Photo: Forward Yevgeni Kuznetsov is widely considered to be the top young hockey player not playing in North America. Kuznetsov is currently playing for Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL. (courtesy of Yury Kuzmin/KHL Photo Agency via Getty Images)
With every regular season in hockey finished, it is once again time to select the Hockey's Future Prospect of the Year. Though there were many fantastic performances outside of the NHL, none were quite as good as Yevgeni Kuznetsov (WAS), who this season further cemented himself as the best hockey player not currently in North America.
Photo: Cam Atkinson is one of several Blue Jackets prospects who has seen regular time in the lineup for Columbus during the 2013 NHL season (courtesy of Jason Mowry/Icon SMI)
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.
Photo: Braden Holtby (left) and John Carlson (right) were both selected in the 2008 NHL Draft by the Washington Capitals. (Courtesy of Will Schneekloth/Icon SMI)
Any draft that produces a top line defensemen and a starting goalie with great potential should be considered a success. For the Washington Capitals, the 2008 NHL Draft produced stalwart defenseman John Carlson and platoon starter Braden Holtby.
Photo: Washington Capitals prospect Philipp Grubauer, shown here playing for the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs, has performed impressively so far in the ECHL (courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
The ECHL and the ECHL All-Star Game has quietly become one of the top showcases and grooming grounds for upcoming National Hockey League goaltenders.
Just ask the Washington Capitals.
Photo: With 12 goals and 12 assists through 39 games, Tomas Kundratek has been the top producing defenseman for the Hershey Bears this season. (Mark Goldman/Icon SMI)
The Hershey Bears, the AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals, did not get as much help as many AHL teams did with the lockout. The team has struggled at times offensively, but has stayed in contention because of the play of goaltender Braden Holtby. With the NHL lockout over, Holtby was recalled to the big club, paving the way for Philipp Grubauer to lead the Bears in net.