Hockey’s Future Spring 2009 Organizational Rankings, 1-10

By HF Staff

The Hockey’s Future Organizational Rankings are an assessment of the overall state of each NHL team’s system of prospects. An overall rank is given, and strengths and weaknesses are identified. The rankings are compiled twice a year by a committee of staff members using Hockey’s Future prospect criteria. Teams ranked 11-20 can be found here, and 21-30 can be found here. The Top 5 prospects shown are from the Spring ranking of each team’s pool. For information on individual prospects for each of the NHL teams, please visit the various team, league, or country pages here at Hockey’s Future.

1. St. Louis Blues

Strengths: Even after the graduation of players like David Perron and Patrik Berglund over the past two seasons, St. Louis still boasts one of the strongest prospect pools in the NHL. The Blues have a pair of top prospects remaining in their system in center T.J. Oshie and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. There is strong depth down the middle with Brett Sonne and Philip McRae along with a couple of nice options on the wings in Lars Eller and Aaron Palushaj. The blue line is set for years with Ian Cole and Cade Fairchild progressing through the system. In net, Jake Allen and Ben Bishop could both potentially see time as the Blues primary backstop in the near future. Weaknesses: Because of graduations, depth along the wing is not what it once was. Top 5 prospects: 1. Alex Pietrangelo, D, 2. T.J. Oshie, C, 3. Lars Eller, LW, 4. Ian Cole, D, 5. Aaron Palushaj, RW. Key losses to graduation: Patrik Berglund

2. Montreal Canadiens

Strengths: The club has quality depth at both forward and along the blue line, with players of diverse styles. This gives the club incredible flexibility for the future. The defensive prospects remain the greatest asset, with McDonagh and Subban highlighting a dynamic collection of players. Up front, Pacioretty is the best of a solid group of forwards that come with some size – long a weakness for the club. Weaknesses: While the Canadiens have a solid young tandem at the NHL level, their organizational depth in net has pretty much been mined. Cedrick Desjardins is a career backup at best and Jason Missiaen stumbled badly in his first opportunity as the lead man between the pipes. While the organization’s size has improved – especially on the blue line – they’re still missing a cache of sizable centers and power forwards. Top 5 prospects: 1. Ryan McDonagh, D, 2. Max Pacioretty, LW, 3. Ben Maxwell, C, 4. P.K. Subban, D, 5. Kyle Chipchura, C. Key losses to graduation: Ryan O’Byrne, Jaroslav Halak.

3. Nashville Predators

Strengths: The Predators have good high-end prospects at forward, defense, and in goal with Colin Wilson, Jon Blum, and Chet Pickard respectively. The organization possesses great depth along the wing with forwards such as Ryan Jones and Patric Hornqvist. The Predators are also deep in net with Mark Dekanich and Jeremy Smith beyond Pickard. Nashville drafts high-character prospects, who are self-driven. Weaknesses: An organization that used to be stocked with defensive prospects, that department looks comparatively bare as of late. While there is great forward depth along the wings, the system is thin at center. Also, Nashville drafts a great deal from Europe, and with that comes no guarantees of signability. Top 5 prospects: 1. Colin Wilson, C, 2. Chet Pickard, G, 3. Jon Blum, D, 4. Cody Franson, D, 5. Ryan Jones, RW. Key loss to graduation: Kevin Klein.

4. Los Angeles Kings

Strengths: The Kings’ prospect pool remains very deep. The top of the class is diverse in all positions. A group of forwards highlighted by Oscar Moller, Ted Purcell and Brian Boyle – not to mention under-the-radar center Andrei Loktionov assure the Kings will be strong up front in the foreseeable future. Despite the loss of Drew Doughty, the Kings group of defensive prospects remains strong with Thomas Hickey, Colten Teubert and Vyacheslav Voinov at the top of the list. The goaltending depth is strong as well thanks to Jonathan Bernier and Jeff Zatkoff. Weaknesses: A great deal of depth was lost to graduation. Questions remain as to whether Bernier is a legitimate starting goaltender prospect. Top 5 prospects: 1. Oscar Moller, RW, 2. Thomas Hickey, D, 3. Jonathan Bernier, G, 4. Colten Teubert, D, 5. Ted Purcell, RW. Key losses to graduation: Drew Doughty, Peter Harrold, Jonathan Quick, Kyle Quincey, Wayne Simmonds, John Zeiler.

