Team Rankings: Deep pool of Winnipeg Jets prospects lead middle group

By HF Staff
Adam Lowry - Winnipeg Jets

Photo: Hulking winger Adam Lowry made his NHL debut with the Winnipeg Jets this season. Lowry was a third round pick at the 2011 NHL Draft (courtesy of Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)


Below is the 11-20 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 Winnipeg Jets lead the middle section of the rankings. Bolstered by the addition of the dynamic Nikolaj Ehlers, the Jets’ prospect pool appears to be on the rise, with a strong group of forwards and good talent at every position.

Two other teams rose considerably in the fall rankings, the Vancouver Canucks and the St. Louis Blues. Both teams had solid hauls from the 2014 NHL Draft and have experienced overall positive growth in their prospect pools.

11. (16) Winnipeg Jets

Strengths: Defenseman Josh Morrissey and forward Nikolaj Ehlers look like they have high-end NHL potential, and Nicolas Petan and Connor Hellebuyck have also made names for themselves at their respective competition levels. Overall, the Winnipeg Jets have at least one or two quality prospects at each position, especially in goal, where they are particularly deep. They also have a fairly diverse group with good size, speed, and different playing styles peppered throughout the system.

Weaknesses: There is a pretty decent drop off in talent in almost every position outside of maybe the center group. Defense and right wing seem to be the areas of biggest concern, although they do have a number of CHL and NCAA defenseman that have yet to hit the pro level. The short term outlook is a little mixed for the Jets, but there is a lot of potential talent further down the road.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nikolaj Ehlers, LW; 2. Josh Morrissey, D; 3. Nicolas Petan, C; 4. Adam Lowry, LW; 5. Connor Hellebuyck, G.

Key Additions: Nikolaj Ehlers (2014), Jack Glover (2014), Chase De Leo (2014), Patrick Holland (trade with Montreal)

Key Losses: Ed Pasquale (trade with Washington)

12. (10) Montreal Canadiens

Strengths: The Montreal Canadiens have a deep and diverse group at forward, led by the offensively dynamic Nikita Scherbak. There are also several forwards in the system with solid NHL potential, such as Jacob de la Rose, Mike McCarron, and Jiri Sekac. The Canadiens also have several NHL-caliber defensive prospects in Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi, and Greg Pateryn. The organization also has goaltending prospect Zachary Fucale, who is raw but extremely promising.

Weaknesses: The Canadiens do not have a great deal of talent or depth at center, especially compared to their stockpile on the wings. Aside from Tinordi, the defense does not possess a great deal of size or physicality. Most of their more talented forwards are unproven at the professional level.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nathan Beaulieu, D; 2. Jarred Tinordi, D; 3. Nikita Scherbak, RW; 4. Sven Andrighetto, RW; 5. Zachary Fucale, G.

Key Additions: Jiri Sekac (free agent), Nikita Scherbak (2014), Brett Lernout (2014)

Key Losses: Michael Bournival (graduated), Patrick Holland (trade with Winnipeg)

13. (12) Arizona Coyotes

Strengths: The Arizona Coyotes have a strong group of centers, with Max Domi and Henrik Samuelsson being the two major players of note. Tobias Rieder, Lucas Lessio, and Brendan Perlini also make up a good top layer of wingers. Brandon Gormley and Connor Murphy are two very strong defensive prospects. The top-end talent is there in many positions and close to being NHL-ready.

Weaknesses: The forward group, overall, is a bit undersized. Only a few stand at or over 6’0″, and the Coyotes have instead opted for the speed and skill approach over the prototypical power forward. There is a major drop in talent on the blue line past Gormley and Murphy. Thankfully the defensive position is pretty well stacked at the NHL level. The goaltending pool is not particularly inspiring, with Mark Visentin the primary prospect in net.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Brandon Gormley, D; 2. Max Domi, C; 3. Henrik Samuelsson, C; 4. Connor Murphy, D; 5. Lucas Lessio, LW.

Key Additions: Brendan Perlinin (2014), Ryan MacInnis (2014), Christian Dvorak (2014).

