Hockey’s Future Organizational Rankings, Fall 2009 21-30

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. All prospects in the pool are taken into consideration. The Top 5 prospects listed are from the Fall ranking of each team’s pool. For information on individual prospects for each of the NHL teams, please visit the various team pages here at Hockey’s Future.

21. Edmonton Oilers

Strengths: Balance and depth with a healthy dose of scoring – Swedes Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Anton Lander and Linus Omark represent a new era in Edmonton, a franchise that has historically failed to draft and develop well out of Europe. Add Finnish junior sensation Toni Rajala and SM-Liiga scorer Teemu Hartikainen and the Oilers have the best crop of Euro potential they’ve perhaps ever had. Sniper “HFlink” href=”/prospects/jordan_eberle”>Jordan Eberle impressed at training camp and is poised to dominate the WHL this year. Defense appears strong with collegian Jeff Petry, AHL rookies Alex Plante and Johan Motin plus NHL bubble defender Theo Peckham.
Weaknesses: The Oilers have quality netminders in Devan Dubnyk and Olivier Roy, but neither holds the sure-fire NHL starter label. While the Oilers have a few strong defense prospects, they could use more depth in this area. Edmonton did not improve themselves as much in the 2009 draft as some other teams.
Top five prospects: 1. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, LW, 2. Jordan Eberle, RW, 3. Riley Nash, C, 4. Linus Omark, LW, 5. Theo Peckham, D.

22. Carolina Hurricanes

Strengths: The Hurricanes prospects were the winners of this past Traverse City tournament, showing both skill and character. The club’s system was augmented by this most recent entry draft, with five picks from 2009 cracking the top 20 list. They are headlined by the skillful Zach Boychuk, two-way center Brandon Sutter, while Drayson Bowman, Zac Dalpe and 2009 pick Philippe Paradis also bring noteworthy skill. The success of goaltender Mike Murphy over the last handful of junior seasons are both impressive and difficult to ignore.
Weaknesses: The right side is conspicuously thin, lacking top-six potential. After Murphy, whose technique may not carry up a level very well, depth between the pipes is non-existent. Although Carolina has hung on to more of its picks lately, the system as a whole lacks depth.
Top five prospects: 1. Zach Boychuk, C, 2. Brandon Sutter, C, 3. Drayson Bowman, LW, 4. Jamie McBain, D, 5. Zac Dalpe, C.

23. Ottawa Senators

Strengths: Defensive prospects are Ottawa’s strength. A pair of recent first-round picks in Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen lead the pack while Brian Lee and Patrick Wiercioch have both shown promise in both ends of the ice. Top goalie prospect Brian Elliott has already shown promise at the professional level and the Senators added a big goalie in Robin Lehner in the 2009 draft. Up front, the team has been patient with the offensively-gifted imports Ilya Zubov and Peter Regin as they look to jump into the Sens lineup. 
Weaknesses: Ottawa lacks a top-flight forward in its prospect pool and does not possess the depth up front to make up for it with only six wingers in the system. Depth in the crease is also a big concern.
Top five prospects: 1. Erik Karlsson, D, 2. Jared Cowen, D, 3. Brian Lee, D, 4. Brian Elliott, G, 5. Peter Regin, C

24. Chicago Blackhawks

Strengths: Depth. The Blackhawks drafted five centers in the 2009 draft and have a total of seven defensemen from their two previous draft classes to replenish those key positions. The defensive pool in particular is balanced with offensive-minded players like Shawn Lalonde and Brian Connelly alongside more defensive-minded blueliners like Dylan Olsen and Teigan Zahn. There is also a balance of talent on the wings with developing power forwards like Akim Aliu and Kyle Beach alongside speedy, skilled forwards like Billy Sweatt, Jack Skille, and Igor Makarov.
Weaknesses: While there are intriguing prospects at every position, the lack of top-end talent hurts the group’s ranking. Questions abound with players like Skille and Beach attempting to live up to their first-round draft status. The Blackhawks have long sought their goalie of the future, but do not have anyone worthy of that moniker right now.
Top five prospects: 1. Niklas Hjalmarsson, D, 2. Kyle Beach, LW, 3. Akim Aliu, RW, 4. Dylan Olsen, D, 5. Shawn Lalonde, D.

25. Calgary Flames

Strengths: An often under-respected array of blueliners has the Flames well positioned for the future. WJC gold medal winner Keith Aulie is supported by Matt Pelech and John Negrin, who both made impressive NHL debuts in 2008-09. Newly-drafted Swede Tim Erixon was a welcome addition to an already strong prospect defense. Netminding is rarely an issue with Calgary and Leland Irving silenced most doubters with a solid year in the AHL last season to get back on track as a bona fide blue-chipper. Forward Mikael Backlund brings an offensive dynamic to the mix after finally arriving in North America midway through last year. Power forward Greg Nemisz had a strong year helping the Windsor Spitfires capture the Memorial Cup.
Weaknesses: Outside of Backlund, and perhaps Mitch Wahl, Calgary’s forward group could be considered blue-collar, hard-working players, but there is a definite lack of true offensive talent. Goalie Matt Keetley struggled in the AHL last year and will need a much better campaign in Abbotsford.
Top five prospects: 1. Mikael Backlund, C, 2. Greg Nemisz, RW, 3. Keith Aulie, D, 4. Leland Irving, G, 5. Tim Erixon. D.

