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. Teams ranked 16-30 are found here. 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.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
Strengths: The Penguins hit the prospect jackpot with the first overall pick in the 2005 draft, and added Sidney Crosby to an already stellar collection of players. Also at the top of the list is potential No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and potential No. 1 center, Russian phenom Evgeni Malkin, with Ryan Whitney and Noah Welch still representing the best of the blue line. Center Maxime Talbot and winger Michel Ouellet bring scoring potential, while 2005 draftee Kristopher Letang brings potential as an offensive defenseman. Pittsburgh can credit excellent scouting and a little draft day luck for creating one of the deepest, most diverse groups of talent in the League.
Weaknesses: The Pens may have talent across the board, but their weakest area is at left wing, where only a fraction of the players reside. They also lack an elite level offensive defenseman, and a top-line scorer on right wing.
Top Prospects: Sidney Crosby (C), Evgeni Malkin (C), Marc-Andre Fleury (G), Ryan Whitney (D), Noah Welch (D)
2. Washington Capitals
Strengths: The Capitals boast both quality and quantity in their prospect pool, starting with Alexander Ovechkin, who is making a strong debut with the club. 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. Many in the Capitals Top 20 are now on the NHL roster, including defensemen Steve Eminger and Shaone Morrisonn.
Weaknesses: Goaltending is the weakest area for the Capitals, with Maxime Daigneault heading the list of three unremarkable goalies. It’s an area that will need to be addressed in the coming draft.
Top Prospects: Alexander Ovechkin (LW), Alexander Semin (LW), Eric Fehr (RW), Steve Eminger (D), Shaone Morrisonn (D).
3. Chicago Blackhawks
Strengths: Defense is the predominant strength of the Blackhawks organization. Their prospect list is led by two potential powerplay quarterbacks in Cam Barker and Brent Seabrook. Behind those two, there are players like Anton Babchuk and Michal Barinka who provide plenty of depth. Up front, 2005 draft pick, Jack Skille headlines a decent group of forwards. Pavel Vorobiev and Rene Bourque have both started strong for the Blackhawks in their rookie year. Between the pipes, Corey Crawford could be another starting goaltender with Quebec League heritage.
Weaknesses: Chicago’s forward corps is simply not that impressive, especially when compared to their strength on the blue line. The emergence of Pavel Vorobiev, once thought to be a lost cause, has helped in this regard. A few more prospects in goal would help as well, after a recent housecleaning.
Top Prospects: Cam Barker (D), Brent Seabrook (D), Jack Skille (RW), Corey Crawford (G), Pavel Vorobiev (RW)
4. Los Angeles Kings
Strengths: The Kings impressive collection of young forwards got even better on draft day when Slovenian sensation Anze Kopitar fell to them at the 11th overall pick. He joined a forward corps that already includes Dustin Brown, Michael Cammalleri, Lauri Tukonen, Jeff Tambellini, Brian Boyle and Konstantin Pushkarev. Tim Gleason, Denis Grebeshkov, Richard Petiot, and Paul Baier are all blue chip defensive prospects, with others like TJ Fast and Patrik Hersley who are full of potential. For the first time in the history of the franchise, the Kings goaltending pipeline is showing promise. Betting on quantity, the Kings have ended up with several solid but unspectacular prospects. Recent draftee Jonathon Quick has the highest potential of the group, but Yutaka Fukufuji, Daniel Taylor and Matt Zaba are starting to make a name for themselves.
Weaknesses: The wave is cresting and several of the Kings elite prospects are going to graduate into regular NHL players. Although the goaltending situation is light years ahead of where it was a few years ago, it is still the weak point of the prospect pool.
Top Prospects: Dustin Brown (RW), Tim Gleason (D), Michael Cammalleri (C), Denis Grebeshkov (D), Anze Kopitar (C)
5. Nashville Predators
Strengths: The Predators have an impressive number of top-notch defense prospects with Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Ryan Parent and Kevin Klein. Suter and Weber both could evolve into top defensive pairing players who with game-changing skills. Suter is an outstanding all-around defenseman while Weber’s brute physicality puts him in the same mold of Adam Foote. Offensively the Predators possess a potential star in Alex Radulov, and beyond that have a pair of inconsistent wingers who might become second line offensive threats with Konstantin Glazachev and Timofei Shishkanov. Scottie Upshall brings an element of grit to the organization’s depth chart up front as well.
