- Team Breakdown:
Strengths: The Arizona Coyotes struggled once again in 2014-15, but made the most of the situation, collecting young players and draft picks in exchange for veteran players in five separate trades with playoff-bound teams. Those moves have already begun to pay dividends as rookie Anthony Duclair, acquired as part of a multi-player deal with the New York Rangers in March, is among the team’s leading scorers. Max Domi, a first round pick in 2013, is the team’s leading scorer and is one of 14 highly-skilled forward prospects the Coyotes have selected in the first three rounds since 2012. As those players continue to work their way up the ranks, Arizona could be one of the league’s more potent offensive teams.
Weaknesses: While no team has more high-end forward prospects, things are less certain when it comes to defensemen and goalies. Former first-round pick Brandon Gormley never reached the potential envisioned with the Coyotes and was subsequently traded to Colorado prior to the 2015-16 season. Dysin Mayo and Kyle Capobianco are the top defense prospects at the junior level but there is not much depth. Goalie Mark Visentin, another first-round pick, was slowed by injuries during his time with the Coyotes organization and is no longer in the system. Louis Domingue has shown potential in the AHL while Portland Winterhawks’ goalie Adin Hill was drafted this past June, but neither are can’t-miss prospects.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Dylan Strome, C; 2. Max Domi, C/LW; 3. Anthony Duclair, RW: 4. Henrik Samuelsson, C; 5. Brendan Perlini, C
Key Additions: Dylan Strome (Draft), Nick Merkley (Draft), Maxim Letunov, (Trade – STL), Christian Fischer (Draft), Kyle Capobianco (Draft), Conor Garland (Draft), Klas Dahlbeck (Trade – CHI), Jarred Tinordi (Trade – MTL)
Key Losses: Brandon Gormley (Trade – COL), Tobias Rieder (Graduation), Brendan Shinnimin (Graduation)
- Team Breakdown:
Strengths: The names Connor Hellebuyck, Kyle Connor, Nic Petan, Josh Morrissey and Nikolaj Ehlers are just scratching the surface of the loaded Winnipeg Jets system. Through mid-to-low finishes in the standings and some astute drafting, Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Jets have built up an immense amount of talent. They have, arguably, one of the best center pipelines currently in the NHL, with several of those players being able to play wing as well. Goaltending is also a position of strength, with Hellebuyck making his jump into the NHL, Eric Comrie adjusting to the AHL, and Jamie Phillips looking for a second-straight strong season at Michigan Tech. They have several players already playing at the NHL level and a next wave that has yet to touch pro hockey. This is one of the deepest groups of forwards out there.
Weaknesses: The defensive group is a little bit weak past the cream of the top, but that is the only weakness in this prospect group. Outside of Morrissey and Jan Kostalek, there are questions regarding the upside and impact of a number of defensemen. Right wing is a little light as well, but they have players who can play multiple forward positions to make up for that shortcoming.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nik Ehlers, LW; 2. Josh Morrissey, D; 3. Kyle Connor, C; 4. Nic Petan, C; 5. Connor Hellebuyck, G
Key Additions: Kyle Connor (Draft), Jack Roslovic (Draft), Jansen Harkins (Draft), Brendan Lemieux, (Trade – BUF), Joel Armia (Trade – BUF)
Key Losses: Adam Lowry (Graduation)
- Team Breakdown:
Strengths: The Buffalo Sabres have a good stock of talent at every position, but they are deepest at center thanks to Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. The system also benefits from the sheer quantity of prospects. The team has 39 prospects listed at Hockey’s Future, more than most NHL teams. A good 18-20 of them have the potential to play in the top half of the lineup, making Buffalo one of the deepest systems in the NHL. Goaltender Linus Ullmark has played well in the NHL this season, and both Justin Bailey and Nick Baptiste could become dynamic goal-scorers on a line with Eichel sometime in the future. Less touted players like Eric Cornel and Giorgio Estephan have shone in the first half of this season, as have St. Cloud State duo Will Borgen and Judd Peterson.
Weaknesses: Jack Eichel, Jake McCabe, Sam Reinhart and possibly Linus Ullmark will likely graduate this season, so the prospect chart will lack elite talent very soon. Although William Carrier, Bailey and Baptiste all have potential, none are sure things, which is troubling considering Buffalo’s goal-scoring woes. The team will need some dynamic goal-scoring wingers, otherwise Eichel and Reinhart’s talent could be somewhat lost on the big club.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jack Eichel, C; 2. Sam Reinhart, C; 3. Jake McCabe, D; 4. Justin Bailey, RW; 5. Nick Baptiste, RW
Key Additions: Jack Eichel (Draft), Brendan Guhle (Draft)
Key Losses: Nikita Zadorov (Trade – COL), Mikhail Grigorenko (Trade – COL), Johan Larsson (Graduation)
- Team Breakdown:
Strengths: It’s almost surreal to see the Toronto Maple Leafs with not one, but two elite prospects. Yet that is what Toronto has in both William Nylander and Mitch Marner. Both players were drafted as centers, but it is unlikely they both play the position with the Maple Leafs. The players highlight an emphasis on skill above all else, as do the majority of the 2015 draft picks. Frederik Gauthier, a pick from the previous regime, is acclimating himself better than expected in his first AHL season and could become the ideal bottom-six center for the Maple Leafs.
