Team Rankings: Deep group of young defensemen raises status of Philadelphia Flyers’ prospect pool

By HF Staff
Robert Hagg - Philadelphia Flyers

Photo: Defenseman Robert Hagg is one of several promising defensive prospects for the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers drafted seven defensemen in the past two seasons including Hagg, as well as first round picks Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim. (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)


Below is the 21-30 segment of the Hockey’s Future 2014-15 Fall 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 purposes, 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, in the Fall and Spring. Each team’s rank from the previous rankings is listed in parentheses.

The Philadelphia Flyers lead the bottom group of the rankings. The organization possesses a vast group of defensive prospects, including many who are trending upwards in their development.

The bottom section of the ranking is a fairly eclectic group overall. Several teams are well run organizations that have few remaining quality prospects as a result of graduation, trades, and low draft picks. There are others, however, who are ranked low because of their inability to identify and develop NHL-caliber talent.

21. (22) Philadelphia Flyers

Strengths: While the Philadelphia Flyers have had difficulty on their blue line recently, their future on defense looks bright with Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Robert Hagg leading a deep group. Morin is the shutdown defenseman of the group while the other three are better skaters and puck-movers, especially Gostisbehere who has a great shot and power play ability. The Flyers also have their top prospect at forward and goaltender turning pro this season in Scott Laughton and Anthony Stolarz, respectively. Laughton is off to a strong start in the AHL while Stolarz possesses solid long-term potential.

Weaknesses: Outside of Laughton and Nick Cousins, there is not much depth at center and the forward core overall lacks depth. Stolarz is the only truly promising goaltending prospect in the system but lost substantial development time over the past year due to injury.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Scott Laughton, C; 2. Samuel Morin, D; 3. Travis Sanheim, D; 4. Shayne Gostisbehere, D; 5. Robert Hagg, D.

Key Additions: Travis Sanheim (2014), Nicolas Aube-Kubel (2014), Mark Friedman (2014).

22. (15) Boston Bruins

Strengths: The Boston Bruins have a wide variety of talented prospects across the board, with Malcolm Subban, Niklas Svedberg, and Zane McIntyre in net, Joe Morrow on defense, and a varied group of forwards up front. Subban has the luxury of playing behind two NHL goalies in Boston and can spend extra time in the AHL perfecting his craft. Morrow, meanwhile, made his NHL debut this season. Forwards such as Ryan Spooner, Alexander Khokhlachev, and Seth Griffith, along with incoming rookie David Pastrnak, are all pushing for time in the NHL.

Weaknesses: The Bruins do not possess a lot of depth on the blue line outside of Morrow and Boston University captain Matt Grzelcyk. Many of the older forward prospects in the Bruins system have had difficulty adapting to the NHL level or have not lived up to their offensive potential.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Malcolm Subban, G; 2. Ryan Spooner, C; 3. Alexander Khokhlachev, C; 4. David Pastrnak, RW; 5. Zane McIntyre, G.

Key Additions: David Pastrnak (2014), Ryan Donato (2014).

23. (19) Ottawa Senators

Strengths: Very few teams have undergone the turnover that the Ottawa Senators’ system has seen recently. Yet the organization still has some depth at every position. While they are short on elite talent, many prospects have the potential to grow into dependable contributors. Trades have also allowed many prospects to step up into key roles with the NHL club while bringing in new faces. Curtis Lazar and Mark Stone made the team out of training camp and look like promising NHL forwards. Matt Puempel, Alex Guptill, Shane Prince, and Tobias Lindberg also have good potential.

Weaknesses: With Cody Ceci‘s graduation, the Senators are lacking talent on the blue line. The organization could also use some more size at forward.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Curtis Lazer, C/W; 2. Mark Stone, RW; 3. Matt Puempel, LW; 4. Chris Driedger, G; 5. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C.