26. San Jose Sharks

Strengths: The Sharks pipeline boasts several intriguing prospects in net, including current Sharks backup Thomas Greiss, Tyson Sexsmith, and Harri Sateri. A pair of former teammates with the Ottawa 67’s will reunite in Worcester as the prolific Logan Couture makes his pro debut and the talented left winger Jamie McGinn returns to the AHL. Though defense is not exactly a strength of the Sharks system, 2007 first-round pick Nick Petrecki is also begining his pro career. Jason Demers has been a surprise to make the NHL roster.
Weaknesses: The Sharks lack blue-chippers in their prospect pool. Without first-round picks in the last two drafts, San Jose wasn’t able to restock. Depth at all forward positions is lacking, but right wing is definitely a trouble spot with only two prospects in the mix.
Top five prospects: 1. Logan Couture, C, 2. Nick Petrecki, D, 3. Tyson Sexsmith, G, 4. Jamie McGinn, LW, 5. Thomas Greiss, G

27. Dallas Stars

Strengths: The Stars biggest asset is offense as the pipeline boasts a trio of skilled forwards in Jamie Benn, Fabian Brunnstrom, and Scott Glennie. The emphasis on offensive skill also comes through in the defensive pool where Ivan Vishnevskiy‘s strength is as a power-play quarterback. In addition to the marquee names, Dallas also has a handful of skaters with high upside such as defenseman Philip Larsen and forwards like Alex Chiasson and Sergei Korostin
Weaknesses: Even Dallas’ top prospects have question marks surrounding them. Depth is also an issue, particularly on the blue line where there are only five prospects. Brunnstrom is likely a third liner, and some wonder Glennie can keep up his impressive numbers against higher levels of competition. Tyler Beskorowany‘s stock is on the rise, while Richard Bachman‘s is on the decline.
Top five prospects: 1. Ivan Vishnevskiy, D, 2. Jamie Benn, LW, 3. Scott Glennie, RW, 4. Fabian Brunnstrom, LW, 5. Philip Larsen, D

28. Pittsburgh Penguins

Strengths: The Penguins have a diverse group of physical forwards who can play multiple positions and in either a top or bottom-six role including Eric Tangradi, Luca Caputi, and Nick Johnson. They also have a nice mix of young prospects on the defensive side of the puck with 2009 draftee Simon Despres joining Alex Goligoski, Brian Strait, Carl Sneep, Alex Grant and Robert Bortuzzo. The Penguins’ AHL team remains well stocked with NHL-ready talent including goaltender John Curry, who can fill in capably on an emergency basis.
Weaknesses: With the exception of Despres, all of the Penguins first-round picks over the past five years are either playing in the NHL or with a different organization. Consequentially, there is a dearth of premium-level talent. Many of the prospects in the system have one or two glaring deficiencies in their game.
Top five prospects : 1. Eric Tangradi, LW, 2. Alex Goligoski, D, 3. Simon Despres, D, 4. Brian Strait, D, 5. Luca Caputi, LW.

29. New Jersey Devils

Strengths: The Devils added depth and talent through the draft in the last couple years. At the top of their pool, a highly-touted Swedish trio made up of 2008 first-round pick Mattias Tedenby, 2009 first-round pick Jacob Josefson, and 2005 first-round pick Nicklas Bergfors. Also noteworthy is Patrice Cormier, a two-way force in the QMJHL. The 21-year-old Matt Halischuk‘s NHL career is underway. And the supremely skilled Alexander Vasyunov has taken a great step toward a possible NHL future by entering North American competition. Defense is another organizational strong point, as Matt Corrente and Tyler Eckford develop in the minor pros, and Brandon Burlon makes a name for himself in the NCAA.
Weaknesses: Jeff Frazee is the lone goaltender in the New Jersey system, and probably not the long-term answer. The club has only drafted three other netminders since the turn of the century. Emphasizing two-way play, the Devils scarcely possess elite scoring.
Top five prospects: 1. Mattias Tedenby, LW, 2. Jacob Josefson, C, 3. Nicklas Bergfors, RW, 4. Matt Corrente, D, 5. Patrice Cormier, C.

30. Minnesota Wild

Strengths: A new management regime is in Minnesota and with them has come a promise to be more patient with their top prospects. The Wild have three promising defensive prospects with top-four potential in Tyler Cuma, Marco Scandella, and Nick Leddy. The Wild also have a handful of physical forwards in Cody Almond and Colton Gillies. Kristopher Foucault remains a bit of a wildcard, having not played a full season the past two years. But he surely has talent.
Weaknesses: The Wild do not have any sure top-six wingers in their prospect pool and lack any game-breaking scoring talent. There are too many players in the system who have baggage in the form of injury or attitude problems. Many of their top picks are already playing in the NHL and no longer qualify as prospects.
Top five prospects: 1. Tyler Cuma, D, 2. Colton Gillies, C, 3. Nick Leddy, D, 4. Marco Scandella, D, 5. Benoit Pouliot, LW.