The top defensive prospect is Lukas Krajicek but there is not much behind him. Tyler Plante was picked up in 2005 to address the absence of a top goaltending prospect.
Top Prospects: Nathan Horton (C), Rostislav Olesz (C), Kenndal McArdle (LW), Anthony Stewart (RW), Lukas Krajicek (D)
18. New Jersey Devils
Strengths: New Jersey still holds most of their depth at center, with players like Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and Petr Vrana at the top. They have some solid players on wing, with Tuomas Pihlman and Barry Tallackson the strongest on left wing. On the right, Russian Aleksander Suglobov has put up respectable numbers with the Albany River Rats, and newly drafted Swede Niklas Bergfors shows tremendous promise as the goal-scoring prospect that New Jersey needs. The Devils also found a strong goaltending prospect in the 2005 draft with 18-year-old Jeff Frazee, who has potential as a starter.
Weaknesses: New Jersey has done very little to improve their pool of defensive prospects, and beyond Matt DeMarchi, Mark Fraser and Tyler Eckford, there isn’t much potential. Of concern among the forward prospects, the Devils still have very few potential high scorers, and they have questionable depth on left wing. Overall, New Jersey has very few impact players at any position, and a severe drop in talent behind their top prospects.
Top Prospects: Zach Parise (C), Aleksander Suglobov (RW), Travis Zajac (C), Niklas Bergfors (RW), Petr Vrana (C)
19. Boston Bruins
Strengths: The Bruins are still strongest between the pipes and on defense, and they continue to demonstrate a strong scouting system with several surprising mid to late round picks such as Andrew Alberts and Milan Jurcina. Top prospect Hannu Toivonen has made his NHL debut, and behind him, the goaltending depth is solid. On the blue line, Mark Stuart will continue his development in Providence, and top 2005 draft pick Matt Lashoff has a promising future as an offensive defenseman. Brad Boyes and Colton Orr have both made the roster in Boston.
Weaknesses: The Bruins still lack a clear top-line scorer, and they have many offensive prospects that are questionable to make an impact in the NHL at all. They are weakest at left wing, with Martin Samuelsson at the top of the list and on the verge of becoming an NHL bust. The promotion of players like Jurcina and Alberts to the NHL, along with the imminent departure of such prospects as Lars Jonsson from the B’s system, will leave a few holes on defense.
Top Prospects: Hannu Toivonen (G), Mark Stuart (D), Brad Boyes (C), Matt Lashoff (D) Milan Jurcina (D)
20. Calgary Flames
Strengths: Two words, Dion Phaneuf. This imposing youngster has the Flames staff delighted as he has very much lived up to his billing early on with the main club. At press time, Phaneuf was leading the Flames in shots and third on the team in average ice time, while being featured on the first power play unit. Beyond Phaneuf, the Flames used the 2005 draft to bolster their defensive depth, adding first rounder Matt Pelech, and defensive specialist Gord Baldwin. The Flames also have decent depth in checking line forwards, led by Eric Nystrom.
Weaknesses: Obviously a lack of top-end scoring talent is noticeable on the Flames prospect list. They did little to address this in the recent NHL entry draft and must examine this deficiency to build a more complete prospect group. There is a large dropoff in talent in the pool after the first couple entries.
Top Prospects: Dion Phaneuf (D), Kris Chucko (LW), Eric Nystrom (LW), Dustin Boyd (C), Brent Krahn (G)
21. Dallas Stars
Strengths: It’s not often an NHL team’s top three prospects are defensemen, but it is so with Dallas. Trevor Daley, Shawn Belle, and Matt Niskanen are three prospects any organization would love to have on their blue line. With the Stars’ commitment to two-way play, it’s no shock that they possess several very good two-way forwards. The Stars also possess pretty impressive depth, though not necessarily quality, in goal.
Weaknesses: The Stars forward corps lacks depth and they lack any game-breaking offensive threats. Beyond Daley, their defensemen are strictly defensive types so they could use more puck movement from their backend.
Top Prospects: Trevor Daley (D), Shawn Belle (D), Matt Niskanen (D), Jussi Jokinen (C), Loui Eriksson (RW)
22. Carolina Hurricanes
Strengths: Over recent years the Hurricanes have stockpiled goaltending prospects. Their top prospect is Cam Ward, who had the fourth-best goals against average in the AHL last season as a rookie and opened eyes with his strong play early in his NHL rookie season. Right behind him is Kevin Nastiuk, currently with the Medicine Hat Tigers. Six netminders in the pool makes Carolina the most goalie-rich in the league in terms of quantity. Beyond goaltending, 2004 pick Andrew Ladd is considered a top quality forward prospect the ‘Canes can add to their rebuilding front lines and Jack Johnson is a very solid blueliner.
