Eastern Conference

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Washington Capitals

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Strengths: The most obvious strength of the Capitals prospect pool is super talent Yevgeni Kuznetsov. Winger Tom Wilson looks formidable as an NHL rookie and Tomas Kundratek, Michael Latta, Connor Carrick, Nate Schmidt, Philipp Grubauer, and Alexander Urbom have all seen NHL time. In terms of big upside, the pool is heavily dependent on Kuznetsov, recent first round pick Andre Burakovsky, and right-handed defenseman Madison Bowey.

Weaknesses: Much of the top talent in the organization has graduated or moved on in some fashion. Outside of Kuznetsov, there is very little in terms of high potential among the forward prospects. There is not much in the way of depth or talent at the center position. The blue line has been augmented by clever drafting and free agent signings, but the defensive prospect pool lacks a blue-chip talent.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Yevgeni Kuznetsov, RW; 2. Tom Wilson, RW; 3. Andre Burakovsky, LW; 4. Tomas Kundratek, D; 5. Philipp Grubauer, G.

Key Additions: Andre Burakovsky (2013), Madison Bowey (2013), Zach Sanford (2013), Alexander Urbom (waivers-NJD).

 

Buffalo Sabres

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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, Johan Larsson, and Mikhail Grigorenko.

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. Mikhail Grigorenko, C; 2. Rasmus Ristolainen, D; 3. Brayden McNabb, D; 4. Mark Pysyk, D; 5. Matt Hackett, G.

Key Additions: Nikita Zadorov (2013), Rasmus Ristolainen (2013), JT Compher (2013), Gustav Possler (2013).

Key Losses: Riley Boychuk (trade-NJD).

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

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Strengths: The forward depth for the Columbus Blue Jackets is as strong as it has been in years. Leading up front is big center Boone Jenner, who is already making an impact in the NHL as a rookie. Further down the line are 2013 NHL Draft picks Kerby Rychel and Alexander Wennberg, both of whom project as quality NHL players. After them, the system features a number of skilled forwards to take note of, namely Marko Dano, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and the undersized Jonathan Marchessault. The organization also has a vast stable of defensive prospects, with Ryan Murray, David Savard, and Dalton Prout all currently playing in the NHL. The team also remains very high on Tim Erixon and Cody Goloubef as long-term NHL options.

Weaknesses: Aside from Jenner and Rychel, the Blue Jackets do not have many forward prospects with size and toughness. Though the Jackets have some intriguing goaltending prospects in Oscar Dansk, Joonas Korpisalo, Martin Ouellette, and Anton Forsberg, all are still a couple years away from being considered viable NHL goaltenders.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Ryan Murray, D; 2. Boone Jenner, C/W; 3. Kerby Rychel, LW; 4. Tim Erixon, D; 5. Alexander Wennberg, C.

Key Additions: Alexander Wennberg (2013), Kerby Rychel (2013), Marko Dano (2013), Oliver Bjorkstrand (2013), Ilari Melart (UFA).

Key Losses: Cam Atkinson (graduation).

 

Montreal Canadiens

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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).

 

Ottawa Senators

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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).

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

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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).