NHL Team Rankings

Hockey's Future ranks the prospect talent of each NHL team from best (#1) to the worst (#30). We publish these rankings twice a year, once before and after each regular season. NHL prospects considered for these rankings meet HF's prospect criteria at the time the list is published.

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Spring Team Rankings 2014-15

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Calgary Flames have a bright future ahead of them as they have transformed into a resilient team that will only get better. It was thought the rebuild would take years before the Flames would contend for the postseason, but the bar has been raised following a special year that saw them reach the second round of the playoffs through determination and skill. Most of their graduated prospects from this season were impact players, but their prospect pool is still flush with talent across the board. Markus Granlund has settled into a second/third line role while Michael Ferland stepped up in the postseason. Expect Sam Bennett to push for a spot in the NHL next season. There is also competition coming from the AHL ranks with a strong cast of players like Emile Poirier, Tyler Wotherspoon, Kenny Agostino and others fighting for an NHL job. Further down the pipeline in the NCAA and CHL, there are a host of skilled forwards with promise including Mark Jankowski, Morgan Klimchuk, and Hunter Smith. In spite of their shallowness in goal, Joni Ortio, Jon Gilles and Mason McDonald have shown prospective for the future of the Flame’s net.

Weaknesses: Calgary is fortunate to have a deep defensive pool, but the system needs a high-end, puck-moving defenseman who can transition the puck up ice and run the power play. The Flames also need more depth on the right wing and in the crease.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Sam Bennett, C; 2. Markus Granlund, C; 3. Tyler Wotherspoon, D; 4. Emile Poirer, RW; 5. Joni Ortio, G.

Key Losses: Johnny Gaudreau (Graduation), Corban Knight (Trade – FLA), Sven Baertschi (Trade – VAN)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Nashville Predators took the league by storm last season and will look to turn surprise into success going forward. Leading the rush are a deep and balanced unit of forwards who attack with speed and push the tempo. Many of these players, including Kevin Fiala, Pontus Aberg, and Viktor Arvidsson, are in the pros and appear on the cusp of jumping from the AHL to the NHL. On defense, Jack Dougherty seems to be the next rising star on a deep, defensive-oriented unit. Goaltending prospects Juuse Saros, Magnus Hellberg, and Marek Mazanec have shown promise and will be competing in the pros next season.

Weaknesses: Nashville is a bit undersized up front and could use a power forward to complement the speed and skill of the team. The center depth needs a boost in talent, while most of the better right wing prospects are in Europe and are not expected to become more than depth players. Graduations on the blue line have left the defense with little high-end talent outside of Dougherty. The system could use more puck-moving defensemen. While there is talent in the crease, no one has yet emerged as a potential heir to Pekka Rinne.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Kevin Fiala, LW; 2. Juuse Saros, G; 3. Vladislav Kamenev, LW; 4. Jimmy Vesey, LW; 5. Magnus Hellberg, G.

Key Additions: Kristian Nakyva (Free Agent); Key Losses: Filip Forsberg (Graduation), Calle Jarnkrok (Graduation), Brendan Leipsic (Trade – TOR), Taylor Beck (Graduation)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Washington Capitals possess a group of highly-skilled forwards which boosts the parent club’s depth of top-six talent. The organization has been able to get the most out of undersized players and use their speed and skill to fill roles as scorers or energy players. Andre Burakovsky looks to improve upon his rookie season in the NHL while Jakub Vrana and Riley Barber prepare to begin their pro careers. The Capitals also have a solid group of defensive prospects with Madison Bowey and Connor Carrick. Bowey has all the tools to become a star on the blue line. Goaltending is ripe with talented puck-stoppers in Vitek Vanecek, Phillip Grubauer, and Pheonix Copley.

