Strengths: Even with Brandon Saad graduated to the NHL, the Blackhawks forward prospects pack an offensive punch with Teuvo Teravainen and Brandon Pirri among a deep and talented group of center prospects. Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault are not far behind them in terms of skill and each brings a smart, well-rounded game to the table as well. Ryan Hartman and John Hayden are two of the five forwards drafted by Chicago in 2013 that have mitigated the impact of the team’s graduations in recent years. The defense also remains a strength. Adam Clendening is an offensive force in the AHL and Notre Dame senior Stephen Johns is a standout prospect with a nasty physical game.
Weaknesses: Antti Raanta may be the best goaltending prospect the Chicago pipeline has seen since Corey Crawford and Antti Niemi platooned in AHL Rockford during the 2008-09 season. Still, Raanta and the other pro goalies, Kent Simpson and Mac Carruth, are still largely unproven in the AHL. Many of the Blackhawks center prospects could slot in on the wing, but the system lacks depth in terms of natural wingers on either side.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Teuvo Teravainen, C; 2. Adam Clendening, D; 3. Phillip Danault, C; 4. Mark McNeill, C; 5. Brandon Pirri, C.
Key Additions: Antti Raanta (UFA), Ryan Hartman (2013), Carl Dahlstrom (2013), John Hayden (2013).
Key Losses: Brandon Saad (graduation).
Strengths: The Nashville Predators have a potential generational talent in defenseman Seth Jones. They also did well at the 2013 NHL Draft, replacing a large graduation class from the spring with a number of talented skaters like Jonathan-Ismael Diaby, Felix Girard, and Tommy Veilleux. Pontus Aberg and Taylor Beck are also developing into fine forward prospects and Austin Watson is equally intriguing. Like Jones, Mattias Ekholm is already playing NHL games and doing so with noteworthy play. Overall, the Predators have good players at every position and have done well to fill in gaps with a variety of talent.
Weaknesses: Nashville does not have an overwhelming amount of top-six talent and most of their forward prospects look to be bottom-six or complementary top-nine players. They are also undersized at forward. It has been a double-edged sword drafting so heavily from Europe, as many of the players do have skills, they just have a more European style to their game which may be difficult to transition over to North American hockey. There is a substantial drop in defensive talent after Jones and Ekholm.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Seth Jones, D; 2. Filip Forsberg, LW; 3. Taylor Beck, LW; 4. Pontus Åberg, LW; 5. Mattias Ekholm, D.
Key Additions: Seth Jones (2013), Jonathan-Ismael Diaby (2013), Felix Girard (2013), Juuse Saros (2013).
Strengths: Coming into the 2013-14 season, the St. Louis Blues' prospect pool was headlined by talented wingers Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz. The system loses some of its luster with Schwartz graduated and Tarasenko, who missed part of the 2012-13 season to injury, very close behind him. Dmitrij Jaskin and Ty Rattie are among the next wave of wingers that will be knocking on the door to the NHL in the near future. Goaltending is another position that is poised to churn out prospects, with Jake Allen already on the cusp of regular NHL time. On the blue line, St. Louis has plenty of upside, even if players like Tommy Vannelli, Jordan Schmaltz, and Colton Parayko still have some developing to do before they contribute at the pro level.
Weaknesses: The center position is extremely shallow and lacks talent. Pivots like Evgeny Grachev and Philip McRae have gone overseas for the 2013-14 season, leaving the team extremely bare at the minor league level. Many of the Blues defensive prospects are longer term projects.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW; 2. Jake Allen, G; 3. Ty Rattie, RW; 4. Dmitrij Jaskin, RW; 5. Jordan Binnington, G.
Key Additions: Pat Cannone (trade-OTT), Tommy Vannelli (2013), William Carrier (2013).
Key Losses: Jaden Schwartz (graduation).