Key Additions: Alex Guptill (trade with Dallas), Nicholas Paul (trade with Dallas)

Key Losses: Cody Ceci (graduated)

24. (24) San Jose Sharks

Strengths: What high-end talent the San Jose Sharks do have is fairly good. Mirco Mueller looks very solid on the blue line and should have a good future in the NHL while Tomas Hertl and Chris Tierney also look to be quality players. There is some definite grit and character in the system at forward, and they probably possess one of the more prominent groups of puck-moving defensemen among all NHL teams.

Weaknesses: Overall, the entire system lacks depth. There is good talent in players like Nikolay Goldobin, Mueller, Matt Tennyson, and Hertl, but it falls off very quickly. The pains of being a successful regular season team have worn on the Sharks in terms of picks and placement. The team could use a big, shutdown defensemen in their prospect pool, and they are also very thin in goal.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Thomas Hertl, C; 2. Chris Tierney, C; 3. Mirco Mueller, D; 4. Nikolay Goldobin, RW; 5. Dan O’Regan, C.

Key Additions: Nikolay Goldobin (2014), Julius Bergman (2014), Dylan Sadowy (2014).

25. (18) Edmonton Oilers

Strengths: Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, and Martin Marincin lead a deep group of defensive prospects for the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers have solid depth at forward, led by Leon Draisaitl, who should develop into a very good two-way center in the NHL. The system also has several big players with power forward potential including Bogdan Yakimov and Mitchell Moroz.

Weaknesses: The Oilers have not had a lot of recent success developing picks from the middle and late rounds of the NHL Draft. Edmonton has good depth in net, with Laurent Brossoit, Tyler Bunz, and Frans Tuohimaa all playing at the minor league level, but all are long shots to develop into quality NHL starters.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Darnell Nurse, D; 2. Leon Draisaitl, C; 3. Martin Marincin, D; 4. Oscar Klefbom, D; 5. Mitchell Moroz, LW.

Key Additions: Leon Draisaitl (2014), Iiro Pakarinen (free agent)

26. (25) Minnesota Wild

Strengths: The Minnesota Wild have a handful of prospects who appear to be close to, if not ready for, full-time duty in the NHL, led by Matt Dumba, Erik Haula, and Christian Folin. The organization also has a promising group of prospects playing in the NCAA, headlined by Alex Tuch and Mario Lucia. The Wild frequently dip into the free agency market to augment their roster and recently signed free agent prospects Jordan Schroeder, Alex Gudbranson, and Michael Keranen to contracts. Kaapo Kahkonen leads an intriguing but raw group of goaltending prospects.

Weaknesses: While there is good depth down the middle, there is not a great deal of talent. There is generally a lack of talent at forward, with the majority of the top prospects having already graduated to the NHL. Most of Minnesota’s defensive prospects are very raw and will need several years of development before they meet their potential.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Matt Dumba, D; 2. Alex Tuch, RW; 3. Gustav Olofsson, D; 4. Erika Haula, LW; 5. Jordan Schroeder, C.

Key Additions: Alex Tuch (2014), Jordan Schroeder (free agent), Alex Gudbranson (free agent), Michael Keranen (free agent), Guillaume Gelinas (free agent).

Key Losses:  Jason Zucker (graduated)

27. (26) New Jersey Devils

Strengths: Defense remains the New Jersey Devils strong suit with plenty of rearguards making an impact in the pros. Damon Severson is garnering early Calder Trophy praise for his hot start, Seth Helgeson awaits his chance in AHL Albany, while Raman Hrabarenka and Reece Scarlett are impressing as well. Steve Santini and Joshua Jacobs are in college but are considered future NHL talent by the organization. Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau will be with the parent club eventually, but there are a few underrated forwards, like John Quenneville, Blake Coleman, and Graham Black, that could become useful secondary scorers and provide quality depth. Versatility is another strength as many of the Devils forwards can play all three positions.