Weaknesses: The only gaping whole in the Predators’ prospect pool is at the goaltending position, where Teemu Lassila leads the back, but is yet to appear in a game in North America. The Predators lack the depth in their offensive prospects that would merit confidence that their existing pool can be absolutely counted on to produce more than one or two NHL players. The team’s group of forwards, save Upshall, also tends to be fairly soft, although this may be less of a problem if the new-look NHL proves to be friendlier to small, fast, and skilled players.
Top Prospects: Ryan Suter (D), Shea Weber (D), Alexander Radulov (RW), Ryan Parent (D), Scottie Upshall (RW)
6. Montreal Canadiens
Strengths: With talents such as Alex Perezhogin, Chris Higgins and Tomas Plekanec starting their NHL careers in 2005-06, the Canadiens have several gifted forwards. Combined with the explosive Andrei Kostsitsyn and junior-aged stars Kyle Chipchura and Guillaume Latendresse, the club’s future is more than set up front. Latendresse made waves in training camp, nearly forcing his way onto the opening night roster as an 18-year-old. The club’s situation in goal is almost as impressive as their group of forwards. Heading into the 2005 draft already having Yann Danis among others, they selected the highly-sought after Carey Price fifth overall.
Weaknesses: While the club is very strong up front and in between the pipes, the defense is almost as weak. Even the disappointing Ron Hainsey has now graduated, leaving Ryan O’Byrne as the best the Canadiens have to offer.
Top Prospects: Alex Perezhogin (RW), Andrei Kostsitsyn (RW), Carey Price (G), Chris Higgins (LW), Yann Danis (G)
7. New York Rangers
Strengths: The Rangers youth movement has paid off tremendously. With the season so young, seven of their prospects have already appeared in at least one NHL game this year. In the case of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, his contribution has been nothing short of spectacular. The Rangers also have former Team USA hero Al Montoya in their goaltending pipeline. Their defensive corps is extremely solid, especially after the additions of 2005 draft picks like Marc Staal and Michael Sauer. Up front, there’s plenty of depth.
Weaknesses: Despite all of New York’s depth, they could use a little bit more of it between the pipes. This is a case of quality, but not as much quantity. Meanwhile, there are a number of question marks in their forward corps. However, given the depth there, they can afford some players to miss.
Top Prospects: Fedor Tyutin (D), Henrik Lundqvist (G), Al Montoya (G), Marc Staal (D), Jarkko Immonen (C)
8. Columbus Blue Jackets
Strengths: The Blue Jackets have an impressively deep and diverse group of forwards in their system. Starting with future superstar sniper Nik Zherdev, the young organization has another future star in Gilbert Brule, a small but feisty center who they selected with the sixth overall pick in 2005. QMJHLer Alexandre Picard brings a gritty, all-out style of play to the organization. Despite being criticized as possessing little offensive upside, the gutsy winger scored 40 goals in the Q last season. American Adam Pineault is a developing power forward with a NHL-quality shot and Joakim Lindstrom is a small and shifty winger. The Jackets also have strong depth among their defense prospects.
Weaknesses: Despite having good depth for the future on the blue line, the team does not have a player who is projected to step into a top pairing role in the NHL at any point. Between the pipes, beyond Pascal Leclaire, the Jackets do not have any goalie prospects with strong potential or likelihood of making it to the NHL.
Top Prospects: Nikolai Zherdev (RW), Gilbert Brule (C), Alexandre Picard (LW), Dan Fritsche (C), Pascal Leclaire (G)
9. Anaheim Mighty Ducks
Strengths: Anaheim is strong up front with quality and quantity. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry benefited from the lockout and stepped right into the Ducks lineup. 2005 draft pick Bobby Ryan is picking up where Perry left off in offensive production in the OHL. Meanwhile the blue line features plenty of depth starting with Ladislav Smid and Brendan Mikkelson leading the way.
Weaknesses: Despite adding two goaltenders to the pipeline this summer, between the pipes is still a source of concern for the Ducks. Also a top defensive prospect would be a welcome addition on the blue line.
Top Prospects: Bobby Ryan (RW), Ryan Getzlaf (C), Ladislav Smid (D), Corey Perry (RW), Brendan Mikkelson (D)
10. Minnesota Wild
Strengths: The Wild remain strong down the middle with centers Patrick O’Sullivan and Mikko Koivu leading the pack. Both youngsters will play a major role in Minnesota’s future plans as they develop their skill set. Fortune also appeared to be smiling upon the Wild when the 2005 NHL draft lottery saw them land highly coveted left winger Benoit Pouliot with the fourth overall pick. A glaring weakness of their prospect system in previous years, Pouliot will provide top notch offensive support from the wing and should mature into a top line forward.
