Hockey’s Future Organizational Rankings, Spring 2010, 1-10

By HF Staff

Below is the bottom third of the NHL organizations in terms of prospects as voted on by Hockey’s Future staff. Each team’s entire prospect pool was considered to determine the ranking. For reference, just the top five prospects are listed. To be eligible, a prospect must meet HF’s prospect criteria. The rankings are done twice a year, in the fall and spring. Those ranked 21-30 are found here and 11-20 here..

1. Nashville Predators

Strengths: The Predators’ blue line prospect pool is still among the deepest and most talented in the entire league. Jon Blum, Cody Franson, and Charles-Olivier Roussel all project as skilled offensive defensemen. Colin Wilson and Zach Budish headline the Predators’ forward group, which has a lot of character, but lacks some skill. Behind Chet 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 and Budish, the forwards drop off in quality. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jon Blum, D, 2. Colin Wilson, C, 3. Cody Franson, D, 4. Chet Pickard, G, 5. Charles-Olivier Roussel, D.

2. Los Angeles Kings

Strengths: The Kings have a strong, varied group on the back end, with puck-movers (Thomas Hickey, Vyacheslav Voynov), defensive stalwarts (Colten Teubert, Davis Drewiske), and two-way guys as well (Alec Martinez, Nicolas Deslauriers). Goaltender Jonathan Bernier has been dominant in the AHL, and has some quality prospects behind him. Up front, Brayden Schenn highlights a deep group that’s equal parts skill and grit. Weaknesses: The Kings have no surefire top-six prospects on either wing, and the right side is especially weak. Hickey, Andrei Loktionov, and Trevor Lewis were all challenged by major injuries this season, and need to finish the season strong to have a chance at the NHL roster next year. The glut of talented goaltenders in the organization is making it difficult for some important net prospects to get the ice time they need to develop. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Brayden Schenn, C, 2. Jonathan Bernier, G, 3. Thomas Hickey, D, 4. Vyacheslav Voynov, D, 5. Colten Teubert, D.

3. St. Louis Blues

Strengths: The Blues organization is strong at almost all positions. The defensive prospects are some of the best in the league, including Alex Pietrangelo, who heads HF’s Top 50, Ian Cole and David Rundblad. Lars Eller, Brett Sonne and Phillip McRae form a solid core of prospects at center. Weaknesses: The Blues are weaker on the wing, particularly on left wing. There are only three prospects on the left side, and none of them are in the Top 20. On the left side, St. Louis lost Aaron Palushaj to a trade to Montreal. Several right wingers are playing in Europe and have some real potential, including Simon Hjalmarsson and Sergei Andronov, however, whether they will be contributing to the NHL team anytime soon is uncertain. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Alex Pietrangelo, D, 2. Lars Eller, C, 3. Ian Cole, D, 4. David Rundblad, D, 5. Jake Allen, G.

4. Washington Capitals

Strengths: The Caps’ biggest strength is their goalie depth, with potential starters in Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth. On the blueline, they have a probable top pairing defenseman in John Carlson, as well as a rock of a defensive specialist in Karl Alzner and plenty of depth. At forward, Marcus Johansson is improving his game in the SEL, while AHL prospect Mathieu Perreault is starting to get regular ice time with the Caps. Many AHL prospects in the system have proven all they can at the minor league level. Weaknesses: Their focus on improving the back end has resulted in fewer high picks being spent on forwards; because of this, the Capitals lack a bona fide top-six forward in their system at any forward position. Many of their AHL-seasoned prospects are getting long in the tooth and having trouble carving out a role on the NHL roster. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Semyon Varlamov, G, 2. John Carlson, D, 3. Karl Alzner, D, 4. Michal Neuvirth, G, 5. Mathieu Perreault, C.

5. Columbus Blue Jackets

Strengths: Despite his transfer to the KHL, Nikita Filatov remains the top winger prospect. Left wing Matt Calvert‘s star is rising after another impressive year in the WHL. The Jackets’ defensive prospect group is among the best in the league, with offensive defenseman John Moore making a seamless transition to the OHL and college prospects Cody Goloubef, Will Weber, and Teddy Ruth all illustrating impressive defensive instincts. Kevin Lalande has performed well considering the struggles of the AHL-affiliate Syracuse Crunch team in front of him. Weaknesses: The multiple recalls of unproven AHL players illustrates a lack of NHL-ready prospects waiting in the wings. The pipeline lacks a quality right winger. The regression of Dan LaCosta and the lack of a surefire NHL goalie prospect in the system is cause for concern. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nikita Filatov, LW, 2. John Moore, D, 3. Cody Goloubef, D, 4. Maksim Mayorov, LW, 5. Matt Calvert, LW.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs

