Eastern Conference

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New Jersey Devils

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Strengths: The brightest spot in the system is the Devils defense. After losing Alexander Urbom on waivers, the group is headed by Jon Merrill, Damon Severson, Eric Gelinas, and Steve Santini, all of whom have NHL potential. Goal-scorer extraordinaire Reid Boucher ranks highly and recent draft pick Myles Bell might surprise some people. The organization has also made a strong effort to bolster their goaltending depth.

Weaknesses: The most obvious weakness is having one natural right winger, a 25-year-old minor-leaguer, in the group. The forward depth is rather concerning in general. Behind a couple of left wingers and former first-round pick Stefan Matteau, the group is pretty uninspiring. The Devils should learn a lot about the pro goaltenders in the system this season. Scott Wedgewood and Keith Kinkaid seem to be the only relevant ones right now and it remains unclear if they have upside beyond backup status.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jon Merrill, D; 2. Damon Severson, D; 3. Reid Boucher, LW; 4. Scott Wedgewood, G; 5. Eric Gelinas, D.

Key Additions: Steve Santini (2013), Ryan Kujawinski (2013), Scott Timmins (trade-FLA), Riley Boychuk (trade-BUF).

Key Losses: Alexander Urbom (waivers-WAS).

 

New York Rangers

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Strengths: The Rangers own a diverse group of prospects with not only good upside, but the ability to fill a variety of roles at professional level. There are several prospects with intriguing NHL potential, including Chris Kreider, Danny Kristo, Oscar Lindberg, and Jesper Fast. The smooth skating Brady Skjei and the rugged Dylan McIlrath should provide depth down the line. Pavel Buchnevich and Anthony Duclair are among a handful of prospects who possess high potential, but are long-term projects at this point in their careers.

Weaknesses: The depth chart is quite shallow all the way around. The Rangers' blue line depth at the NHL needs to remain together because there is little in the way of quality reinforcements on the way. The blue line is in particular need of a puck-moving defenseman who can lead the power play. The depth at center also lacks much offensive upside. The organization does not appear to have a goaltending prospect who possesses NHL starting potential.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Chris Kreider, LW; 2. Danny Kristo, RW; 3. J.T. Miller, RW; 4. Jesper Fast, RW; 5. Dylan McIlrath, D.

Key Additions: Pavel Buchnevich (2013), Adam Tambellini (2013), Danny Kristo (trade-MTL), Troy Donnay (UFA).

Key Losses: Christian Thomas (trade-MTL).

 

Philadelphia Flyers

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Strengths: Defensive prospects Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg really augment a blue line group who lacked upside outside of Shayne Gostisbehere. The Flyers have a very athletic goalie project to work on in Anthony Stolarz, who is now in a pro-style system with London (OHL). Down the middle, Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins are good two-way players who are close to being NHL ready.

Weaknesses: There are a lot of potatoes but not much meat. The lack of elite talent is noteworthy and the depth at each position is very questionable, if not anonymous. There are some serviceable role players to be had, but not much more than any other organization. There are a lot of high-risk/high-reward prospects, but without a quality base to support, it creates a group that is hard to believe in.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Scott Laughton, C; 2. Nick Cousins, C; 3. Samuel Morin, D; 4. Shayne Gostisbehere, D; 5. Anthony Stolarz, G.

Key Additions: Samuel Morin (2013), Robert Hagg (2013), Michael Raffl (UFA), Maxim Lamarche (UFA).

Key Losses: Erik Gustafsson (graduation).

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

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Strengths: The Penguins have a bevy of talented defensive prospects led by blue-chippers Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot. Beyond those two, defensive prospects such as Simon Despres, Brian Dumoulin, and Scott Harrington also have high NHL pedigree. Beau Bennett leads a large group of forward prospects who play a high-octane style of game. The organization has also continued to improve their goaltending depth and has talent staggered over every level of competition.

Weaknesses: While the organization has a lot of quality forward prospects in the NCAA, most project to be a few years away from playing in the pros, let alone the NHL. In general, most of the Penguins prospects are long-term projects and will have to develop well for many years in order to meet their potential.

Top 5 prospects: 1. Derrick Pouliot, D; 2. Beau Bennett, RW; 3. Simon Despres, D; 4. Olli Maatta, D; 5. Scott Harrington, D.

Key Additions: Tristan Jarry (2013), Jean-Sebastien Dea (UFA), Bobby Farnham (UFA), Harry Zolnierczyk (trade-ANA).

 

Carolina Hurricanes

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Strengths: The Hurricanes have two quality prospects playing their rookie seasons in the NHL in Elias Lindholm and Ryan Murphy. The system overall is well stocked with defensemen, many of whom are playing at the professional level. There are also several prospects in the system who could develop into serviceable NHL players, such as Brock McGinn or Danny Biega.

Weaknesses: Outside of Lindholm, there are no forwards with top-six potential. In general, the system lacks overall depth at forward. The goaltending ranks are also thin, with no heir apparent for Cam Ward on the near horizon.

Top 5 prospects: 1. Elias Lindholm, C; 2. Ryan Murphy, D; 3. Victor Rask, C; 4. Phil Di Giuseppe, LW; 5. Brett Pesce, D.

Key Additions: Elias Lindholm (2013), Brett Pesce (2013), Sergey Tolchinsky (UFA).

Key Losses: Zac Dalpe (trade-VAN), Jeremy Welsh (trade-VAN).

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

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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).

 

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