Strengths: The Ottawa Senators provided their prospects with a number of great opportunities in 2012-13. Many of those turned into permanent NHL jobs, but the team still has a number of youngsters it will be able to insert into the lineup at any given moment. The goalie of the future, Robin Lehner, is now being worked in slowly via the back-up position. At the same time, forward prospects such as Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Mark Stone, and Derek Grant are being inserted into the lineup whenever needed, and have each given various reasons to believe they can assume a regular role at some point. Though the Senators lost a lot of talent up front by trading Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen in the offseason, they still have several top-six forward prospects in the system, namely Curtis Lazar and Matt Puempel.
Weaknesses: The Senators have graduated a lot of their own defensive prospects in recent years, including Erik Karlsson, Jared Cowen, and Patrick Wiercioch, leaving the current defensive prospect crop lacking any elite defensive talent.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Robin Lehner, G; 2. Curtis Lazar, C/W; 3. Cody Ceci, D; 4. Mark Borowiecki, D; Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C.
Key Additions: Curtis Lazar (2013), Marcus Hogberg (2013), Vincent Dunn (2013), Ludwig Karlsson (UFA)
Key Losses: Patrick Wiercioch (graduation), Mika Zibanejad (graduation), Cory Conacher (graduation), Jakob Silfverberg (trade-ANA), Stefan Noesen (trade-ANA), Pat Cannone (trade-STL).
Strengths: The Toronto Maple Leafs have one of the top defensive prospects in the NHL in Morgan Rielly. Past Rielly, the organization has several defensemen such as Matt Finn and Stuart Percy who should develop into serviceable NHL players over the next couple years. There are also several forwards who are pressing for time in the NHL, most notably Josh Leivo, Carter Ashton, and Greg McKegg. The Leafs also have many role players in their system, assuring they can keep their bottom-six well stocked with affordable talent.
Weaknesses: There are no forwards with star potential in the system. Goaltending prospects Garret Sparks and Christopher Gibson have a lot to prove before they can be considered viable NHL backups, let alone starters. Several promising forward prospects, such as Frederik Gauthier and Carter Verhaeghe, remain projects at this point in their development.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Morgan Rielly, D; 2. Frederik Gauthier, C; 3. Josh Leivo, LW; 4. Matt Finn, D; 5. Stuart Percy, D.
Key Additions: Frederik Gauthier (2013), Carter Verhaeghe (2013), Fabrice Herzog (2013), Christopher Gibson (UFA).
Key Losses: Joe Colborne (trade-CGY).
Strengths: The Tampa Bay Lightning feature elite talent and depth at forward and in goal. All eyes are on KHL goalie Andrey Vasilevskiy, but the Lightning have other strong goaltending prospects in Jaroslav Janus and Adam Wilcox. Jonathan Drouin headlines a diverse and skilled group of forwards. The system is also flush with prospects who are already contributing in the NHL, including forwards Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Richard Panik, as well as defensemen Radko Gudas, Andrej Sustr, and Mark Barberio. The Lightning have other intriguing prospects further down the pipeline, including Vladislav Namestnikov, Tanner Richard, Matthew Peca, and Henri Ikonen. Special attention should also be given to prospect Nikita Kucherov, who has been nothing short of sensational since coming to North America last season.
Weaknesses: The Lightning do not have a lot of top-flight center in the system. The group is, on whole, not all that big, either. The defense is lacking in high-end talent as well, at least compared to what they have on wing and in net.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jonathan Drouin, C/W; 2. Andrey Vasilevskiy, G; 3. Vladislav Namestnikov, C; 4. Nikita Kucherov, RW; 5. Slater Koekkoek, D.
Key Additions: Jonathan Drouin (2013), Adam Erne (2013), Henri Ikonen (2013).
Strengths: The Florida Panthers have stockpiled a large amount of high draft picks over the past several seasons, many of which are just breaking into the NHL. They are particularly deep at center, with Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Drew Shore all showing they can play in the NHL. They also have good talent along the wings, with players such as Christopher Clapperton and Quinton Howden possessing top-six potential. The organization has solid depth on defense, led by NCAA blueliners Mike Matheson and Ian McCoshen.
Weaknesses: Though the Panthers have good defensive depth, none of their blue line prospects can match the pedigree the organization has at forward. The organization also has fair depth in net, but has struggled to develop their goaltending prospects over the years.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Aleksander Barkov, C; 2. Nick Bjugstad, C; 3. Drew Shore, C; 4. Alex Petrovic, D; 5. Quinton Howden, LW.
Key Additions: Aleksander Barkov (2013), Ian McCoshen (2013), Christopher Clapperton (2013).