Strengths: Prior to the start of this season, the Leafs prospect list was a list full of question marks. But it has become clear that the Leafs at the very least have some talent to work with in the coming seasons. First and foremost would be OHL star Nazem Kadri, who has come on in the second half of the season after a slow start in London. Two other forwards that appear to have a future with the Leafs are former collegians Tyler Bozak and Viktor Stalberg. Jerry D’Amigo, one of the stars for Team USA at the 2010 WJC, is another promising forward currently in the college ranks. The acquisition of Luca Caputi adds another solid forward with some size, a trait valued by Leafs’ GM Brian Burke. In goal, Jonas Gustavsson has emerged as a legitimate future starter.  Weaknesses: Where the Leafs may lack future support is along the blueline, with trade deadline acquisition Keith Aulie and Carl Gunnarsson representing the only current prospects of real magnitude at defense. But, considering where the Leafs were after last season, the future is looking brighter. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nazem Kadri, C, 2. Jonas Gustavsson, G, 3. Tyler Bozak, C, 4. Carl Gunnarsson, D, 5. Viktor Stalberg, LW

7. Atlanta Thrashers

Strengths: Two-way prospects Carl Klingberg, Spencer Machacek, and Patrice Cormier have the work ethic and skill to build around. Offensively-gifted Jeremy Morin and Eric O’Dell give options on offense. Newly-acquired blueliner Ivan Visnevskiy has NHL-caliber offensive skills and stay-at-home defenseman Arturs Kulda is just getting his first taste of NHL action. Weaknesses: There are question marks regarding attributes of some of the Thrashers’ top prospects: Morin’s speed, Cormier’s sense, and Vishnevskiy’s defensive zone play. Assets such as Angelo Esposito and Riley Holzapfel haven’t developed as expected. There is goaltending depth, but no top prospect in net. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Carl Klingberg, LW, 2. Ivan Vishnevskiy, D, 3. Jeremy Morin, C, 4. Patrice Cormier, C, 5. Spencer Machacek, RW.

8. Vancouver Canucks

Strengths: The Canucks have a variety of talented forwards headlined by blue-chip prospect Cody Hodgson. Behind Hodgson are gifted second-line forwards such as Michael Grabner and Jordan Schroeder. Goaltending prospect Cory Schneider is among the best netminders not playing in the NHL. Yann Sauve heads a group of serviceable two-way defensemen. Weaknesses: While there is a fair amount of depth at both defense and forward, most project to be either checking forwards or defensive defensemen. Outside of Schneider, there are no impact goaltending prospects. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Cody Hodgson, C, 2. Cory Schneider, G, 3. Michael Grabner, RW, 4. Jordan Schroeder, C, 5. Anton Rodin, RW

9. Edmonton Oilers

Strengths: The lowest scoring team in the Western Conference has found a few high-end offensive talents in Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Riley Nash, and Jordan Eberle, who is exceeding expectations at every level. Outside of those three, Linus Omark and Toni Rajala are two players who have the ability to make a major impact. The team is also covered up front in terms of role players, with Teemu Hartikainen and Anton Lander having successful seasons, still a few years away from impact. Weaknesses: With neither Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk having a strong season in the NHL, a lot of pressure falls to 2009 pick Olivier Roy as the only potential starting goalie in the system. The system is lacking in bona fide two-way defenseman outside of Jeff Petry. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jordan Eberle, C, 2. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, LW, 3. Riley Nash, C, 4. Jeff Petry, D, 5. Linus Omark, LW.

10. Boston Bruins

Strengths: The Bruins are very deep down the middle. Joe Colborne had a sensational season in Denver, and the Bruins also have two former first-round picks in Zach Hamill and Jordan Caron at the same position. Defensive depth is strong from smaller puck-movers like Andrew Bodnarchuk and Jeff Penner to bigger, physical defensemen in Adam McQuaid and the recently-acquired Matt Bartkowski. Weaknesses: Outside of the top three forwards, there is not much scoring depth, with enigmas like Mikko Lehtonen and project players in Alexander Fallstrom and Yannick Riendeau populating the bottom of the top 20. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Joe Colborne, C, 2. Brad Marchand, RW, 3. Yuri Alexandrov, D, 4. Zach Hamill, C, Jordan Caron, C.