14. (14) Nashville Predators

Strengths: The Nashville Predators’ patient approach to develop their prospects has proceeded well under General Manager David Poile. Usually, the Predators go for well-rounded players, but recently they have focused on adding more offensively skilled players up front. Nowhere is that more true than at the left wing position with Filip Forsberg, Kevin Fiala, Vladislav Kamenev, Pontus Aberg, and Taylor Beck to name a few. Drafting defenseman Jack Dougherty brings some mobility to a big, defensively oriented defense. The goaltending is in good hands as Marek Mazanec is applying the lessons he learned in the NHL last season with the Milwaukee Admirals this season. Overseas, Juuse Saros is impressing in the Finland‘s Liiga and could cross the Atlantic next season.

Weaknesses: Fiala and Kamenev are long-term solutions and still have to adjust to the North American style when they come over. The right wing position is not nearly as deep or skilled as the other forward positions. The Predators could also add some more offensive defensemen to their prospect pool.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Filip Forsberg, LW; 2. Kevin Fiala, LW; 3. Vladislav Kamenev, LW; 4. Calle Jarnkrok, C; 5. Juuse Saros, G.

Key Additions: Kevin Fiala (2014), Vladislav Kamenev (2014), Jack Dougherty (2014), Johan Alm (free agent)

15. (13) Washington Capitals

Strengths: The Washington Capitals boast several forwards with high-end talent and added another in the draft over the summer. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky are the top two forward prospects in the organization and the recently drafted Jakub Vrana looks to add his name to the group of talent up front in the Capitals organization. The Capitals also have more physical forwards in the pipeline, including Chris Brown and Michael Latta, to balance out the skilled forwards and create a deep line of prospects up front. Washington also has a solid group of defensive prospects with Madison Bowey, Connor Carrick, and Nate Schmidt.

Weaknesses: Though the Capitals drafted Vitek Vanecek in the second round last summer and Philipp Grubauer and rookie Pheonix Copley have looked good so far this season in the AHL, organizational goaltending is still a cause for concern.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C; 2. Andre Burakovsky, LW ; 3. Madison Bowey, D; 4. Jakub Vrana, W; 5. Connor Carrick, D

Key Additions: Jakub Vrana (2014), Vitek Vanecek (2014), Nathan Walker (2014), Ed Pasquale (trade with Winnipeg)

16. (17) Pittsburgh Penguins

Strengths: The Pittsburgh Penguins are known for their deep and talented blue line with prospects like Derrick Pouliot, Scott Harrington, and Brian Dumoulin, but several forwards turning pro this season are starting to steal the spotlight. Rookie forwards Bryan Rust and Scott Wilson are transitioning well from college to the pro-style of play in the AHL. Jean-Sebastien Dea and Matia Marcantuoni have come out of juniors and fit in well with the AHL club, too. The Penguins also have two top-nine forwards in Oskar Sundqvist and Kasperi Kapanen who are close to NHL-ready. The goaltending position is also very stable with Matt Murray playing well in the AHL, and Memorial Cup Champion Tristan Jarry in the WHL.

Weaknesses: The Penguins do not have many big, skilled forwards in their system, with Sundqvist being the lone exception. Many of the more skilled forwards in the organization are inconsistent and injury prone.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Derrick Pouliot, D; 2. Kasperi Kapanen, RW; 3. Beau Bennett, RW; 4. Scott Harrington, D; 5. Brian Dumoulin, D.

Key Additions: Kasperi Kapanen (2014)

17. (30) St Louis Blues

Strengths: The St. Louis Blues have two extremely promising goaltending prospects in Jake Allen and Jordan Binnington. Allen began the 2014-15 season in the NHL and has gotten off to a strong start. The Blues also have a deep, eclectic mix of NHL-caliber forwards such as Robby Fabbri, Ivan Barbashev, Dmitrij Jaskin, and Ty Rattie. Many of the forward prospects, such as Rattie and Jaskin, are pushing for time in the NHL.