Key Losses: Jonathan Huberdeau (graduation), Jacob Markstrom (graduation), Scott Timmins (trade-NJD), Corban Knight (trade-CGY).
Strengths: The Red Wings regularly fill their prospect pool with quality talent despite frequently picking late in the NHL Draft. They take a slow and steady approach to their player development and allow their prospects to develop at their own pace in the minor leagues. The Wings have a potpourri of talented forwards. Forwards Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are both ready for NHL duties after spending several years in the minors. Highly-touted Swede Calle Jarnkrok has joined the Wings AHL affiliate after several excellent seasons in Sweden. Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco both finished their 2012-13 seasons strongly, and appear to have taken the next step in their development. Not to be forgotten up front are the likes of Teemu Pulkkinen, Martin Frk, and Landon Ferraro, all of whom are felt to have strong NHL potential at some point in the future. The Wings own a vast and talented group of defensive prospects too, led by Dan DeKeyser, Ryan Sproul, and Xavier Ouellet.
Weaknesses: Goaltending continues to be one of the thinner organizational areas, even if Petr Mrazek is seen as a top NHL goaltending prospect after having guided Grand Rapids to the Calder Cup championship last spring. Jake Paterson is considered by some to be quite the battler, but his statistics have not yet pointed towards him having an NHL future.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Anthony Mantha, LW; 2. Gustav Nyquist, LW; 3. Petr Mrazek, G; 4. Tomas Tatar, LW; 5. Calle Jarnkrok, C.
Key Additions: Luke Glendening (UFA), Anthony Mantha (2013), Zach Nastasiuk (2013), Tyler Bertuzzi (2013), Mattias Janmark-Nylen (2013).
Strengths: The Bruins have done a good job of making sure they have a variety of skilled prospects at all positions. They are particularly well stocked on defense, where Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug have already made an impact at the NHL level. The minor league system also has a variety of allorwards who are close to being NHL regulars, such as Matt Fraser, Seth Griffith, and Ryan Spooner. The system also has good size and toughness throughout.
Weaknesses: Past Hamilton, there is a drop in overall talent and pedigree in the system. Despite great depth, the Bruins do not have any star forwards in their ranks. Players such as Alexander Khokhlachev or Anthony Camara could end up developing into impact forwards, but they remain several years away from realizing that potential.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Dougie Hamilton, D; 2. Malcolm Subban, G; 3. Ryan Spooner, C; 4. Alexander Khokhlachev, C; 5. Joe Morrow, D.
Key Additions: Peter Cehlarik (2013), Joe Morrow (trade-DAL), Matt Fraser (trade-DAL), Reilly Smith (trade-DAL).
Strengths: The Buffalo Sabres have a stacked prospect group that will help their rebuild at the NHL level over the next few years. The team added 11 newly drafted prospects, including two towering physical defensemen in Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov. Their talent pool is extremely deep at the center, defense, and goaltending positions. The organization has many prospects already playing in the NHL, led by forwards Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson.
Weaknesses: Buffalo is not especially deep with natural wingers, particularly on the left side. The organization also lacks an elite, goal-scoring forward. Though many of their top prospects are already playing in the NHL, it will still take some time for them to reach their potential.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Sam Reinhart, C; 2. Jake McCabe, D; 3. Justin Bailey, RW; 4. Nick Baptiste, RW; 5. Hudson Fasching, RW.
Key Additions: Nikita Zadorov (2013), Rasmus Ristolainen (2013), JT Compher (2013), Gustav Possler (2013).
Key Losses: Riley Boychuk (trade-NJD).
Strengths: The Montreal Canadiens added even more depth to an already deep prospect pool this past offseason. Despite losing Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher to graduation, the organization has a strong prospect pool, with a balanced mix of toughness, character, talent, and speed. The defense also remains a strength for the system, led by Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi. The offseason addition of Zachary Fucale gives the Canadiens a blue-chip goaltending prospect for the future.
Weaknesses: The Canadiens are still in need of more big, physical forwards and crease-clearing defenders. Many of the Canadiens high-skill forward prospects are unproven in the pros.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nathan Beaulieu, D; 2. Jarred Tinordi, D; 3. Sebastian Collberg, RW; 4. Mike McCarron, RW; 5. Charles Hudon, LW.
Key Additions: Mike McCarron (2013), Zachary Fucale (2013), Christian Thomas (trade-NYR), Stefan Fournier (UFA), Mike Condon (UFA).
Key Losses: Alexander Galchenyuk (graduation), Brendan Gallagher (graduation), Danny Kristo (trade-NYR).