Photo: Defenseman Aaron Ekblad (left) and forwards Sam Reinhart (center) and Sam Bennett (right) will learn where they begin their professional careers at the 2014 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images and Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
Now that the Los Angeles Kings have hoisted their second Stanley Cup in three years, the hockey world can now focus on the 2014 NHL Draft that will take place on June 27th and 28th at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Photo: Defenseman Steve Santini is one of several strong defensive prospects in the New Jersey Devils system. Santini was drafted in the second round of the 2013 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Richard T. Gagnon/Getty Images)
Stacked with 12 shootout loses and inconsistent play throughout the year, the New Jersey Devils missed the playoffs for the third time in four years. Once more, scoring was the culprit as the Devils failed to finish off their opponents when they had to in regulation.
Photo: Forward Ben Thomson played a key part of North Bay’s deep run through the OHL playoffs. New Jersey signed Thomson to an entry-level deal on May 23rd, 2014. (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)
While the New Jersey Devils missed the 2013-14 NHL playoffs, quite a few of their prospects had impactful postseasons. Their AHL affiliate reached the playoffs for the first time since 2010, giving many pro prospects their first taste of the postseason. Other players at lower levels, such as Damon Severson and Ben Thomson, also had strong playoff performances.
Photo: Forward Linden Vey is one of several Los Angeles Kings prospects to make his NHL debut during the 2013-14 season. Vey appeared in 18 games for the Kings. (courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)
Below is the 21-30 segment of the Hockey's Future 2014 Spring NHL Team Rankings. The teams are ranked in terms of the quality of their overall prospect pool as voted on by members of the HF staff. 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. For reference, each team's previous rank is listed in parenthesis.
Photo: Medvescak Zagreb forward Patrick Bjorkstrand, shown here competing for Denmark at the 2013 World Championship, could be looking to follow his brother Oliver to North America after a solid 2013-14 season in the KHL (courtesy of JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)
The infamous "Russian Factor" is taking its toll on the sheer number of drafted prospects playing in Russia as nowadays, the NHL franchises are scared to draft directly from Russia, causing many top prospects to decide to cross the pond earlier and play some seasons in the Canadian major junior system in order to improve their chances of being chosen at the NHL Draft.