Weaknesses: The Hurricanes severely lack depth in all positions. The situation is especially dire on the wings up front. But stocking and developing a farm system is low priority for the team at this juncture; they are currently sharing an AHL affiliation with Colorado in Lowell.
Top Prospects: Cam Ward (G), Andrew Ladd (LW), Jack Johnson (D), Danny Richmond (D), Kevin Nastiuk (G)
23. Detroit Red Wings
Strengths: Igor Grigorenko re-established himself as a viable prospect after a terrible car accident put his future in question. He’s joined up front on the Red Wings list by Jiri Hudler and Johan Franzen. The latter has stepped directly into the Red Wings lineup and has contributed as a character forward. Meanwhile, Niklas Kronwall is expected to be a stud on defense and Jimmy Howard has the potential to be a starting goaltender. The Red Wings have done well considering they often are drafting from a very low position and have been known to sacrifice picks in order to add to their current lineup.
Weaknesses: Kronwall needs to stay healthy. After missing large parts of the 2003-04 season with a broken leg, he currently isn’t expected back until February thanks to knee troubles. Behind him on the blue line, there’s very little, although drafting Jakub Kindl did help. Obviously, more high caliber prospects would help a lot, although the same could be said for most organizations.
Top Prospects: Niklas Kronwall (D), Igor Grigorenko (RW), James Howard (G), Jiri Hudler (C), Valtteri Filppula (C)
24. Vancouver Canucks
Strengths: The Canucks boast one of the most impressive groups of goaltending prospects among all NHL franchises. In 2004 the team selected Cory Schneider in the first round, and the young American had an outstanding freshman season in the NCAA ranks. They also used a later pick to take Julien Ellis, a QMJHL goaltender who fell several rounds on draft day, but was the most dominant goalie in the Q last season. In the recent NHL Entry Draft, the team picked up another Q goalie in Alexandre Vincent. All three possess the potential to develop into NHL starting goaltenders. The team also has a respectable group of defensemen who can contribute on the score sheet with former NCAA standout Brett Skinner, enigmatic Russian defenseman Kiril Koltsov, AHLer Tomas Mojzis, and 2005 first round pick Luc Bourdon.
Weaknesses: The Canucks forward group is extremely weak. They do not have a single prospect in the system who can be relied on to develop into a consistent goal scorer at the NHL level. Winger Jason King has been mired with concussion problems since the end of last season and no return date is set. Recently acquired Jozef Balej has scoring potential, but has yet to put it all together in the pro ranks and is slightly undersized. The team desperately needs a prolific goal-scoring prospect to add some offensive punch to the system.
Top Prospects: Ryan Kesler (C), Luc Bourdon (D), Cory Schneider (G), Jason King (RW), Kevin Bieksa (D)
25. Phoenix Coyotes
Strengths: While goaltender David LeNeveu is their top prospect, the real story is on the blue line. Keith Ballard and Zybnek Michalek are both playing for the Coyotes in the NHL. Meanwhile, Matthew Spiller has half a year of NHL experience and could soon be challenging to return. Up front, Fredrik Sjostrom has just graduated, but Enver Lisin, Martin Hanzal and Blake Wheeler all provide plenty of depth and potential. There are a lot of gritty players throughout the organization.
Weaknesses: There are still plenty of question marks all over the roster and a definite lack of top-end talent up front. The majority of Phoenix’s prospects appear to be of the boom or bust flavor. Drafting Pier-Olivier Pelletier has helped with goaltending depth, but a few more bodies would help.
Top Prospects: David LeNeveu (G), Fredrik Sjostrom (RW), Matthew Spiller (D), Enver Lisin (RW), Keith Ballard (D)
26. Colorado Avalanche
Strengths: With the development of Wojtek Wolski, Marek Svatos, and Brad Richardson, combined with a very strong 2005 draft class featuring Ryan Stoa, Paul Stastny, Chris Durand, Tom Fritsche, and T.J. Hensick, the Avs have suddenly re-established their forward pool with an array of top-six talent. Wolski and Svatos are the most NHL-ready of the bunch, and have been impressive early in the 2005-06 NHL season. Between the pipes, Peter Budaj has established himself as the backup net minder in Denver.