Weaknesses: The Blues do not have a great deal of depth on defense, and while many of their defensive prospects project to be serviceable NHL players, none are considered potential top pairing defensemen. The Blues could also stand to add more depth to the center position.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Ivan Barbashev, C/W; 2. Jordan Binnington, G; 3. Jake Allen, G; 4. Ty Rattie, RW; 5. Robby Fabbri, C.

Key Additions: Ivan Barbashev (2014), Robby Fabbri (2014)

18. (27) Vancouver Canucks

Strengths: The Vancouver Canucks have started to revamp the system a little bit, and much of it is due to the development of the big names like Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk. They have also added Linden Vey to the mix at center, which gives them a very solid group down the middle. Thatcher Demko, Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen were great pick-ups from the 2014 draft and helped add to a solid group in goal and at left wing. There are some intriguing peripheral characters in the system as well in Jordan Subban and Darren Archibald.

Weaknesses: While many of the wingers can shift from right to left, the Canucks are limited in natural right wingers. Only three are listed in Nicklas JensenAlexandre Grenier, and Virtanen. Defensively, there is not a headlining talent, either, with 2014 draft pick Nikita Tryamkin the top defensive prospect. Subban is a potential boom or bust, and Jeremie Blain, Frank Corrado, and Henrik Tommernes have failed to make enough of an impression at the pro level to be of significant value.

Top 5 Prospects: Jake Virtanen, RW; 2. Thatcher Demko, G; 3. Bo Horvat, C; 4. Nikita Tryamkin, D; 5. Hunter Shinkaruk, LW.

Key Additions: Linden Vey (trade with Los Angeles), Jake Virtanen (2014), Thatcher Demo (2014), Jared McCann (2014)

19. (20) Toronto Maple Leafs

Strengths: William Nylander takes over as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ blue chip prospect who is an all-around talent. Plenty of the Maple Leafs high-caliber prospects are 20 years or younger, creating a good core for the future. Josh Leivo and Stuart Percy showed they are close to NHL-ready. Former seventh round pick Andreas Johnson has been outstanding on the international stage as well as in the SHL. There are plenty of big, gritty bottom-six forwards who can provide depth at the NHL level. Matt Finn is one of several two-way defensemen who are almost ready to help out.

Weaknesses: Goaltending remains a concern, with no clear-cut candidate to become so much as an NHL backup. Left wing is short on talent while most of the centers are defensively oriented. Despite improvement, the conservative draft strategy of the past has resulted in a lack of upside in the prospect pool.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. William Nylander, C; 2. Josh Leivo, LW; 3. Matt Finn, D; 4. Frederik Gauthier, C; 5. Stuart Percy, D.

Key Additions: William Nylander (2014), Rinat Valiev (2014), Cody Donaghey (free agent)

Key Losses: Jerry D’Amigo (trade with Columbus)

20. (21) Los Angeles Kings

Strengths: The Los Angeles Kings have dealt with having picks late in rounds or not having picks at all, but they have still come away adding some solid depth to their overall pool. Therein lies the greatest strength of the Kings. While there is no standout talent at the top, aside from maybe Valentin Zykov or Tanner Pearson, they have numerous players with a good deal of NHL utility and skill sets. Center and defense continue to be an area of great strength, and the draft additions of Adrian Kempe, Roland McKeown, and Alex Lintuniemi only bolster areas that were already strong.

Weaknesses: As mentioned, the Kings have very little in the way of true top-end talent. Zykov and Pearson both may develop into solid second line players, but they too are not truly blue chip prospects. This has left the Kings system with a lot of meat, but few standouts. This does match the Kings draft mentality of character over skill, though. At times it can reflect poorly on the overall quality of the prospect pool despite their being some NHL-level talent peppered throughout. Talent along the wings is a little sparse past Zykov and Pearson, especially with the graduation of Tyler Toffoli and the KHL limbo status of Nikolai Prokhorkin.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Tanner Pearson, LW; 2. Valentin Zykov, RW; 3. Brayden McNabb, D; 4. Nikolai Prokhorkin, LW; 5. Adrian Kempe, C.

Key Additions: Roland McKeown (2014), Alex Lintuniemi (2014), Adrian Kempe (2014)

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

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