Eastern Conference

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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).

 

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).

 

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).

 

Florida Panthers

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Strengths: The Florida Panthers have stockpiled a large amount of high draft picks over the past several seasons, many of which are just breaking into the NHL. They are particularly deep at center, with Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Drew Shore all showing they can play in the NHL. They also have good talent along the wings, with players such as Christopher Clapperton and Quinton Howden possessing top-six potential. The organization has solid depth on defense, led by NCAA blueliners Mike Matheson and Ian McCoshen.

Weaknesses: Though the Panthers have good defensive depth, none of their blue line prospects can match the pedigree the organization has at forward. The organization also has fair depth in net, but has struggled to develop their goaltending prospects over the years.

Top 5 prospects: 1. Aleksander Barkov, C; 2. Nick Bjugstad, C; 3. Drew Shore, C; 4. Alex Petrovic, D; 5. Quinton Howden, LW.

Key Additions: Aleksander Barkov (2013), Ian McCoshen (2013), Christopher Clapperton (2013).

Key Losses: Jonathan Huberdeau (graduation), Jacob Markstrom (graduation), Scott Timmins (trade-NJD), Corban Knight (trade-CGY).

 

New York Islanders

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Strengths: The New York Islanders own one of the largest groups of defensive prospects in the entire NHL. They do not just have quantity along the blue line, either, as Matt Donovan, Griffin Reinhart, Ville Pokka, Ryan Pulock, and Scott Mayfield all project as top-four defensemen in the NHL. Up front, the team is led by Ryan Strome, who is currently heading the attack for the Islanders' AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. After Strome, the team appears confident that Brock Nelson has a future in the NHL as a top-nine forward. Anders Lee is another prospect who possesses good NHL potential.

Weaknesses: With so many young forwards joining the Islanders in recent years, and with the team's overall emphasis on drafting defensemen, the forward ranks are looking thin at the moment. Swedes Johan Sundstrom and Viktor Crus Rydberg are considered to be very promising but are long-term projects. Goaltending remains an issue as well, with Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson struggling at the professional level. The organization has taken some measures to address their depth in net but remains years away from reaping any potential benefits.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Ryan Strome, C; 2. Griffin Reinhart, D; 3. Ryan Pulock, D; 4. Brock Nelson, C/LW; 5. Matt Donovan, D.

Key Additions: Ryan Pulock (2013), Eamon McAdam (2013), Stephon Williams (2013).

Key Losses: Casey Cizikas (graduation), Nino Niederreiter (trade-MIN).

 

Detroit Red Wings

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Strengths: The Red Wings regularly fill their prospect pool with quality talent despite frequently picking late in the NHL Draft. They take a slow and steady approach to their player development and allow their prospects to develop at their own pace in the minor leagues. The Wings have a potpourri of talented forwards. Forwards Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are both ready for NHL duties after spending several years in the minors. Highly-touted Swede Calle Jarnkrok has joined the Wings AHL affiliate after several excellent seasons in Sweden. Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco both finished their 2012-13 seasons strongly, and appear to have taken the next step in their development. Not to be forgotten up front are the likes of Teemu Pulkkinen, Martin Frk, and Landon Ferraro, all of whom are felt to have strong NHL potential at some point in the future. The Wings own a vast and talented group of defensive prospects too, led by Dan DeKeyser, Ryan Sproul, and Xavier Ouellet.

Weaknesses: Goaltending continues to be one of the thinner organizational areas, even if Petr Mrazek is seen as a top NHL goaltending prospect after having guided Grand Rapids to the Calder Cup championship last spring. Jake Paterson is considered by some to be quite the battler, but his statistics have not yet pointed towards him having an NHL future.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Anthony Mantha, LW; 2. Gustav Nyquist, LW; 3. Petr Mrazek, G; 4. Tomas Tatar, LW; 5. Calle Jarnkrok, C.

Key Additions: Luke Glendening (UFA), Anthony Mantha (2013), Zach Nastasiuk (2013), Tyler Bertuzzi (2013), Mattias Janmark-Nylen (2013).

 

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