Weaknesses: Goaltending. Both Antoine Bibeau and Garret Sparks, the organization’s only two goaltending prospects, have already worn the Maple Leafs jersey, but not because they were ready. During that time, Sparks proved he could carve out a NHL career, but his weaknesses are noticeable—his timing and ability to track the puck leave a lot to be desired. Bibeau, meanwhile, is having a down year after a strong rookie season in the AHL. The Maple Leafs will almost certainly select at least one goaltender in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mitch Marner, C; 2. William Nylander, C; 3. Kasperi Kapanen, RW; 4. Scott Harrington, D; 5. Connor Brown, RW
Key Additions: Mitch Marner (Draft), Kasperi Kapanen (Trade – PIT), Scott Harrington (Trade – PIT), Travis Dermott (Draft), Jeremy Bracco (Draft), Zach Hyman (Trade – FLA), Nikita Shoshnikov (Free agent)
Key Losses: Carter Verhaeghe (Trade – NYI), Matt Finn (Trade – NYI)
- Team Breakdown:
Strengths: The Boston Bruins have a deep and diverse group of prospects, thanks to a big day at the 2015 NHL Draft where the team picked up six players in the first two rounds (10 in total). Although analysts were surprised to see the team select Jake DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn so high (14th and 15th overall, respectively), no one doubts that the team will benefit from the selections at some point. Boston was also able to acquire Colin Miller and Sean Kuraly during a flurry of trades last summer. Although David Pastrnak will graduate very soon and Ryan Spooner has already done so, the depth chart will again benefit from a big draft this June as the Bruins have two picks in each of the first two rounds in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Weaknesses: The easy answer is none—the Bruins have difference-makers at every position. If you were to nitpick, you could say that the team has too many centers, and not enough wingers. Once David Pastrnak graduates this season, Senyshyn is the only right winger with the potential to play in Boston’s top six. With DeBrusk being the top-ranked left winger in the system, the Bruins had better be right about their decisions during the first round of the 2015 draft.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Malcolm Subban, G; 2. Jakub Zboril, D; 3. David Pastrnak, RW; 4. Joe Morrow, D; 5. Seth Griffith, RW
Key Additions: Sean Kuraly (Trade – COL), Colin Miller (Trade – LAK), Jake DeBrusk (Draft), Jakub Zboril (Draft), Zachary Senyshyn (Draft)
Key Losses: Niklas Svedberg (Not re-signed), Ryan Spooner (Graduation)
- Team Breakdown:
Strengths: An amazing aspect of the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect base is that they have at least one player at every position that could play top-six or first-pairing minutes in the NHL. Andrei Vasilevskiy, because of injuries, has yet to graduate from prospect status and he remains one of the top young goaltenders in hockey. Both Anthony DeAngelo and Slater Koekkoek, who are very different in terms of their skill sets, look to have promising careers ahead of them. The Lightning boast decent wingers in Adam Erne, Dennis Yan and Cristiano DiGiacinto, all of whom play with an edge, but it is the depth at center that is most impressive. The Lightning selected Mitchell Stephens and Anthony Cirelli in the 2015 draft, adding to an already strong crop that includes Matthew Peca, Tanner Richard, and Brayden Point, one of the top offensive players in junior hockey.
Weaknesses: It is not easy to sift through the Lightning’s prospect group and find a weakness. They have depth in skill, size, strength and intriguing prospects at all positions. If there is one position that might draw concern, it is left wing. Yan, Henri Ikonen and DiGiacinto are all quality NHL prospects, but have skating concerns. Their most talented prospect on the left side is Nikita Gusev, but the Russian has shown no signs that he might soon come to North America.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G; 2. Anthony DeAngelo, D; 3. Slater Koekkoek, D; 4. Nikita Nesterov, D; 5. Adam Erne, RW
Key Additions: Dennis Yan (Draft), Mitchell Stephens (Draft), Matthew Spencer (Draft)
Key Losses: Jonathan Drouin (Graduation), Cédric Paquette (Graduation)
- Team Breakdown:
Strengths: The Edmonton Oilers have had the first overall pick in four of the last six drafts, including last June when they selected center Connor McDavid. McDavid, currently out with an injury, made the jump directly from the OHL to Edmonton. Darnell Nurse, a recent first-round pick prior to McDavid, is also in his first full season with the Oilers. That duo gives Edmonton as talented a group of top prospects as any organization, and the recently graduated Leon Draisaitl just adds to that impressive, young talent. Anton Slepyshev scored 15 goals for Ufa Salavat in the KHL in 2014-15 and is shuffling between Edmonton and AHL affiliate Bakersfield in his first season in North America. Defenseman Brandon Davidson has been solid as a rookie after three seasons of minor league hockey. Rarely tested during his junior career with the powerful Edmonton Oil Kings, third-year pro Laurent Brossoit has shown steady progress and is the team’s top goaltending prospect.