Weaknesses: From a defensive standpoint, the Avalanche are clearly in the bottom echelon for NHL prospects. They lack any true top-pair talents, with Johnny Boychuk as the only legitimate prospect with a realistic shot at making the Avs in the near future. Additional depth on the wing and between the pipes would be beneficial as well.
Top Prospects: Wojtek Wolski (LW), Ryan Stoa (C), Marek Svatos (RW), Paul Stastny (C), Peter Budaj (G)
27. New York Islanders
Strengths: The strongest position for the Islanders is at center, a position that was solidified by the drafting of promising young OHL standout Ryan O’Marra. Also at center, top ranking prospect Petteri Nokelainen looks to make an impact with the big club this season, and after an impressive camp, Sean Bergenheim will continue play in Bridgeport. Robert Nilsson and Jeremy Colliton also continue to play well, and head a solid, but not impressive group of wingers. On defense, the Islanders have a few solid prospects, with Chris Campoli, Bruno Gervais and Dustin Kohn heading that list.
Weaknesses: The biggest deficiency in the Isles system is at the goaltending position, and without any new prospects in this year’s draft, it could create a problem down the line. Overall they could use more depth at every position, especially on defense.
Top Prospects: Petteri Nokelainen (C), Ryan O’Marra (C) Sean Bergenheim (C), Robert Nilsson (LW), Jeremy Colliton (RW)
28. Toronto Maple Leafs
Strengths: The Leafs have some talented prospects at the top of their list. Alexander Steen is an all-round talent who has come over to Toronto after two strong developmental years in Sweden, and been very impressive. Carlo Colaiacovo is a solid blue line prospect, even if he has yet to stick with the big club. This past summer, with their first first-round selection since 2002, the club solidified itself in goal by selecting Tuukka Rask out of Finland. The Leafs have shown improved drafting ability beyond the first round as well, with prospects like Dimitri Vorobiev, Robbie Earl and Steffan Kronwall all taken in the fifth round or later.
Weaknesses: Overall depth remains a notable weakness for the organization, especially on the wings. The club has far too often sacrificed prospects and draft picks in trades for veteran talent, although this may have to change in the new economic world.
Top Prospects: Alexander Steen (C), Carlo Colaiacovo (D), Tuukka Rask (G), Kyle Wellwood (C), Dimitri Vorobiev (D)
29. St. Louis Blues
Strengths: Up front, Jay McClement has already taken his two-way game to the NHL. Meanwhile, Alexei Shkotov and newly drafted T.J. Oshie both have offensive potential. The future of the blue line recently received a shot in the arm thanks to the selection of Scott Jackson in the draft and acquiring Doug Lynch and Jeff Woywitka from the Edmonton Oilers. Finally, between the pipes, Marek Schwarz is the Blues top prospect, while Jason Bacashihua provides some quality depth.
Weaknesses: There are a lot of questions with most of the Blues prospects on whether or not they will be able to make it to the NHL and produce when they get there. The Blues have been consistently competitive over the years and have not been as fortunate in finding gems in the later rounds as most teams. It also doesn’t help that the organization doesn’t shy away from dealing away picks. As a result, a lot of their prospects have an uncertain future, while the players who could be considered a bit more sure-fire have a limited ceiling.
Top Prospects: Marek Schwarz (G), T.J. Oshie (C), Scott Jackson (D), Alexei Shkotov (RW) Jason Bacashihua (G)
30. Tampa Bay Lightning
Strengths: Tampa Bay’s future is looking up, but that could be just because the majority of their prospects are well above six feet tall. The Lightning have plenty of towers on defense, headlined by Mike Egener and newly drafted Vladimir Mihalik. Paul Ranger has already suited up this year for Tampa Bay on the blue line. Up front, Adam Henrich and Alexander Polushin highlight what is mainly a group of checkers and character forwards. Meanwhile, forwards Evgeni Artukhin and Nick Tarnasky have also seen NHL ice time this year.
Weaknesses: Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup victory came at a price — their prospect pool is bare. None of the players listed appear to be capable of developing into marquee players. This is especially apparent in goal, where there is a lot of quantity but the quality is suspect. But with Tampa Bay’s core players in the NHL still relatively young, they have enough time to restock.
Top Prospects: Mike Egener (D), Vladimir Mihalik (D), Adam Henrich (LW), Andy Rogers (D), Alexander Polushin (RW)
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