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).
Strengths: After years of solid drafting, the Ducks own one of the best all-around prospect systems currently out there. They are headlined by numerous top-level players like John Gibson, Hampus Lindholm, and Emerson Etem, while still having a collection of second-tier players who also have considerable upside. Frederik Andersen has proven to be a solid goaltender in the NHL while defenseman Sami Vatanen is also vying for more time on the Ducks roster. Further down the line, there are players like Nicolas Kerdiles, Shea Theodore, Rickard Rakell, and William Karlsson, who all have NHL potential. With relatively solid top-tier talent and a great mix of mid-level talent, the Ducks are looking at a very strong system overall.
Weaknesses: The Ducks are weak in natural left wingers, with the only one being Max Friberg. That being said they do have a number of right wingers capable of shifting over, but it is not their natural position and that transition can be problematic for some. They could use a little more depth on the defensive side, as there is a talent drop off after the four spot.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jakob Silfverberg, RW; 2. Hampus Lindholm, D; 3. John Gibson, G; 4. Emerson Etem, RW; 5. Sami Vatanen, D.
Key Additions: Shea Theodore (2013), Nick Sorensen (2013), Jakob Silfverberg (trade-OTT), Stefan Noesen (trade-OTT).
Key Losses: Devante Smith-Pelly (graduation), Harry Zolnierczyk (trade-PIT).
Strengths: The Sharks have a good variety of players within their system, the most notable being Tomas Hertl, who has had an electric start to his NHL career. The organization also has a seemingly constant supply of talented players from the NCAA, led by NHL rookie Matt Nieto. The addition of Mirco Mueller is a good pickup to an already solid blue line group. Centers and defenseman seem to be the greatest areas of strength for the Sharks, and they have good variety and talent within those groups.
Weaknesses: The Sharks lack top-end punch. Outside of Hertl, the system is primarily made up of bottom-six players. In particular, they lack depth at the wing position, where only Nieto and free-agent signing Daniil Tarasov look to be potential threats. While their back end strength is good, the team has holes at the forward positions.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Tomas Hertl, C; 2. Matt Nieto, RW; 3. Matt Tennyson, D; 4. Mirco Mueller, D; 5. Freddie Hamilton, C.
Key Additions: Mirco Mueller (2013), Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau (2013), Petter Emanuelsson (UFA).
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 Jets 2013 draft class added depth at center, on defense, and in net. Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele remain atop their respective positions, but now talented junior players like Josh Morrissey and Nicolas Petan are backing them up. Winnipeg did the same in goal, adding Eric Comrie to a group that already has plenty of potential developing in the NCAA with the likes of Connor Hellebuyck and Jason Kasdorf. That NCAA talent extends to the skaters as well; Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Andrew Copp, and Peter Stoykewych are promising players that lend to that organization's great depth and balance.
Weaknesses: Neither wing position is particularly deep, nor do they possess the same top-level talent of the other positions. There is a good mix of skill along with character and grit, but the Jets pool drops off after the top tier of prospects.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jacob Trouba, D; 2. Mark Scheifele, C; 3. Josh Morrissey, D; 4. Nicolas Petan, C; 5. Adam Lowry, LW.
Key Additions: Josh Morrissey (2013), Nicolas Petan (2013), Eric Comrie (2013), Jimmy Lodge (2013), J.C. Lipon (2013).
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).