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St. Louis Blues

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Strengths: Coming into the 2013-14 season, the St. Louis Blues' prospect pool was headlined by talented wingers Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz. The system loses some of its luster with Schwartz graduated and Tarasenko, who missed part of the 2012-13 season to injury, very close behind him. Dmitrij Jaskin and Ty Rattie are among the next wave of wingers that will be knocking on the door to the NHL in the near future. Goaltending is another position that is poised to churn out prospects, with Jake Allen already on the cusp of regular NHL time. On the blue line, St. Louis has plenty of upside, even if players like Tommy Vannelli, Jordan Schmaltz, and Colton Parayko still have some developing to do before they contribute at the pro level.

Weaknesses: The center position is extremely shallow and lacks talent. Pivots like Evgeny Grachev and Philip McRae have gone overseas for the 2013-14 season, leaving the team extremely bare at the minor league level. Many of the Blues defensive prospects are longer term projects.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW; 2. Jake Allen, G; 3. Ty Rattie, RW; 4. Dmitrij Jaskin, RW; 5. Jordan Binnington, G.

Key Additions: Pat Cannone (trade-OTT), Tommy Vannelli (2013), William Carrier (2013).

Key Losses: Jaden Schwartz (graduation).

 

Colorado Avalanche

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Strengths: Adding Nathan MacKinnon would make any team's pipeline jump in the ranking. Like top picks before him, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, MacKinnon will not be long for prospect status as long as he continues to look as comfortable burning past NHL defensemen as he did last year in the QMJHL. The 2013 NHL Draft also yielded Chris Bigras, adding another potential top-four blueliner to the defensive corps. The goaltending position is very deep at the pro level, with the 2013 draft yielding yet another strong addition to that position in Spencer Martin.

Weaknesses: There is a substantial drop in talent beyond MacKinnon, particularly among the forward prospects. The wing positions are especially weak in terms of both quality and quantity. For all the top picks in the Avalanche system, prospects like Duncan Siemens and Calvin Pickard have not quite developed as expected so far.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nathan MacKinnon, C; 2. Tyson Barrie, D; 3. Stefan Elliott, D; 4. Michael Sgarbossa, C; 5. Calvin Pickard, G.

Key Additions: Nathan MacKinnon (2013), Chris Bigras (2013), Spencer Martin (2013).

 

Dallas Stars

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Strengths: The Stars and new GM Jim Nill own one of the deepest and most complete prospect pools in the league. Both wings feature plenty of size and skill with Valeri Nichushkin, Alex Chiasson, and Brett Ritchie leading the way. The blue line has a lot of intriguing upside and has been further supplemented with recent trades. The organization owns a multitude of quality prospects at every position who are able to fill a number of different roles at the NHL level.

Weaknesses: The center position is a known concern within the organization and they are actively addressing it. Dallas possesses a lot of depth on the back line, but it is still unclear who is going to really make a major impact at the NHL level now that Brenden Dillon has graduated. There are some high profile prospects who management hopes will take a dramatic step forward in their development, similar to how Brett Ritchie did a couple years ago.

Top 5 Prospects: Valeri Nichushkin, RW; 2. Jack Campbell, G; 3. Alex Chiasson, RW; 4. Brett Ritchie; 5. Jamie Oleksiak, D.

Key Additions: Valeri Nichushkin (2013), Jason Dickinson (2013), Remi Elie (2013), Philippe Desrosiers (2013).

Key Losses: Brenden Dillon (graduation), Joe Morrow (trade-BOS), Matt Fraser (trade-BOS), Reilly Smith (trade-BOS).

 

Winnipeg Jets

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Strengths: The Jets 2013 draft class added depth at center, on defense, and in net. Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele remain atop their respective positions, but now talented junior players like Josh Morrissey and Nicolas Petan are backing them up. Winnipeg did the same in goal, adding Eric Comrie to a group that already has plenty of potential developing in the NCAA with the likes of Connor Hellebuyck and Jason Kasdorf. That NCAA talent extends to the skaters as well; Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Andrew Copp, and Peter Stoykewych are promising players that lend to that organization's great depth and balance.