Strengths: The Calgary Flames have strengthened their organizational depth and talent in their prospect pool over the last several years. They have added leadership, character, physicality, and better speed to their system. The organization possesses a good group of versatile forwards, including several with high-end potential at center and left wing, led by current NHL players Sean Monahan and Sven Baertschi. The Flames have a good young goaltender with NHL potential in Providence College goalie Jon Gillies.
Weaknesses: The right wing position is lacking in depth and its overall skill level still requires upgrading. Despite having a good mix of size, physicality, and skill among their defensemen, the Flames are still in need of a mobile, offensive puck-mover in their prospect pipeline. The goaltending pool is shallow and the Flames could stand to add more depth.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Sven Baertschi, LW; 2. Sean Monahan, C; 3. Johnny Gaudreau, LW; 4. Max Reinhart, C; 5. Mark Jankowski, C.
Key Additions: Joe Colborne (trade-TOR), Corban Knight (trade-FLA), Sean Monahan (2013), Emile Poirier (2013), Morgan Klimchuk (2013), Keegan Kanzig (2013), Olivier Roy (trade-EDM).
Key Losses: Laurent Brossoit (trade-EDM).
Strengths: Adding Nathan MacKinnon would make any team's pipeline jump in the ranking. Like top picks before him, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, MacKinnon will not be long for prospect status as long as he continues to look as comfortable burning past NHL defensemen as he did last year in the QMJHL. The 2013 NHL Draft also yielded Chris Bigras, adding another potential top-four blueliner to the defensive corps. The goaltending position is very deep at the pro level, with the 2013 draft yielding yet another strong addition to that position in Spencer Martin.
Weaknesses: There is a substantial drop in talent beyond MacKinnon, particularly among the forward prospects. The wing positions are especially weak in terms of both quality and quantity. For all the top picks in the Avalanche system, prospects like Duncan Siemens and Calvin Pickard have not quite developed as expected so far.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nathan MacKinnon, C; 2. Tyson Barrie, D; 3. Stefan Elliott, D; 4. Michael Sgarbossa, C; 5. Calvin Pickard, G.
Key Additions: Nathan MacKinnon (2013), Chris Bigras (2013), Spencer Martin (2013).
Strengths: Edmonton’s biggest strength is the overall depth and variety throughout their talent pool. With both quantity and quality, the defense prospects are the strongest position in the organization’s farm system. Darnell Nurse now stands as the Oilers top prospect after winger Nail Yakupov and defenseman Justin Schultz graduated to the NHL club. The defense behind Nurse features a good mix of size, physicality, and good overall skill levels. There is a wide variety of talent in the forward group and good size at the center position.
Weakness: Yakupov’s graduation creates a lack of high-end talent in the forward pool. The right wing position in general lacks talent and depth. Though they have taken measures to improve their goaltending situation, the Oilers need to continue adding depth for the future.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Darnell Nurse, D; 2. Oscar Klefbom, D; 3. Martin Marincin, D; 4. David Musil, D; 5. Marc-Olivier Roy, C.
Key Additions: Darnell Nurse (2013), Marc-Olivier Roy (2013), Bogdan Yakimov (2013), Anton Slepyshev (2013), Brad Hunt (UFA), Laurent Brossoit (trade-CGY).
Key Losses: Nail Yakupov (graduation), Justin Schultz (graduation), Olivier Roy (trade-CGY).
Strengths: The 2013 NHL Draft additions of Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk further solidified a group of forwards that already included Nicklas Jensen, Jordan Schroeder, and Brendan Gaunce. Defensively, Frank Corrado is a solid defensive prospect who is on the fringes of the NHL. Vancouver is a top-heavy system, but there are college prospects with potential, such as Wisconsin forward Joseph Labate and Maine defenseman Ben Hutton.
