The Hockey’s Future Organizational Rankings are an assessment of the overall state of each NHL team’s system of prospects. An overall rank is given, and strengths and weaknesses are identified. The rankings are compiled twice a year by a committee of staff members using Hockey’s Future 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. Detroit Red Wings
Strengths: The Red Wings top ten is filled with projected NHL talent at all positions including goaltender Jimmy Howard, centers Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula and Evan McGrath, wingers Igor Grigorenko and Johan Ryno and defensemen Jakub Kindl, Kyle Quincey, and Brett Lebda. The strength in the balanced system continues beyond those players.
Weaknesses: Although well-backed with skill, the Red Wings forward crop still lacks some size and toughness, including a good power forward. Defense is also a concern when it comes to size and grit and although there are a number of offensive and two-way defensemen, there are no real defensive defensemen of note. In the goaltending department, the Red Wings have virtually no pro depth after Howard.
Top Five Prospects: Jim Howard (G), Valtteri Filppula (C), Jiri Hudler (C), Jakub Kindl (D), Igor Grigorenko (RW)
Key Graduates: Niklas Kronwall (D)
17. Edmonton Oilers
Strengths: The return that GM Kevin Lowe was able to extract from Anaheim for Chris Pronger may have netted his replacement in Ladislav Smid, who immediately becomes the best of an attractive group of defensemen in the system. In addition, the Oilers enjoy the luxury of having depth at all positions, including offensively gifted centers in Rob Schremp, Andrew Cogliano and Marc-Antoine Pouliot, and two solid goaltending prospects in Devan Dubnyk and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers.
Weaknesses: While the club has prospects in quantity, their quality remains questionable. Schremp, although dominating at the CHL level, must improve his skating (in addition to shaking the reputation issues that dogged him in the OHL) and Drouin-Deslauriers had a lost season last year and must make up that development time.
Top Five Prospects: Rob Schremp (C), Ladislav Smid (D), Andrew Cogliano (C), Marc-Antoine Pouliot (C), Matt Greene (D)
Key Graduates: none
18. Carolina Hurricanes
Strengths: Goaltending continues to be one of the strongest points for the Hurricanes starting with Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward, who will graduate from Hockey’s Future prospect status later this season. Justin Peters, a pro rookie this season with the ‘Canes new Albany River Rats AHL affiliate, and Kevin Nastiuk, who has been assigned to the ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers, are both capable of developing into solid pro goaltenders in the future as well. The Hurricanes system is also strong on defense with a number of decent prospects such as Anton Babchuk, Brett Carson, and defensive defenseman Casey Borer.
Weaknesses: Mostly on the strength of defensive prospect Jack Johnson, the ‘Canes had recently moved up in the organizational rankings to tenth overall, but with the four-player deal involving the top defensive prospect on Sept. 29 the Hurricanes are left with only a few top echelon prospects in Ward, and winger Andrew Ladd. Ladd is also one of the only top prospects up front although Joe Barnes, and newly-drafted Harrison Reed and Bobby Hughes have good potential as well.
Top Five Prospects: Cam Ward (G), Andrew Ladd (LW), Anton Babchuk (D), Kevin Nastiuk (G), Justin Peters (G)
Key Graduates: none
19. Ottawa Senators
Strengths: Despite the graduation of Ray Emery, the Senators boast an impressive array of goaltending talent in the system, including former CHL goaltender of the year Jeff Glass and Hobey Baker candidate Brian Elliot. In addition, the Senators look to continue their renowned offensive prowess for years to come as they’ve replenished their system with dynamic, offensively gifted forwards like Alexei Kaigorodov, and recent additions Josh Hennessy (via trade) and Nick Foligno (the team’s first-round selection in 2006).
Weaknesses: Graduation has robbed the Senators’ farm system of its top-end defensive talent. Beyond Brian Lee, there is not much to get excited about. The team did try to address its lack of defensive depth by getting Michal Barinka as part of the return for the departed Martin Havlat, but the best of the Senators’ defensemen – for the foreseeable future – are already patrolling the blue line in Kanata.
Top Five Prospects: Brian Lee (D), Alexei Kaigorodov (C), Josh Hennessy (C), Nick Foligno (LW)
Key Graduates: Ray Emery (G), Patrick Eaves (RW)
20. Colorado Avalanche
Strengths: Wojtek Wolski will play his first full year in the NHL this season, and should be a contender for the Calder Trophy as top rookie. Paul Stastny has made the team as a rookie and is contributing as well. Injuries opened the door to allow Brad Richardson into the Avalanche lineup last year. Most of the remaining forwards of note play in the NCAA, which means the Avalanche can wait for them to develop and not use up valuable years of pro experience under the new CBA.
Weaknesses: Top goaltending prospect Peter Budaj has been inconsistent between the pipes for Colorado and there is little behind him. The Avalanche blue line is also woefully thin, with Johnny Boychuk the only prospect who is anywhere close to making the jump to the NHL. The Avalanche will need to upgrade their prospects on defense, especially with an aging blue line in the NHL.
