Hockey’s Future Organizational Rankings, Fall 2009 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. All prospects in the pool are taken into consideration. The Top 5 prospects listed are from the Fall ranking of each team’s pool. Teams ranked 11-20 can be found here, and 21-30 can be found here. For information on individual prospects for each of the NHL teams, please visit the various team pages here at Hockey’s Future.

1. St. Louis Blues

Strengths: The Blues continue to have one of the deepest and most talented prospect pipelines in the league. St Louis added the offensively-gifted David Rundblad in the first round of the 2009 draft to compliment a blue line that already features future cornerstone Alex Pietrangelo as well as solid prospects Ian Cole and Cade Fairchild. Up front, talented forwards like Lars Eller, Aaron Palushaj, and Brett Sonne continue to develop. Jake Allen seized the top spot among the goalie prospects.
Weaknesses: Depth on the left wing is somewhat lacking. Depth in goal could also be a concern. Ben Bishop‘s stock fell after an uneven rookie season. Questions about how prolific forwards such as Sonne and Palushaj will translate to the pro ranks should be answered this season.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Alex Pietrangelo, D, 2. Lars Eller, LW, 3. Ian Cole, D, 4. Aaron Palushaj, RW, 5. David Rundblad, D.

2. Nashville Predators

Strengths: Nashville has a top goalie prospect in Chet Pickard as well as a top forward prospect in Colin Wilson. The Predators’ blue line prospect pool, however, is still among the deepest and most talented in the entire league. Jon Blum, Ryan Ellis, Cody Franson, and Charles-Olivier Roussel all project as skilled offensive defensemen. Wilson and Zach Budish headline the Predators’ forward group, which is rounded out by players like Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. Behind Pickard, Nashville boasts other solid goalie prospects in Mark Dekanich and Anders Lindback.
Weaknesses: Their best prospects on defense are decidedly offensive-minded, and they lack the shut-down defender. The emphasis on skill along the blue line has not necessarily carried over to the forwards. After Wilson, the forwards drop off in quality.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Colin Wilson, C, 2. Chet Pickard, G, 3. Jon Blum, D, 4. Ryan Ellis, D, 5. Cody Franson, D

3. New York Rangers

Strengths: The Blueshirts’ blueline is the jewel of the system. Ryan McDonagh was a key acquisition in the offseason from Montreal, and welcome defensive addition to go with Michael Del Zotto, Bobby Sanguinetti, and Hobey Baker winner Matt Gilroy. Russian power forward Evgeny Grachev has begun to emerge as a powerhouse in junior. The 19-year-old is the organization’s top-flight scorer. Fellow Russian Artem Anisimov is also highly prized, and has begun his rookie campaign this season after a dominant year last year in the AHL. McDonagh’s teammate with the University of Wisconsin, forward Derek Stepan, also turned heads as a freshman last year.
Weaknesses: The biggest deficit in the system is in goal. With three netminding prospects in the organization, none have distinguished themselves. With difficulty as of late cultivating their own draft choices at the position, free agent Chad Johnson, a Hobey nominee, is the team’s best bet as of now.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Evgeny Grachev, C, 2. Artem Anisimov, C, 3. Ryan McDonagh, D, 4. Derek Stepan, C, 5. Michael Del Zotto, D.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets

Strengths: Russian Nikita Filatov is a contender for the Calder Trophy this year and is considered one of the most offensively gifted players to be stepping into the NHL. Center Derick Brassard hopes his injury problems are behind him so that he can continue turning heads. A strong group of collegiate blueliners await their turn – Cody Goloubef in Wisconsin, Ohio State’s Will Weber and Notre Dame’s Teddy Ruth among them. John Moore chose the OHL instead of Colorado College and is off to a good start. Matt Calvert will be a key leader for the Brandon Wheat Kings as the host club for the 2010 Memorial Cup.
Weaknesses: The Blue Jackets will need to get a injection of youth into the system soon though, since many of their top prospects are nearing graduation. They are without a top prospect at the right wing position. Depth at center may also be a concern.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nikita Filatov, LW, 2. Derick Brassard, C, 3. John Moore, D, 4. Cody Goloubef, D, 5. Maksim Mayorov, LW.

5. Los Angeles Kings

Strengths: Seven consecutive years of picking top 15, and top five the last three drafts, has enabled the Kings to maintain a good prospect pool despite the graduation of key players each fall. Thomas Hickey highlights a blueline crew that includes Colten Teubert and Vyacheslav Voinov. Prospect goalie depth is not a problem as Jonathan Bernier, Martin Jones and Jeff Zatkoff all appear to have bright futures. Sniper Brayden Schenn is the top newcomer to the list of forwards and he joins CHL imports Andrei Loktionov and Oscar Moller. Toughness, scoring, goaltending — there’s not much missing for L.A.
Weaknesses: Perhaps high-end natural wingers could be considered an area that might be getting thin. The Kings might lack top-notch checkers. The Kings have more boom or bust prospects than some teams around them.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Thomas Hickey, D, 2. Jonathan Bernier, G, 3. Brayden Schenn, C, 4. Oscar Moller, RW, 5. Vyacheslav Voinov, D.