Weaknesses: Despite the talent at the top of the lineup, Washington does not have much depth behind them. There is not a great deal of NHL-ready talent, nor is there a lot of size amongst bottom-six forwards currently in the system. Defensive depth may be tested in a few years when current veterans leave the team. Bowey and Carrick may be able to step up, but the depth of defenders behind them might not have the overall skill set to make it to the NHL.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Madison Bowey, D; 2. Andre Burakovsky, LW; 3. Jakub Vrana, RW; 4. Vitek Vanecek, G; 5. Riley Barber, RW.

Key Losses: Evgeny Kuznetsov (Graduation), Nate Schmidt (Graduation), Michael Latta (Graduation)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Montreal Canadiens remain one of the fastest teams in the NHL thanks to their speed and skill on the wing led by the vibrant Nikita Scherbak. Jacob de la Rose has earned the trust of the coaching staff and played a supporting role in the postseason. Other forwards like Charles Hudon and Sven Andrighetto are NHL-caliber players. Jarred Tinordi will likely stick around in Montreal next season but the defense remains deep. Goaltender Zachary Fucale is a raw talent who has shown he has starting potential and will have plenty of time to fully develop.

Weaknesses: Montreal has quantity on defense but lacks in quality behind Tinordi. The same can be said for the center position, which lacks a creative playmaker. Their forward prospects need to prove themselves at the pro level.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jarred Tinordi, D; 2. Nikita Scherbak, RW; 3. Charles Hudon, LW; 4. Mike McCarron, RW; 5. Sven Andrighetto, RW.

Key Losses: Nathan Beaulieu (Graduation), Jack Nevins (Trade – BUF)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: Even with the graduation of Bo Horvat, the Canucks have a fair amount of high-end talent among their forward prospects, namely Nicklas Jensen, Jake Virtanen, and Jared McCann. There is also a lot of depth at defense, led by puck-mover Adam Clendening. Goaltender Thatcher Demko, while a long-term project, looks like he could one day develop into a starting goaltender for the Canucks.

Weaknesses: While the Canucks have a lot of high-end talent among their forward prospects, they lack system-wide depth, especially along the wings. While there is a lot of depth on defense, the majority of them do not project as more than depth players at the highest level. In general, there is a substantial drop in talent past the top one or two prospects at every position.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jake Virtanen, RW; 2. Jared McCann, C; 3. Thatcher Demko, G; 4. Cole Cassels, C; 5. Nicklas Jenson, RW.

Key Additions: Adam Clendening (Trade – CHI), Andrey Pedan (Trade – NYI), Ashton Sautner (Free Agent) Key Losses: Alexandre Mallet (Trade – NYI), Bo Horvat (Graduation)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Oilers have good depth at every position, led by two blue chip prospects in forward Leon Draisaitl and defenseman Darnell Nurse. The Oilers are particularly well stocked with forwards, many of whom have the potential to develop into the type of players who can complement the Oilers young core at the NHL level. Beyond Nurse, there is a large quantity of defensemen, most of whom are playing at the minor league level. There are no blue chip goaltending prospects, but there is plenty of depth in net.

Weaknesses: Edmonton has not adequately developed talent over the past few years. Consequently, many of the prospects currently playing at the professional level do not look like they will develop into anything more than depth forwards. Goaltending remains a concern for the Oilers, and while they have some depth in net, none of the goalie prospects look like they’ll develop into NHL-caliber starters, at least at this point in their development.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Darnell Nurse, D; 2. Leon Draisaitl, C; 3. Laurent Broissoit, G; 4. Jujhar Khaira LW; 5. Dillon Simpson, D.

Key Additions: Eetu Laurikainen (Free Agent) Key Losses: Oscar Klefbom (Graduation), Martin Marincin (Graduation)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Blues feature two excellent prospects in Ivan Barbashev and Robbie Fabbri, both of whom have played center as juniors and might challenge for NHL time later in the upcoming season. The Blues have several defensive prospects, too, who might step up in the next year or two, such as Jordan Schmaltz and Colton Parayko. The goalie situation is good as well. Although Jake Allen graduated last season, Jordan Binnington has been good so far in the AHL, and 2014 fourth-rounder Ville Husso made Team Finland's World Junior squad last year and played well in relief, but more importantly has been a good pro in Finland's Liiga over the past two seasons.