Weaknesses: The organization has struggled to draft and develop top-six skilled forwards for the past several seasons. The right wing position especially has been lacking depth for some time. There is little to no elite talent amongst the forwards and goaltenders. The majority of the forward prospects are future bottom-six grunts and role players.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Damon Severson, D; 2. Reid Boucher, LW; 3. Stefan Matteau, C; 4. Steve Santini, D; 5. John Quenneville, C.

Key Additions: Jon Quennville (2014),

Key Losses: Eric Gelinas (graduated), Jon Merrill (graduated)

28. (23) New York Rangers

Strengths: The New York Rangers have many prospects seemingly ready for NHL responsibility. There are a handful of speedy, highly skilled forwards trying to work their way into the lineup. Anthony Duclair has shown flashes of dynamic potential with the Rangers while J.T. Miller is bouncing between the AHL and NHL. Overseas, Pavel Buchnevich continues his stellar play in the KHL. Meanwhile, defensemen Brady Skjei and Dylan McIlrath await their chance to crack the Rangers’ blue line. The Rangers have also done well in finding talent and adding depth via college free agency. This summer was no different as they managed to sign former Chicago Blackhawks prospect Kevin Hayes to their squad. The addition of Brandon Halverson brings one of the better goaltending prospects the system has seen in many years.

Weaknesses: Halverson has potential, but there is no clear future starting goaltender in the Rangers system. After Skjei, McIlrath, and Mat Bodie, there is a sharp drop in defensive talent. There is also a dearth of puck-moving, offensive defensemen. Adding Hayes helps boost a weak center pool, but the Rangers still need more depth down the middle.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Brady Skjei, D, 2. Pavel Buchnevich, LW; 3. Anthony Duclair, LW; 4. J.T. Miller, RW; 5. Brandon Halverson, G.

Key Additions: Kevin Hayes (free agent), Petr Zamorsky (free agent), Brandon Halverson (2014).

29. (29) Carolina Hurricanes

Strengths: The Carolina Hurricanes are rebuilding from the back end out and have done a nice job, drafting Haydn Fleury and Ryan Murphy in recent years on defense and 2013-14 OHL Goaltender of the Year Alex Nedeljkovic. Incoming rookie Trevor Carrick looks to bring offense from the back end in the AHL with Charlotte this season. Up front, Brock McGinn and Victor Rask top the prospect list for the Hurricanes. McGinn is a small, gritty forward who scored 71 goals in his last two seasons of junior hockey. Rask meanwhile has played the 2014-15 season in the NHL and should develop into a solid two-way forward.

Weaknesses: The Hurricanes boosted their defense and goaltending, but do not have any potential top six forwards in their system. The organization also does not have a great deal of size up front. The goaltending and forward positions also need more depth.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Haydn Fleury, D; 2. Ryan Murphy, D; 3. Alex Nedeljkovic, G; 4. Brock McGinn, LW; 5. Victor Rask, C.

Key Additions: Haydn Fleury (2014), Alex Nedeljkovic (2014)

Key Losses: Elias Lindholm (graduated)

30. (28) Colorado Avalanche

Strengths: The Colorado Avalanche possess a deep group of goaltending prospects led by Calvin Pickard and Sami Aittokallio. They also have a trio of fairly solid forwards in Joey Hishon, Troy Bourke, and Michael Sgarbossa. Added to that mix from the 2014 NHL Draft was Conner Bleackley, a nice addition of sandpaper and defensive acumen to the center group. Chris Bigras, Duncan Siemens, and Stefan Elliott are quality defensemen who have yet to meet their potential.

Weaknesses: The Avalanche’s system has been gutted with graduations over the years and is a fairly lackluster group overall. The players that they do have are at a tipping point in their young careers where it is pivotal that they start trending upwards. Both wings are also in need of additions.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Chris Bigras, D; 2. Duncan Siemens, D; 3. Joey Hishon, C; 4. Connor Bleackley, C; 5. Stefan Elliot, D.

Key Additions: Connor Bleackley (2014), Kyle Wood (2014).

Hockey’s Future Fall 2014-15 Team Rankings
1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30

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