Photo: Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau finished the 2012-13 season tied for the lead among NHL rookies with 31 points (courtesy of Rich Kane/Icon SMI)
Hockey's Future presents the top grouping of the 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.
Photo: Boston College center Kevin Hayes was scoring at close to a point-per-game pace before his junior season was cut short by a leg injury (courtesy of Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images)
The Chicago Blackhawks possess a deep pool of blueliners at the collegiate level, from imposing physical presences like Stephen Johns and Michael Paliotta to smooth skaters Justin Holl and Nick Mattson. Centers Kevin Hayes, a first round draft choice in 2010, and Drew LeBlanc, recently signed as a free agent out of St. Cloud State, are also high-profile prospects who developed at the NCAA level in 2012-13.
Photo: Brandon Saad's third period shorthanded goal sealed a 2-1 victory over San Jose on February 22nd, marking the Blackhawks' record-setting 17th straight game without a regulation loss to open the season. (courtesy of Robin Alam/Icon SMI)
The Chicago Blackhawks have had the arsenal of picks to draft for both quantity and quality in recent years, leading to a prospect pool with both variety and depth. The team's top five prospects may stand out due to their overall upside and the likeliness that they will reach that level of play, but the rest of the list is far less clear cut as the prospects have yet to distance themselves from the pack.
Photo: Defenseman Shawn Lalonde, the Blackhawks second pick at 68th overall, is one of several prospects from Chicago's 2008 class who is still developing at the minor league level. (courtesy of Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)
Of the seven selections made by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008, only sixth-round pick Ben Smith has seen any time with the NHL club. Several prospects remain in the minor league system and college level, but none of them are surefire NHL prospects at this point in their careers.
Photo: The Rockford IceHogs second-leading scorer is winger Ben Smith, one of the many prospects with NHL experience in the Rockford lineup this season. (courtesy of Warren Wimmer/Icon SMI)
Expected by many to be among the top teams in the AHL this season, the Rockford IceHogs have put together another up-and-down start to a season. Even with several players on the roster who are expected to be full-time NHL players when the season begins, the team has managed a 17-16-1-1 record so far in 2012-13. There have been good stretches – four separate stretches have seen the 'Hogs rattle off at least three consecutive wins – but they are always accompanied by times when the team has struggled to come away with any points in the standings.