Top Five Prospects: Wojtek Wolski (LW), Ryan Stoa (C), Paul Stastny (C), Chris Stewart (RW), Brad Richardson (C)
Key Graduates: none
21. Buffalo Sabres
Strengths: Five of the Sabres’ newly-drafted prospects can be found on their top 20, which is a significant change from the last time around. In what was perhaps one the most important moves of the summer, the Sabres addressed the goaltending deficiency when they drafted Swede goaltender Jhonas Enroth in the second round. They also drafted Swede Dennis Persson in the first round, who brings strong potential as an offensive defenseman. Marek Zagrapan, Drew Stafford, and Daniel Paille are among the top forward prospects in the system, and while not necessarily on the elite level, could play a big role on a future Buffalo offense.
Weaknesses: While the Sabres have made efforts to improve their prospect system, they still have miles to go. There are holes at every position, with a large number of bodies that may never see the NHL. They have a few highly promising players, but nothing in the way of elite-level prospects, top-pairing defensemen and with the exception of Zagrapan, they have no first line forwards.
Top Five Prospects: Marek Zagrapan (C), Drew Stafford (RW), Dennis Persson (D), Daniel Paille (LW), Andrej Sekera (D)
Key Graduates: Jason Pominville, RW
22. New Jersey Devils
Strengths: The Devils have a number of strong prospects at forward beginning with Niklas Bergfors and Travis Zajac. They also possess a number of big wingers with the potential of developing into effective power forwards. The Devils addressed a need on defense by drafting Corrente in the first round in 2006 and signing college free agent Andy Greene. Purchasing the Lowell AHL franchise will provide a good environment in which these prospects can develop.
Weaknesses: Although they have two-way and physical forwards, the Devils on the whole are a bit weak in offensive skill. A top-flight goaltending prospect would be a good investment for a team who will need to begin a new era at that position.
Top Five Prospects: Niklas Bergfors (RW), Travis Zajac (C), Barry Tallackson (LW), Matthew Corrente (D), Alexander Vasyunov (LW)
Key Graduates: none
23. Phoenix Coyotes
Strengths: The Coyotes drafted center Peter Mueller in 2006, who takes over as the top prospect in their system. There may be a number of lower-end prospects at center, but several of those could develop into effective pros like Martin Hanzal, Kevin Porter and Oliver Latendresse. Defense is an area that continues to be the strength of their system, headlined by blueliners Matt Jones and Keith Yandle, who rank among the Coyotes’ top five prospects. Goaltender David LeNeveu is a solid prospect and is getting his test right now.
Weaknesses: Beyond LeNeveu, the Coyotes have poor depth in the net. The only left wings in the system, Randall Gelech and Will Engasser, are questionable to ever make the NHL. The Coyotes are still in need of top-line scoring talent, and fill out their depth in all areas.
Top Five Prospects: Peter Mueller (C), Enver Lisin (RW), David LeNeveu (G), Matt Jones (D), Keith Yandle (D)
Key Graduates: none
24. Florida Panthers
Strengths: The Panthers are strong up front, with their top four prospects all at forward. Michael Frolik is a slick playmaker taken in 2006. Kenndal McArdle and Anthony Stewart fit the mold of a power forward, but Stewart has some injury issues and needs to make up for lost time. Tyler Plante and David Shantz are the team’s top goaltending prospects. The Panthers also possess tremendous size throughout their prospect pool.
Weaknesses: Florida’s system has a significant drop-off in talent after the top eight or nine prospects. It’s tough to identify the top defensive prospect in the system, with only average contenders. A top defensive prospect would be a welcome addition in the coming draft.
Top Five Prospects: Michael Frolik (C), Kenndal McArdle (LW), Anthony Stewart (RW), Stefan Meyer (LW), Tyler Plante (G)
Key Graduates: Rostislav Olesz (C), Greg Campbell (LW)
25. Toronto Maple Leafs
Strengths: Quantity. The Leafs’ greatest strength is their general depth of NHL-caliber players. On the blue line, while they have few elite-level blue line prospects, many have been pressed into action at the NHL level and were able to compete adequately. There is also some top-end talent in the system with all-world goaltender Justin Pogge making the jump to the pro ranks and firmly assuming the mantle of goalie of the future – especially in light of the trade of Tuukka Rask. In addition, Jiri Tlusty has, to date, proven to be a savvy pick, displaying offensive brilliance at times. He’s joined up front by smallish, but dynamic players like Robbie Earl and Jeremy Williams.
Weaknesses: Quality. The majority of prospects are third or fourth-line forward or second or third defensive pairing quality. And the falloff after Pogge in net is precipitous. The Leafs’ farm system has been decimated by the graduation of several players to the NHL ranks and will need to be replenished.