Weaknesses: Like many perennially successful teams, the Canucks have not had the luxury of stockpiling high draft picks and lack quality depth as a result. While the additions of Horvat and Shinkaruk strengthen their top-end talent, there is a drop in quality after that. They have very little in the defensive pipeline as well, and even Corrado, their top defenseman, has questionable staying power at the NHL level.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nicklas Jensen, RW; 2. Bo Horvat, C; 3. Brendan Gaunce, C; 4. Jordan Schroeder, C; 5. Frank Corrado, D.
Key Additions: Bo Horvat (2013), Hunter Shinkaruk (2013), Jordan Subban (2013), Jeremie Blain (UFA), Joacim Eriksson (UFA), Zac Dalpe (trade-CAR), Jeremy Welsh (trade-CAR).
Strengths: The Stars and new GM Jim Nill own one of the deepest and most complete prospect pools in the league. Both wings feature plenty of size and skill with Valeri Nichushkin, Alex Chiasson, and Brett Ritchie leading the way. The blue line has a lot of intriguing upside and has been further supplemented with recent trades. The organization owns a multitude of quality prospects at every position who are able to fill a number of different roles at the NHL level.
Weaknesses: The center position is a known concern within the organization and they are actively addressing it. Dallas possesses a lot of depth on the back line, but it is still unclear who is going to really make a major impact at the NHL level now that Brenden Dillon has graduated. There are some high profile prospects who management hopes will take a dramatic step forward in their development, similar to how Brett Ritchie did a couple years ago.
Top 5 Prospects: Valeri Nichushkin, RW; 2. Jack Campbell, G; 3. Alex Chiasson, RW; 4. Brett Ritchie; 5. Jamie Oleksiak, D.
Key Additions: Valeri Nichushkin (2013), Jason Dickinson (2013), Remi Elie (2013), Philippe Desrosiers (2013).
Key Losses: Brenden Dillon (graduation), Joe Morrow (trade-BOS), Matt Fraser (trade-BOS), Reilly Smith (trade-BOS).
Strengths: Defense has long been the strength of the Coyotes prospect pool, but the team's last two draft classes have shifted the balance of power to the forwards. Max Domi is the highly-skilled forward the system has always lacked, while Henrik Samuelsson, Lucas Lessio, and Laurent Dauphin give the group some grittier and more versatile options. Brandon Gormley heads the defensive unit, which still features plenty of upside with the likes of David Rundblad and Connor Murphy. Phoenix has a deep stable of goaltenders at the professional level, led by Mark Visentin.
Weaknesses: Some of the Arizona forward prospects, like Andy Miele, Brendan Shinnimin, or Tobias Rieder, have offensive potential but still have to prove they can cut it in the NHL. Although Domi is a fine addition, the system is still short on top-six upside among the forwards.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Brandon Gormley, D; 2. Max Domi, C; 3. Henrik Samuelsson, C; 4. David Rundblad, D; 5. Lucas Lessio, LW.
Key Additions: Max Domi (2013), Laurent Dauphin (2013), Yan-Pavel Laplante (2013).
Key Losses: Michael Stone (graduation).
Strengths: The Kings have at least one strong player at just about every position outside of goaltending. Defensively, the team is waiting on Kevin Gravel to come out of college as a prime shutdown candidate while Derek Forbort has already begun playing in the AHL. Linden Vey still figures as the team’s primary center prospect, while Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson round out the wings. The addition of hard working Valentin Zykov is a boost to the left wing corps. There is also variety in their top players, with a sniper, a set-up man, a power-forward, and two-way and shutdown defensemen.
Weaknesses: There is a considerable drop in talent past the Kings top prospects. While the organization has used late-round draft picks well in the past, and they do have a meaty group of potential role players, the system overall is a toss-up at best.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Tyler Toffoli, RW; 2. Tanner Pearson, LW; 3. Valentin Zykov, LW; 4. Linden Vey, C; 5. Derek Forbort, D.
Key Additions: Valentin Zykov (2013), Justin Auger (2013), Hudson Fasching (2013).