Western Conference

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St. Louis Blues

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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).

 

Calgary Flames

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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).

 

Colorado Avalanche

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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).

 

Edmonton Oilers

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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).