Weaknesses: A commitment to winning in the present has depleted some of the depth, and the team has no first round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, either. Particularly in terms of its forwards, the Blues lack bodies in the system.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Ivan Barbashev, C; 2. Robbie Fabbri, C; 3. Jordan Binnington, G; 4. Ty Rattie, RW; 5. Jordan Schmaltz, D.

Key Losses: Maxim Letunov (Trade - ARI), Dmitrij Jaskin (graduation)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Florida Panthers have a young core in place and look to support them with complementary pieces. Their strength lies on defense with Mike Matheson, Ian McCoshen, Alex Petrovic, and Jonathan Racine, all of whom look like capable NHL defensemen. Florida is also well-stocked at center with Rocco Grimaldi, Jayce Hawryluk, and Kyle Rau.

Weaknesses: Much of the Panther’s high-end talent from over the years has graduated, leaving this deep system limited on skilled forwards, especially on the wings. Now with Aaron Ekblad in the NHL, there does not appear to be a true top-end offensive defenseman in the system. While Roberto Luongo’s contract expires in 2022, there is currently no goaltender in the system that stands above the rest as the future in net. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mike Matheson, D; 2. Ian McCoshen, D; 3. Roco Grimaldi, C; 4. Alex Petrovic, D; 5. Jayce Hawryluk, C. Key Losses: Aaron Ekblad (Graduation), Vincent Trocheck (Graduation), Brandon Pirri (Graduation)
Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Pittsburgh Penguins have a handful of defensive prospects ready for the NHL, headlined by defensemen Derrick Pouliot and Brian Dumoulin. There are also several forwards who are expected to push for NHL roster spots this fall, namely center Oskar Sundqvist and wingers Kasperi Kapanen, Bryan Rust, and Scott Wilson. Past those forwards there is a fair amount of depth, and while many of the players do not project to be more than middle to bottom-of-the-lineup players in the NHL, there are several who possesses some long-term promise. The greatest strength of the Penguins system is in net, where they have two standout goaltending prospects in Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry.

Weaknesses: Kasperi Kapanen is the sole top-six forward prospect in the system, and past him there are a lot of question marks. Graduations and trades have depleted what was once one of the deepest groups of defensive prospects in the NHL. Past the handful of top prospects, there are a lot of players who have either underachieved or failed to meet their potential for one reason or another.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Derrick Pouliot; D, 2. Scott Harrington, D; 3. Oskar Sundkvist, C; 4. Kasperi Kapanen, RW; 5. Matt Murray, G.

Key Losses: Philip Samuelsson (Trade – ARI)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Leafs have a trio of exciting prospects around whom a restructuring might occur. Center William Nylander is a dynamic and creative player in the Patrick Kane mold, and new Head Coach Mike Babcock is tasked with making him a complete and responsible presence. Wingers Brendan Leipsic and Connor Brown are also smaller-framed players, but each topped 100 points in a season during his CHL career and, most importantly, showed the ability to translate that junior offense to the AHL last season. A new regime in Toronto might mean that there is little allegiance to incoming prospects, but there is some additional depth in players like defenseman Stuart Percy, checking center Frederik Gauthier, and 2013 third-rounder Carter Verhaeghe. A European prospect like Pierre Engvall, or puck-moving defenseman Matt Finn, might also be ready for extended looks.

Weaknesses: As suggested above, the size factor of the top offensive prospects creates a bit of redundancy. Toronto's drafting was below-average for several years, leaving the pool overall in a depleted state.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. William Nylander, C; 2. Connor Brown, RW; 3. Stuart Percy, D; 4. Frederik Gauthier, C; 5. Brendan Leipsic, LW.

Key Additions: Brendan Leipsic (Trade - NSH)