Strengths: Now that the New York Islanders have turned the corner, they are in a prime position to contend for the Stanley Cup for the years ahead thanks to their strong farm system. While Ryan Strome and Anders Lee graduated, there is still top-six talent developing on the wings in Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang. Defense has become the strongest unit in the system as Griffin Reinhart, Ryan Pulock, and Scott Mayfield are the next wave of youth that look to shore up the Islanders on the backend. Behind them are a deep, diverse group of players that may slot into depth roles. Toughness is another attribute amongst the skaters. There is quality and promising potential in the goaltending pool with Ilya Sorokin, Linus Soderstrom, and Stephon Williams.
Weaknesses: With the consistent graduation over the past few years, the Islanders talent at forward has thinned out. There is still talent up front, but the wings could use more help behind Dal Colle and Ho-Sang. There are also many high risk/high reward prospects across the board. While the goaltending has improved, most of the prospects are years away from making an impact and must overcome the franchise’s recent history of bad goaltending development.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Griffin Reinhart, D; 2. Michael Dal Colle, LW; 3. Ryan Pulock, D; 4. Josh Ho-Sang, RW; 5. Scott Mayfield, D.
Key Additions: Alexandre Mallet (Trade – VAN)
Key Losses: Ryan Strome (Graduation), Anders Lee (Graduation), Andrey Pedan (Trade – VAN)
Strengths: The Detroit Red Wings have one of the finest developmental systems in the NHL and have churned out NHL contributors on a regular basis for many years. Their system is loaded with talent up front, with winger Teemu Pulkkinen pressing for regular NHL duties and former first-round picks Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha not far behind. There are also several very talented defensemen in the system, headlined by Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul, and Alexey Marchenko – all of whom appear to have promising NHL careers in front of them. Beyond the prospects who are pushing for a spot in the NHL, there is good depth at every position.
Weaknesses: There are several Red Wings prospects who have decent size, but the majority are a little undersized, especially at forward. The goaltending depth could probably stand to be upgraded now that Petr Mrazek has graduated from prospect status. The Red Wings could probably use a little more depth on defense , as well.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Dylan Larkin, C; 2. Anthony Mantha, RW; 3. Teemu Pulkkinen, RW; 4. Xavier Ouellet, D; 5. Ryan Sproul, D.
Key Losses: Mattias Janmark (Trade – DAL), Mattias Backman (Trade – DAL), Tomas Jurco (Graduation), Petr Mrazek (Graduation)
Strengths: Goaltending is an obvious strength for the Boston Bruins, with Tuukka Rask firmly planted in the NHL as the team’s starting goaltender. High-end prospect Malcolm Subban is likely to earn some playing time as a backup in the near future, while Zane McIntyre, a 2010 sixth round pick, has posted back-to-back banner seasons at the University of North Dakota. Down the middle of the ice, neither Ryan Spooner nor Alexander Khoklachev project as number one centers, but give the organization NHL-level depth at that position. They’re joined by Seth Griffith, as well as Ryan Donato and Ryan Fitzgerald, who have yet to turn pro.
Weaknesses: The Bruins have 11 defensemen in the organization still regarded as prospects, but none really stand out. Joe Morrow, who is already with his third team, is the team’s top prospect on the blue line, and while he looked okay in 15 games for the Bruins last season, he does not project as much higher than a bottom-pairing defenseman. Matt Grzelcyk has more offensive potential from the back end, but is returning to Boston University for his fourth and final season in 2015-16.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Malcolm Subban, G; 2. Ryan Spooner, C; 4. Alexander Khoklachev, C; 4. David Pastrnak, RW; 5. Zane McIntyre, G.
Key Additions: Noel Acciari (free agent), Zack Phillips (Trade – MIN)
Key Losses: Jared Knight (Trade – BOS)
Strengths: After struggling in almost incomprehensible fashion this season, the Buffalo Sabres are nearly ready to climb back to respectability. The team will add a franchise-changing center at the 2015 NHL Draft, but already in the system is Sam Reinhart. Reinhart is an offensively-gifted player who processes play at an elite level, and should make his linemates more effective for years to come. After him, the center pipeline is still solid, with JT Compher and Connor Hurley both top college prospects with whom the organization can afford patience.
There are several solid prospects at right wing too, with Justin Bailey and Nick Baptiste projecting as gritty supports with some upside, and Hudson Fasching a finesse player with size. Jake McCabe is a top defensive prospect who joins a solid core led by Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov.
Weakness: Buffalo cashed in some prospects in order to acquire more experience in the forms of winger Evander Kane and defenseman Zach Bogosian, which hurts the prospect depth even as it presumably helps the NHL team. Having struggled in goal throughout the season, Buffalo does not have a blue-chip netminding prospect. The defensive depth is also not a point of promise, although the recent graduates make up for it.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jack Eichel, C 2. Sam Reinhart, C 3. Jake McCabe, D 4. Justin Bailey, RW 5. Nick Baptiste, RW
Key Additions: Jason Kasdorf (Trade – WIN)
Key Losses: Joel Armia (Trade – WIN), Brendan Lemieux (Trade – WIN), Nikita Zadorov (Graduation), Mikhail Grigorenko (Graduation), Johan Larsson (Graduation)
Strengths: The Montreal Canadiens remain one of the fastest teams in the NHL thanks to their speed and skill on the wing led by the vibrant Nikita Scherbak. Jacob de la Rose has earned the trust of the coaching staff and played a supporting role in the postseason. Other forwards like Charles Hudon and Sven Andrighetto are NHL-caliber players. Goaltender Zachary Fucale is a raw talent who has shown he has starting potential and will have plenty of time to fully develop.
Weaknesses: Montreal has quantity on defense but lacks in quality behind Tinordi. The same can be said for the center position, which lacks a creative playmaker. Their forward prospects need to prove themselves at the pro level.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jarred Tinordi, D; 2. Nikita Scherbak, RW; 3. Charles Hudon, LW; 4. Mike McCarron, RW; 5. Sven Andrighetto, RW.
Key Losses: Nathan Beaulieu (Graduation), Jack Nevins (Trade – BUF)
Strengths: There have been only a handful of organizations that have undergone the amount of turnover that the Ottawa Senators have in recent seasons, so credit to them for continuing to get the most out of their underrated group of prospects. Among the forwards, Matt Puempel and Shane Prince are pushing for NHL jobs. Nicholas Paul could one day become a daily contributor. Andrew Hammond became the darling of the hockey world in the spring and will get the chance to show he can develop into a full-time NHL goaltender this fall.
Weaknesses: As Ottawa has pushed many of its more promising prospects to the NHL, it has left the system depleted of elite talent. That is no clearer than on defense as the depth chart has craved another skilled blueliner since the graduation of Cody Ceci. Size is also a concern amongst the forwards.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Thomas Chabot, D; 2. Colin White, C; 3. Matt Puempel, LW; 4. Andreas Englund, D; 5. Shane Prince, LW.
Key Losses: Curtis Lazar (Graduation), Mark Stone (Graduation), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (Graduation)