Below is the middle third of the NHL organizations in terms of prospects as voted on by Hockey’s Future staff. To determine the ranking, each team’s entire prospect pool was taken into consideration. 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.
11. Columbus Blue Jackets
Strengths: The Blue jackets have one of the top prospects in hockey with Ryan Johansen, who has made the NHL team as a 19-year-old this season. Matt Calvert, Tomas Kubalik, Cam Atkinson, and 2011 second round pick Boone Jenner are solid top-nine forward prospects who add depth to the organization. The blue line has a variety of defensemen and solid depth featuring David Savard, John Moore and Cody Goloubef.
Weaknesses: The Blue Jackets goaltending depth behind NHL starter Steve Mason still has not improved. Allen York and Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault are still developing their games and are probably a few years away from the NHL level. Columbus has had developmental issues with their prospects in their NHL history and gave up on Nikita Filatov. They weakened the depth of their organizational prospects by trading away their 2011 first round pick, third round pick, and forward Jakub Voracek for star forward, Jeff Carter.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Ryan Johansen, C, 2. David Savard, D, 3. Matt Calvert, LW, 4. John Moore, D, 5. Tomas Kubalik, RW.
Lost to Trade: Nitika Filatov.
Strengths: Carolina is loaded with top-flight prospects at defense, led by 2011 draft pick Ryan Murphy who was considered one of the top offensive defensemen in last summer’s draft. Fellow defensemen Justin Faulk and Brian Dumoulin are burgeoning talents. The forwards have skill and speed. Although most of the top prospects lack significant size and may not have elite talent, players such as Zac Dalpe, Drayson Bowman, and Victor Rask all look to have bright NHL futures.
Weaknesses: The main weakness in the Hurricane organization is in goal. With Cam Ward in the nets, Carolina has no immediate need for a goaltender, and both Justin Peters and Mike Murphy have NHL-level skills, but neither stands out as a future top NHL netminder. Right wing is thin, both in quantity and quality.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Zac Dalpe, C, 2. Ryan Murphy, D, 3. Justin Faulk, D, 4. Brian Dumoulin, D, 5. Victor Rask, C.
Lost to Graduation: Zach Boychuk, Derek Joslin.
13. New York Rangers
Strengths: The Rangers have excellent strength on the blue line, with Ryan McDonagh currently playing top pairing NHL minutes, and both Tim Erixon and Dylan McIlrath developing well within the Rangers system. New York also has excellent depth on the wings, with many third and fourth line prospects in addition to potential first liner Chris Kreider.
Weaknesses: Many of the top prospects in the Rangers’ system are already playing professional hockey and close to graduating. There is no future number one netminder within the system.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Chris Kreider; 2. Christian Thomas; 3. Tim Erixon; 4. Ryan McDonagh; 5. J.T. Miller.
Lost to Trade: Roman Horak, Tomas Kundratek, Brodie Dupont, Evgeny Grachev, Ethan Werek.
14. Buffalo Sabres
Strengths: The Sabres top-end prospects can match up with any team in the league. Center Luke Adam is a very smart, complete player who is NHL ready. Joel Armia adds size and skill to the wing, and Zack Kassian, when his game is right, is another talented weapon on the wing. The Sabres are very deep at defense. The trio of Mark Pysyk, Brayden McNabb, and Marc-Andre Gragnani can fill a variety of roles. In goal, Jhonas Enroth could be a number one netminder, but has proven at a minimum he will be a nice backup.
Weaknesses: While they have a nice collection of top players, there is not much depth. Outside of the Sabres top group, there is a significant fall-off, with only a handful of players with NHL potential. They are especially thin at left wing and center.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Joel Armia, RW, 2. Luke Adam, C, 3. Zack Kassian, RW, 4. Mark Pysyk, D, 5. Brayden McNabb, D.
Lost to trade: Paul Byron.
Strengths: Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar headline a large group of forwards who can play sound defense but also pitch in consistently on offense. Calle Jarnkrok and Teemu Pulkkinen are next in a long line of players who possess immense talent but are considered projects. The system possesses lots of two-way players like Riley Sheahan who fit well into the Wings style of play. Puck-mover Brendan Smith will be expected to take on some of the blue line duties that will eventually be vacated by Captain Niklas Lidstrom.
Weaknesses: Many top prospects such as Landon Ferraro have not developed as projected. All of the players with elite potential have questions marks or don’t project to make the NHL for the next three or four years.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Brendan Smith, D, 2. Tomas Tatar, LW, 3. Gustav Nyquist, LW, 4. Teemu Pulkkinen, RW, 5. Tomas Jurco, RW.