Weaknesses: With so many young players already making the Oilers roster, there are few high-end prospects in the minors. The AHL affiliate in Bakersfield consists largely of energetic, power forward-type prospects and several veterans on defense. Edmonton currently has eight goalies either drafted or signed but at this point none appear to have the makings of an elite NHL starter.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Connor McDavid, C; 2. Darnell Nurse, D; 3. Griffin Reinhart, D; 4. Laurent Brossoit, G; 5. Jujhar Khaira, LW
Key Additions: Connor McDavid (Draft), Griffin Reinhart (Trade – NYI), Caleb Jones (Draft), Ethan Bear (Draft).
Key Losses: Liam Coughlin (Trade – CHI), Leon Draisaitl (Graduation)
- Team Breakdown:
Strengths: The New York Islanders remain deep across the board thanks to the productiveness of their prospects. The best new addition for the team is Matthew Barzal, who has already made an impression with his strong play in 2015-16. Michael Dal Colle has had an inauspicious season but he should nevertheless be battling for an NHL job next season. Defense remains the strongest unit in the system with Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, and Adam Pelech waiting in the AHL for an opportunity. They have each grown in their respective roles and have seen some NHL ice time already. Behind them is a large pool of defenders that can fill any role the team needs filled. Between the pipes, the goaltending pool is in good hands with Ilya Sorokin, Stephon Williams and Linus Soderstrom.
Weaknesses: Talent has thinned out at forward due to consistent graduation classes, but some players that remain in the system have not developed as originally predicted. For example, Griffin Reinhart was passed on the depth chart and became trade bait. A few of these prospects were high risk/reward and it remains to be seen if they will reach their potential. Josh Ho-Sang and Sebastian Collberg are two examples. There is not much grit amongst the current forward corp, and the wings lack depth.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Michael Dal Colle, LW; 2. Ryan Pulock, D; 3. Matthew Barzal, C; 4. Anthony Beauvillier, LW; 5. Josh Ho-Sang, RW
Key Additions: Matthew Barzal (Draft), Anthony Beauvillier (Draft)
Key Losses: Griffin Reinhart (Trade – EDM)
- Team Breakdown:
Strengths: The Detroit Red Wings have impressive depth at every position, particularly on the wings. Among the 17 winger prospects, there are seven or eight that could see time in the NHL soon or have already had a cup of coffee with the top club. On defense, the Wings added to their depth with the free agent signing of Robbie Russo, who failed to sign with the New York Islanders. Russo joins free agent signing Joe Hicketts and borderline NHL defenders Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet.
Weaknesses: Detroit has four goaltending prospects, but none are particularly highly regarded. That said, recent performances suggest some of the Wings goaltenders might be developing at a good pace as Jared Coreau has looked good in Grand Rapids this season and last, and Jake Paterson is handling the rigors of pro life. The Wings are a little shallow down the middle, particularly once Dylan Larkin graduates from prospect status. Dominic Turgeon and Louis-Marc Aubry are both 6’4” and 210+ pounds, but don’t have the talent to become a top-six center at the NHL level.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Dylan Larkin, C; 2. Teemu Pulkkinen, RW; 3. Evgeny Svechnikov, LW; 4. Anthony Mantha, RW; 5. Ryan Sproul, D
Key Additions: Evgeny Svechnikov (Draft), Vili Saarijarvi (Draft), Robbie Russo (Free agent)
Key Losses: Petr Mrazek (Graduation), Mattias Janmark (Trade – DAL), Mattias Backman (Trade – DAL)
- Team Breakdown:
Strengths: The Anaheim Ducks possess a wonderful group of high-end talent in their pipeline as there is a lot to like between the likes of John Gibson, Shea Theodore, Brandon Montour, Nick Ritchie, and Nic Kerdiles. In the 2015 NHL Draft, the Ducks added Jacob Larsson and Julius Nattinen to an already deep group. They have at least one elite prospect at every position, and all have true NHL potential and skills.
Weaknesses: The problem the Ducks run into once you get past those top players is that the dip in talent is noticeable. There are few middle-ground players that look promising, while players like Kevin Roy, Deven Sideroff, and Nick Sorensen all have heavy questions surrounding key aspects of their games. Overall, it is an hourglass-shaped system, with plenty of lovely top end players, but a lot of players that leave much to be desired.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Shea Theodore, D; 2. John Gibson, G; 3. Nick Ritchie, LW; 4. Brandon Montour, D; 5. Nic Kerdiles, LW
Key Additions: Julius Nattinen (Draft), Jacob Larsson (Draft)
Key Losses: Chris Wagner (Waivers – COL), Max Friberg (Trade – MTL)