Strengths: The Columbus Blue Jackets have oodles of depth at forward. Centers Alex Wennberg, Marko Dano, and William Karlsson are all close to playing regular minutes at the NHL level, and others such as Sonny Milano and Kerby Rychel are not too far behind. The system also had several other forwards with extremely high upside, namely WHL standout Oliver Bjorkstrand, who has been one of the top goal-scorers in Canadian major junior hockey. There is also strong depth in net, with Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo competing for starts at the minor league level.
Weaknesses: The Blue Jackets lack both talent and depth along the blue line, an issue that was made all the more pressing when standout defensive prospect Mike Reilly opted to test free agency instead of signing with Columbus. The team could probably stand to add more depth along the wing, though given their depth at center, it is not as pressing an issue as it could be.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Alexander Wennberg, C, 2. Sonny Milano, 3. Marko Dano, C, 4. Kerby Rychel, LW, 5. Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW.
Key Additions: William Karlsson (Trade – ANA), Dean Kukan (Free Agent), Markus Hannikainen (Free Agent)
Strengths: The Florida Panthers have a young core in place and look to support them with complementary pieces. Their strength lies on defense with Mike Matheson, Ian McCoshen, Alex Petrovic, and Jonathan Racine, all of whom look like capable NHL defensemen. Florida is also well-stocked at center with Rocco Grimaldi, Jayce Hawryluk, and Kyle Rau.
Weaknesses: Much of the Panther’s high-end talent from over the years has graduated, leaving this deep system limited on skilled forwards, especially on the wings. Now with Aaron Ekblad in the NHL, there does not appear to be a true top-end offensive defenseman in the system. While Roberto Luongo’s contract expires in 2022, there is currently no goaltender in the system that stands above the rest as the future in net.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mike Matheson, D; 2. Ian McCoshen, D; 3. Rocco Grimaldi, C; 4. Alex Petrovic, D; 5. Jayce Hawryluk, C
Key Losses: Aaron Ekblad (Graduation), Vincent Trocheck (Graduation), Brandon Pirri (Graduation)
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)