Weaknesses: Neither wing position is particularly deep, nor do they possess the same top-level talent of the other positions. There is a good mix of skill along with character and grit, but the Jets pool drops off after the top tier of prospects.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jacob Trouba, D; 2. Mark Scheifele, C; 3. Josh Morrissey, D; 4. Nicolas Petan, C; 5. Adam Lowry, LW.

Key Additions: Josh Morrissey (2013), Nicolas Petan (2013), Eric Comrie (2013), Jimmy Lodge (2013), J.C. Lipon (2013).

 

Minnesota Wild

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Strengths: The Minnesota Wild's biggest strength is the quantity of players who are NHL-ready. The organization has particularly good forward depth, led by Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle. Even as Jonas Brodin has graduated, the Wild continue to have a deep and talented group of defensive prospects. The goaltending pipeline is also solid, with Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson playing well at the professional level.

Weaknesses: With most of the Wild's top prospects playing at the NHL level this season, there is naturally going to be a lack of elite potential throughout the organization's farm system. The talent pool is shallow on both wings as well.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mikael Granlund, C; 2. Charlie Coyle, C/RW; 3. Mathew Dumba, D; 4. Jason Zucker, LW; 5. Darcy Kuemper, G.

Key Additions: Gustav Olofsson (2013), Kurtis Gabriel (2013), Dylan Labbe (2013).

Key Losses: Jonas Brodin (graduation), Nino Niederreiter (graduation).

 

Chicago Blackhawks

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Strengths: Even with Brandon Saad graduated to the NHL, the Blackhawks forward prospects pack an offensive punch with Teuvo Teravainen and Brandon Pirri among a deep and talented group of center prospects. Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault are not far behind them in terms of skill and each brings a smart, well-rounded game to the table as well. Ryan Hartman and John Hayden are two of the five forwards drafted by Chicago in 2013 that have mitigated the impact of the team's graduations in recent years. The defense also remains a strength. Adam Clendening is an offensive force in the AHL and Notre Dame senior Stephen Johns is a standout prospect with a nasty physical game.

Weaknesses: Antti Raanta may be the best goaltending prospect the Chicago pipeline has seen since Corey Crawford and Antti Niemi platooned in AHL Rockford during the 2008-09 season. Still, Raanta and the other pro goalies, Kent Simpson and Mac Carruth, are still largely unproven in the AHL. Many of the Blackhawks center prospects could slot in on the wing, but the system lacks depth in terms of natural wingers on either side.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Teuvo Teravainen, C; 2. Adam Clendening, D; 3. Phillip Danault, C; 4. Mark McNeill, C; 5. Brandon Pirri, C.

Key Additions: Antti Raanta (UFA), Ryan Hartman (2013), Carl Dahlstrom (2013), John Hayden (2013).

Key Losses: Brandon Saad (graduation).

 

Nashville Predators

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Strengths: The Nashville Predators have a potential generational talent in defenseman Seth Jones. They also did well at the 2013 NHL Draft, replacing a large graduation class from the spring with a number of talented skaters like Jonathan-Ismael Diaby, Felix Girard, and Tommy Veilleux. Pontus Aberg and Taylor Beck are also developing into fine forward prospects and Austin Watson is equally intriguing. Like Jones, Mattias Ekholm is already playing NHL games and doing so with noteworthy play. Overall, the Predators have good players at every position and have done well to fill in gaps with a variety of talent.

Weaknesses: Nashville does not have an overwhelming amount of top-six talent and most of their forward prospects look to be bottom-six or complementary top-nine players. They are also undersized at forward. It has been a double-edged sword drafting so heavily from Europe, as many of the players do have skills, they just have a more European style to their game which may be difficult to transition over to North American hockey. There is a substantial drop in defensive talent after Jones and Ekholm.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Seth Jones, D; 2. Filip Forsberg, LW; 3. Taylor Beck, LW; 4. Pontus Åberg, LW; 5. Mattias Ekholm, D.

Key Additions: Seth Jones (2013), Jonathan-Ismael Diaby (2013), Felix Girard (2013), Juuse Saros (2013).