The Colorado Avalanche are off to a hot start this season and youngsters like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon are big reasons for their early success. What all three have in common is that they were able to jump immediately from the junior ranks to the NHL after being drafted.
Welcome to the Hockey's Future Spring NHL Team Rankings, the staff's ranking of each NHL team's system based on the strength of the entire prospect pool. For reference, just the top five prospects are listed. To be eligible, a prospect must meet HF's prospect criteria. The ranking is done twice a year, with this edition being an update to the Fall ranking.
It's not easy to repeat as league champions, but the Edmonton Oil Kings appear poised to potentially buck that trend as they return a large portion of their WHL Championship team from last season. They might get a slight push from the Calgary Hitmen and Saskatoon Blades, but those are really the only two teams who can come even remotely close to matching the overall talent the Oil Kings possess.
Here’s a look at the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference heading into the 2011-12 season. Things could change on the rosters as the deadline for WHL teams to announce their three 20-year-olds comes along in mid-October. And, near the end of October, we will also find out which NHL teams are prepared to keep their recently drafted prospects beyond the first ten regular season games.
Saskatoon Blades (Last season: 56-13-1-2; 1st in East Division)