Weaknesses: After Josh Harding, the Wild are notably thin in goaltending depth. While they hope that Anton Khudobin and Kristofer Westblom can progress into NHL-caliber net minders, the jury is still out on their potential.
Top Prospects: Patrick O’Sullivan (C), Mikko Koivu (C), Josh Harding (G), Brent Burns (D), Benoit Pouliot (LW).
11. Philadelphia Flyers
Strengths: A very impressive group of young forwards pave the way for the Flyers. Jeff Carter, Patrick Sharp and Mike Richards are playing on the top lines in the NHL. R.J. Umberger, Ryan Potulny, Stefan Ruzicka, Ben Eager, and Steve Downie are still down on the farm. The Flyers have shown a knack for picking young talented forwards that few other teams can match.
Weaknesses: Graduations and trades have really hurt the Flyers prospect depth on the blue line. Alexandre Picard is no slouch, but there isn’t much beyond him. In net, Rejean Beauchemin and Martin Houle are full of potential but at this point are unproven and it is very shallow behind them.
Top Prospects: Jeff Carter (C), Mike Richards (C), Patrick Sharp (C), R.J. Umberger (C), Stefan Ruzicka (RW)
12. Buffalo Sabres
Strengths: Without a doubt, the Sabres have a very strong group of forwards. Thomas Vanek, coming off a sensational AHL rookie campaign, has a high upside as a goal scorer. The club’s first round pick from 2005, Marek Zagrapan, also possesses outstanding offensive talent, although his specialty is playmaking. Derek Roy, Daniel Paille and Drew Stafford all have great character and varying offensive skill sets. The Sabres also have several good projects with size such as Mark Mancari and Dylan Hunter.
Weaknesses: The organization has very little both on defense and in goal. Michael Funk is the top blue line prospect, and the 18th ranked Michal Valent is the top netminder in the organization. There is a justification for the lack of goaltending prospects however, that being the logjam in the NHL at the moment.
Top Prospects: Thomas Vanek (LW), Marek Zagrapan (C), Derek Roy (C), Daniel Paille (LW), Drew Stafford (RW)
13. Edmonton Oilers
Strengths: The Oilers boast a well-rounded attack down the middle, adding center Andrew Cogliano to an already solid center group that includes Rob Schremp and Marc-Antoine Pouliot. While Schremp was sent back to juniors after a good showing at Oilers training camp/preseason, he has been electric with the London Knights, picking up where he left off last season. Between Devan Dubnyk and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, Edmonton has two potential NHL starters.
Weaknesses: While they have decent defensive-defensemen depth, Edmonton is sorely lacking any true offensive skill from the rear-guard, particularly in the form of a power play specialist or puck moving breakout catalyst. Also, they lack any front-line scoring ability from the wings.
Top Prospects: Rob Schremp (C), Marc-Antoine Pouliot (C), Devan Dubnyk (G), Andrew Cogliano (C), Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers (G)
14. San Jose Sharks
Strengths: San Jose’s main strength is depth, and they have a lot of it. The Sharks often make picks that other teams consider off the board or too early, but San Jose is one of the best organizations in developing prospects into productive NHL players. Milan Michalek, Marcel Goc, and Christian Erhoff made the team out of camp this year. Doug Murray, Lukas Kasper and Steve Bernier are knocking at the door. San Jose’s farm system is a factory for future NHL players, leading in number of drafted and homegrown players in the league.
Weaknesses: Although deep, San Jose system lacks blue chip game breaking prospects and could be a little deeper on the wings. Size is an issue, but how much on an issue that will be in the new NHL is yet to be seen.
Top Prospects: Milan Michalek (LW), Christian Erhoff (D), Marcel Goc (C), Matt Carle (D), Steve Bernier (RW)
15. Atlanta Thrashers
Strengths: The strengths of the Thrashers prospect pool lie in goaltending and defense. Kari Lehtonen and Ondrej Pavelec are both starter-caliber, and Braydon Coburn leads a strong group of defensive prospects — six of the top 10 prospects play at this position. Boris Valabik, Nathan Oystrick and Chad Denny fill a more stay at home role, while Mark Popovic, Grant Lewis and Jim Sharrow are more offensive. Having four picks in the first two rounds of the 2005 draft helped restock the cupboard in all areas.
Weaknesses: There’s not much high-end offensive talent in the pool, with the exception of 2005 pick Alex Bourret. 2005 picks Andrew Kozek and Jordan LaVallee might turn out, but they are not sure bets.
Top Prospects: Kari Lehtonen (G), Braydon Coburn (D), Alex Bourret (C), Ondrej Pavelec (G), Mark Popovic (D)
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