5. Columbus Blue Jackets

Strengths: The Blue Jackets graduated a couple of their top prospects – Calder front-runner Steve Mason and winger Jakub Voracek – this season on way to earning the franchise’s first postseason appearance. The cupboard is still stocked with several talented forwards, headlined by an elite scoring winger in Nikita Filatov. Derick Brassard will also look to fill the net following an injury-shortened rookie season. Beyond the top two forwards, Columbus has some nice depth with players like Maxim Mayorov, Jake Hansen, and Tom Sestito on the wings. The defense also features solid prospects in Cody Goloubef, Teddy Ruth, and Andrei Plekhanov. Weaknesses: The Jackets are particularly thin down the middle with only three center prospects. Although the system recently graduated Mason, it now lacks a top-flight prospect in goal. Top 5 prospects: 1. Nikita Filatov, LW, 2. Derick Brassard, C, 3. Cody Goloubef, D, 4. Maxim Mayorov, LW, 5. Teddy Ruth, D. Key losses to graduation: Steve Mason, Jakub Voracek.

6. Washington Capitals

Strengths: Even with the Capitals recent on-ice success, the prospect depth remains very good as a whole. Karl Alzner and Simeon Varlamov are well on their way to becoming fixtures in the talented Washington lineup. Varlamov heads up a very talented group of goalies that includes Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth. The Caps have a myriad of offensively capable blueliners. Two-way defenseman John Carlson, slick Sami Lepisto, and creative playmaker Keith Seabrook will help to keep Washington’s power play churning on all cylinders for years to come. Weaknesses: Many of the top-tier forward prospects have graduated. Outside of Alzner, there are not enough defensively responsible defensemen. Top 5 prospects: 1. Karl Alzner, D, 2. Anton Gustafsson, C, 3. Simeon Varlamov, G, 4. John Carlson, D, 5. Oskar Osala, LW. Key loss to graduation: Eric Fehr.

7. Boston Bruins

Strengths: The Bruins have a stable of excellent prospects at center. University of Denver prospect Joe Colborne has the most potential of all of Boston’s centers, but Brad Marchand and Zach Hamill are also potential top-six forwards. Additionally, the Providence Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask is one of the top goaltending prospects among the NHL teams. Weaknesses: Boston’s most glaring weakness is the lack of high-end prospects on the wing. After the recent graduations of both Blake Wheeler and Milan Lucic, there are only six wingers currently in the organization. None of those wingers have top-six potential. Top 5 prospects: 1. Tuukka Rask, G, 2. Joe Colborne, C, 3. Brad Marchand, C, 4. Zach Hamill, C 5. Kevin Regan, G. Key losses to graduation: Blake Wheeler, Vladimir Sobotka.

8. Atlanta Thrashers

Strengths: The Thrashers system features a pair of top-end prospects in goalie Ondrej Pavelec and defenseman Zach Bogosian. The defensive prospect depth is solid with both offensive and defensive-minded prospects. The center position is also a point of strength, featuring Riley Holzapfel, Daultan Leveille, and John Albert. Centers Angelo Esposito and Eric O’Dell have also been added through trades. Weaknesses: On the wings, Spencer Machacek, and Vinny Saponari rank near the top of a relatively weak position. Depth on the left wing is especially lacking. The absence of a blue-chip forward is compounded by the question marks surrounding some of the Thrashers top forward prospects, such as Esposito and Brett Sterling. Top 5 prospects: 1. Zach Bogosian, D, 2. Ondrej Pavelec, G, 3. Riley Holzapfel, C, 4. Spencer Machacek, RW, 5. Boris Valabik, D. Key losses to graduation: none

9. Philadelphia Flyers

Strengths: Outstanding depth at forward with Claude Giroux and James vanRiemsdyk who are both first-line prospects. Following them is Andreas Nodl and Patrick Maroon who both possess second-line potential. The team is also deep on defense, with Luca Sbisa and Kevin Marshall the top prospects at that position. When viewed in combination with the youth already on the club’s NHL roster, the Flyers boast a formidable stable of prospects. Weaknesses: Philadelphia is without a top goaltending prospect, which is made all the more important by the NHL team’s long-term weaknesses at that position. The top netminding prospects in the system, Joacim Eriksson and Jacob Deserres, do not project to be NHL starters. Additionally, the organization lacks a first- or second-line prospect at center. Over the last few years, Philadelphia has favored wingers over centers. Top 5 prospects: 1. James vanRiemsdyk, LW, 2. Claude Giroux, RW, 3. Luca Sbisa, D, 4. Kevin Marshall, D, 5. Ryan Parent, D. Key losses to graduation: none

10. Buffalo Sabres

Strengths: Forwards such as Tyler Ennis, Nathan Gerbe, and Tim Kennedy are the next generation of smallish, offensively minded forwards to come up through the Buffalo system. The Sabres also boast a wide array of defensive prospects including the puck-moving Chris Butler and the physical Tyler Myers. Weaknesses: The Sabres lack size at center and skill along the wing. The prospect pool is decidedly top-heavy as many players towards the bottom are not NHL quality prospects. Depth in net is also a concern as there is little after Jhonas Enroth. Top 5 prospects: 1. Jhonas Enroth, G, 2. Chris Butler, D, 3. Tyler Ennis, C, 4. Tyler Myers, D, 5. Mike Weber, D. Key losses to graduation: none.