16. Boston Bruins
Strengths: Doug Hamilton projects to be good as almost any other defenseman not in the NHL. At forward, the Bruins have a nice collection of talented youngsters still playing Juniors, headlined by Alexander Khoklachev and Jared Knight. They also have a nice group of more mature forwards playing in the AHL, including Zach Hamill and Jordan Caron.
Weaknesses: The forward pool lacks a game-breaking talent. A bigger issue to the Bruins, their defense pool does not have much behind Doug Hamilton. They have nothing in the way of a potential NHL goaltender.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Doug Hamilton, D, 2. Jordan Caron, RW, 3. Jared Knight, RW, 4. Ryan Spooner, LW, 5. Alexander Khokhlachev, C.
17. Minnesota Wild
Strengths: The Wild revamped their pipeline over the last couple of years, and they have accumulated a skilled and youthful group of prospects. Led by Finnish SM-Liiga star Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, and Zach Phillips, the system is home to high-level playmakers and potential. Defenseman Marco Scandella is playing 20 minutes per game at the NHL level, and Swedish prospect Jonas Brodin helps solidify the blue line corps. There is talent at goal with Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper.
Weaknesses: The talent level drops off beyond the top players at each position. The forwards are deeper than defense or goaltending, but after a couple of spots at each position, the cupboards begin to look bare. Eric Haula and Jason Zucker will need to lift their offensive games into pro-level. The defensive corps is stocked with mostly bottom-pair-caliber players.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Mikael Granlund, C, 2. Charlie Coyle, RW, 3. Jonas Brodin, D, 4. Marco Scandella, D, 5. Matt Hackett, G.
Lost to Graduation: Jared Spurgeon, Colton Gillies.
Strengths: The Devils are knee deep in prospects at the pro level, the deepest position of which is on the blue line. That group is headlined by Adam Larsson, Jon Merrill and Alexander Urbom. Eric Gelinas and Brandon Burlon also show plenty of promise. With the addition of Keith Kinkaid during the summer, the Devils group of goaltending prospects continues to show signs of growth.
Weaknesses: With the graduations of Mattias Tedenby and Nick Palmieri, the Devils are very thin in terms of top-six talent on the wings. Center is also another position that lacks depth. Jacob Josefson and Adam Henrique may both be graduated by seasons end.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Adam Larsson, D, 2. Jon Merrill, D, 3. Jacob Josefson, C, 4. Alexander Urbom, D, 5. Adam Henrique, C.
Lost to Graduation: Mattias Tedenby, Nick Palmieri, Mark Fayne.
Lost to Trade: David McIntyre.
Strengths: The Avalanche possess a ton of talented defensive prospects. Stefan Elliott, Cameron Gaunce, and Tyson Barrie are all loaded with offensive skill while Duncan Siemens brings a great deal of toughness to the prospect pool. Gabriel Landeskog is a star in the making and quite possibly the future captain of the team. Calvin Pickard headlines a deep group of goaltenders.
Weaknesses: Landeskog and Joey Hishon aside, there is an alarming lack of high-end talent across the board at all the forward positions, but most notably both the right and left wing position.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Gabriel Landeskog, LW, 2. Duncan Siemens, D, 3. Stefan Elliott, D, 4. Joey Hishon, C, 5. Calvin Pickard, G.
20. Phoenix Coyotes
Strengths: The Coyotes biggest strength is clearly on their blue line which has a stacked group of possible NHL defensemen prospects who continue to develop each year. Even with the graduation of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the group still has one of hockey’s top defensive prospects in Brandon Gormley along with Chris Summers, Maxim Goncharov, Michael Stone, and 2011 first round pick Connor Murphy, giving Phoenix an impressive pool of defenders. The team’s goaltending prospects Mark Visentin, Marc Cheverie, Louis Domingue, and Mike Lee provide solid depth to the organization.
Weaknesses: The Coyotes biggest weakness is the drop-off in offensive talent after high scoring Brett MacLean. The team improved their forward depth by drafting six forwards out of their eight picks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft but none are projected to be high-end talent in the future.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Brandon Gormley, D, 2. Brett MacLean, LW, 3. Chris Summers, D, 4. Maxim Goncharov, D, 5. Connor Murphy, D.
Lost to Graduation: Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Lost to Trade: Justin Bernhardt, Oscar Lindberg.
Previous installments: 21-30