Top Five Prospects: Justin Pogge (G), Carlo Colaiacovo (D), Robert Earl (LW), Jiri Tlusty (C), Jeremy Williams (RW)
Key Graduates: none
26. Vancouver Canucks
Strengths: Goaltending can no longer be considered a huge weakness, either in the city of Vancouver or throughout the system. Competition in the minors will ultimately produce a competent backup for Roberto Luongo. Cory Schneider, Drew MacIntyre, Julien Ellis-Plante and Alexandre Vincent provide depth between the pipes. On defense, Luc Bourdon is the club’s top prospect. The anticipated emergence of prospects Kevin Bieksa and Alexander Edler bodes well for the organization.
Weaknesses: Up front the organization is thin, although Michael Grabner may prove to be a solid contributor. Free agent Rick Rypien adds depth, but the system is void of potentially high-end talent at this point. Two relatively unheralded players like Hansen and Simek bring a bit of hope. The team also has a very significant lack of depth when it comes to defensive defenders.
Top Five Prospects: Luc Bourdon (D), Cory Schneider (G), Michael Grabner (RW), Kevin Bieksa (D), Jannik Hansen (RW)
Key Graduates: Lukas Krajicek (D)
27. Tampa Bay Lightning
Strengths: The Bolts have an ownership interest in both affiliates, Springfield (AHL) and Johnstown (ECHL), which ensures light at the end of the tunnel for the prospects. Stanislav Lascek, Blair Jones and Justin Keller bring offensive prowess at the junior level and subsequent depth to the organization. The organization is deep along the blue line with size and mobility from the likes of Andy Rogers, Matt Smaby, Vladimir Mihalik and Dane Crowley. In goal, there is depth in the form of Vasily Koshechkin, Karri Ramo and Riku Helenius.
Weaknesses: Tampa continues to lack top-end talent in its pool, but is gradually increasing depth through the draft. Offensive firepower is the strength of the big club, but is a weakness of the prospect group.
Top Five Prospects: Andy Rogers (D), Riku Helenius (G), Radek Smolenak (LW), Matt Smaby (D), Karri Ramo (G)
Key Graduates: Ryan Craig (C)
28. Dallas Stars
Strengths: Dallas has maintained its depth on defense. Matt Niskanen, a stay at homer playing at the U. of Minnesota-Duluth heads up the group, while on the offensive side, 2006 first rounder Ivan Vishnevskiy remains in the QMJHL this season. Many of the key prospects will play in the AHL this season, which should make for a decent rookie class next year or the year after.
Weaknesses: Dallas has little depth in goal, with only Tobias Stephan in the Top 20. There are some promising two-way or defensive prospects, but there just isn’t much offensive upside present. Up front, none of the current prospects have distinguished themselves. The majority of the Stars current prospects are European, which does present some problems in directing their development.
Top Five Prospects: Loui Eriksson (RW), Perttu Lindgren (C), Matt Niskanen (D), Ivan Vishnevskiy (D), Niklas Grossman (D)
Key Graduates: none
29. Calgary Flames
Strengths: Time is on the Flames’ side and that’s a good thing as this is a prospect group that needs plenty of it. The team shored up its goaltending depth in the 2006 draft selecting Leland Irving, who projects to be the club’s goaltender of the future. As well, the emergence of Daniel Ryder as a bona fide sniper in the OHL has given the Flames a glimmer of offensive promise in a system that’s stocked with quality character players. The Flames’ hard hat won’t be retired for a number of years as players like Kris Chucko, Eric Nystrom, and Dustin Boyd waiting in the wings.
Weaknesses: The Flames’ prospects mirror their NHL counterparts – solid, but not spectacular. No top-flight offensive talents and no blue line stalwarts. Sandpaper and grit on the blue line and up front can take you a long way, but the club needs to find those with a nose for the back of the net. The days when the Flames had the blue line prospects that were the envy of the league are long gone.
Top Five Prospects: Dustin Boyd (C), Leland Irving (G), Daniel Ryder (C), Kris Chucko (LW), Andrei Taratukhin (C)
Key Graduates: None
30. Philadelphia Flyers
Strengths: The Flyers strength still lies with their forwards. The forward corps’ primary strength now is their grit and antagonist ability. Downie, Eager and Cabana relish the shutdown role, with in-your-face styles of play reminiscent of their present General Manager. Potulny, Ruzicka and 2006 draftee Giroux add scoring punch, showing that, when coupled with their grit, Philadelphia’s forward depth is still decent.
Weaknesses: The Flyers neither have blue chip talent, nor are deep. From the blue line on back, the Flyers are dangerously thin. Picard and Bartulis are the only quality defensive prospects at present. In the goaltending department, Beauchemin, Houle and Duchesne are competent, but have to make great strides to become part of the Flyers long-term plans.
Top Five Prospects: Alexandre Picard (D), Stefan Ruzicka (RW), Steve Downie (C), Ryan Potulny (C), Claude Giroux (RW)
Key Graduates: R.J. Umberger (C)
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