6. Atlanta Thrashers

Strengths: An already solid group of prospects was bolstered by the 2009 entry draft. The club’s first-round choice last June, Evander Kane, has already joined Zach Bogosian on the Atlanta roster, and second-round choice Carl Klingberg is off to a hot start to the 2009-10 season with Frolunda in the SEL. All take up spots in the top five prospects of the system. There is considerable strength up the middle with Kane, Riley Holzapfel, Eric O’Dell, and Angelo Esposito all natural centermen. Intriguing prospects such as the highly talented Esposito, and WHL‘s most productive defenseman last season, Paul Postma, turns pro this year. There is little reason to worry about the future in the nets, with Ondrej Pavelec, Edward Pasquale, and Alex Kangas in the organization.
Weaknesses: The Thrashers don’t possess much size up front beyond Kane. Bogosian will soon graduate, leaving the system without a top-notch defensive prospect.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Zach Bogosian, D, 2. Ondrej Pavelec, G, 3. Evander Kane, C, 4. Spencer Machacek, RW, 5. Carl Klingberg, LW.

7. Washington Capitals

Strengths: The Capitals have goaltender and playoff standout Semyon Varlamov on their NHL roster this season. Behind Varlamov is Michal Neuvirth, another goaltending prospect who showed great promise last season. The system remains well stocked several potential second-line centers in Anton Gustafsson, Marcus Johansson, and Mathieu Perreault. Defensive prospects Karl Alzner and John Carlson both have NHL-level talent.
Weaknesses: While there are no glaring weaknesses, the Capitals lack game-breaking talent. Varlamov may not be able to maintain his post-season success. There are injury concerns among several of the Capitals forward prospects including Gustafsson and Johansson.
Top five prospects: 1. Semyon Varlamov, G, 2. Karl Alzner, D, 3. John Carlson, D, 4. Michal Neuvirth, G, 5. Oskar Osala, LW.

8. Florida Panthers

Strengths: The Panthers organization is built from the net out. Florida’s most valuable asset is Swedish goaltender Jacob Markstrom – one of the top prospects worldwide, and a potential franchise player. To go with 19-year-old in goal, the Panthers have newly-acquired Alexander Salak, a solid NCAA tandem of Marc Cheverie and Brian Foster, and wildcard Sergei Gayduchenko. On the blueline, the Panthers boast a potential top pair in the combination of 2009 first-rounder Dmitry Kulikov and 2007 first-rounder Keaton Ellerby. Up front, Shawn Matthias, Michal Repik, and Evgeni Dadonov have top-six upside. There is a good balance of prospects by position, and a variety of skill players, along with grit and character players.
Weaknesses: Though there is potential all throughout the system, high-end scorers are still an area of need for the Panthers. With six out of seven selections in the 2009 draft utilized for forwards, the team has begun to address the issue, but help is still years away.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Jacob Markstrom, G, 2. Dmitry Kulikov, D, 3. Shawn Matthias, C, 4. Michal Repik, RW, 5. Keaton Ellerby, D.

9. Buffalo Sabres

Strengths: The Sabres have a system well stocked with versatile forwards who can contribute offensively. Winger Zack Kassian and defenseman Tyler Myers bring a blend of skill, size, and toughness. Many of the Sabres prospects, including Myers, are close to if not NHL-ready. Nathan Gerbe‘s game has translated well to the AHL so far.
Weaknesses: The Sabres have gone a long way to address their needs for size and toughness up front and on the back end over the last two drafts. They could stand to add a little more size at center and more depth at goal. Some of their prospects are real question marks.
Top five prospects: 1. Tyler Myers, D, 2. Jhonas Enroth, G, 3. Tyler Ennis, C, 4. Chris Butler, D, 5. Zack Kassian, LW.

10. Vancouver Canucks

Strengths: The Canucks own the rights to two of the world’s top players of their position. Netminder Cory Schneider posted the top goals against average and save percentage in the AHL last year and was top 10 in both categories as a rookie the year previous. Center Cody Hodgson was considered a lock for the NHL this year until injury derailed his training camp and forced him back to junior where he is the defending CHL Player of the Year. Collegian Jordan Schroeder, drafted in 2009, is a potential Hobey Baker candidate with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Russian dynamo Sergei Shirokov was the story of training camp with his displays of offensive skill and world-class speed. Blueliners Kevin Connauton, Yann Sauve and Evan Oberg have the Canucks well positioned for the future.
Weaknesses: Two of Vancouver’s top prospects, Michal Grabner and Jannik Hansen, have yet to establish themselves at the NHL level, but appear ready for graduation from the AHL. High-end talent on the blueline is a bit lacking and depth beyond Schneider is a concern.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Cody Hodgson, C, 2. Cory Schneider, G, 3. Michael Grabner, RW, 4. Jordan Schroeder, RW, 5. Jannik Hansen, RW.