Hockey’s Future Organization Rankings, Fall 2011 1-10

By HF Staff

Photo: Jacob Markstrom is among the top goaltending prospects in all of hockey. (Photo courtesy of Ken Denardo/HF)

1. Florida Panthers

Strengths: With 23 selections in the last two drafts, ever position in the Panthers organization is loaded with top-end talent and solid depth. Jonathan Huberdeau provides elite offensive talent, Erik Gudbranson has top-pairing potential, and Jacob Markstrom put on a great display of talent in an early season cup of coffee with the Panthers. The system is laden with future NHLers at forward and defense, and boasts multiple skilled and physical players throughout.
Weaknesses: With such a deep and well-balanced prospect pool, there are no salient weaknesses to be found. There is no true powerplay quarterback on the backend, though this weakness is mitigated by Keaton Ellerby and Dmitri Kulikov, two young players who already provide that skill at the NHL level.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jonathan Huberdeau, C, 2. Jacob Markstrom, G, 3. Erik Gudbranson, D, 4. Quinton Howden, LW, 5. Evgeni Dadonov, RW
Lost to Trade: Marc Cheverie, Mike Duco,

2. Ottawa Senators

Strengths: The Senators have top-end talent at every forward position, headlined by wingers Matt Puempel and Stefan Noesen, and center Mika Zibanejad. The organization possesses one of the best one-two punches on defense in physical stalwart Jared Cowen and puck-mover David Rundlad. There are also a deep group of players who can fill a variety of roles and provide depth at the NHL level including Stephane Da Costa, Jim O’Brien, and Bobby Butler.
Weaknesses: Robin Lenher is a quality goaltending prospect but there is no one behind him. Many of their mid-tier prospects such as Butler and Colin Greening are set to graduate this season and leave a hole in the prospect pool.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. David Rundblad, D, 2. Jared Cowen, D, 3. Mika Zibanejad, C, 4. Robin Lehner, G, 5. Jakob Silfverberg, C.

3. New York Islanders

Strengths: Even after the graduation of some of the best forwards in the game, the Islanders have potential stars at the left wing and center position, and good depth at center. Both Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Strome are expected to become goal scoring forwards and should develop into quality NHLers within a year or two. In addition, New York has several high risk, high reward skilled prospects within the organization.
Weaknesses: The defensive pool is thin with no top-pairing blue line prospects and generally little depth. Although there is some depth in net, none of the goaltending prospects could be considered elite.
Top 5 prospects: 1. Nino Niederreiter, LW, 2. Ryan Strome, C, 3. Calvin de Haan, D, 4. Brock Nelson, C, 5. Matt Donovan, D.
Lost to Graduation: Travis Hamonic, D

4. Edmonton Oilers

Strengths: In the midst of a major youth movement at the NHL level, the Oilers are still loaded with above-average prospects. The addition of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins definitely gives this group some more star appeal up front, but there are talented and versatile players at all forward positions. There is also some hope for the beleaguered Oilers blue line, with Jeff Petry close to full-time NHL duty and Oscar Klefbom, David Musil, and Martin Marincin among the numerous talented defensemen on the horizon.
Weaknesses: While the team did add a pair of goaltenders to the organization this past summer, there is no true future number one netminder waiting in the wings. There is a slight lack of high-end talent on the wings, but with the team loaded at the NHL level, that is not a major concern at this time.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, 2. Jeff Petry, D, 3. Oscar Klefbom, D, 4. Anton Lander, C, 5. Martin Marincin, D.

5. Los Angeles Kings

Strengths: The Kings may have the best goaltending depth of any team in the NHL. Jonathan Bernier has show signs he can be an elite NHL starting goaltender, while Martin Jones and Christopher Gibson could at least become quality backups down the line. The Kings’ are also very deep on their blue line, with a handful of nice puck-moving defenseman, including Slava Voynov, Nicolas Deslauriers, and Thomas Hickey. Derek Forbort and Jake Muzzin are also nice pieces on the back-end. Up front, the Kings have a handful of talented players, including Andrei Loktionov and Tyler Toffoli.
Weaknesses: The loss of Brayden Schenn leaves the Kings without any blue chip offensive pieces. Though there is good depth on left wing, there is limited skill level.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jonathan Bernier, G, 2. Andrei Loktionov, C, 3. Slava Voynov, D, 4. Tyler Toffoli, RW, 5. Derek Forbort, D.
Lost to Graduation: Alec Martinez.
Lost to Trade: Brayden Schenn.

6. St. Louis Blues

Strengths: The team has excellent forward prospects led by Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, both expected to be first-line players. In goal, although St. Louis has little depth, the organization has a top prospect in Jake Allen. Despite the recent graduations of potential star blueliners, the Blues continue to have good depth at the position.
Weaknesses: There is little depth at left wing or in goal within the organization. Additionally, there are no blue chip prospects on the blue line. There is concern many of the European prospects, such as Sergei Andronov or Jani Hakanpaa, have any interest in playing in North America.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, 2. Jaden Schwartz, C, 3. Jake Allen, G, 4. Ian Cole, D, 5. Philip McRae, C.

7. Nashville Predators

Strengths: Nashville boasts some of the best depth in the NHL, with quality players at every position. Taylor Beck, Austin Watson, and Michael Latta can chip in offense and play a gritty two-way game. Many top prospects such as Blake Geoffrion and Craig Smith have already proven themselves at the NHL level. Ryan Ellis and Jonathon Blum are amongst a talented group of blue liners on the cusp of being NHL ready. The combination of Anders Lindback and Jeremy Smith in net rivals almost any other system.
Weaknesses: Despite the glut of quality prospects, Nashville lacks top-tier goal-scoring forward. Several high drafted prospects such as Charles-Olivier Roussel and Zach Budish have not developed as expected.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jonathon Blum, D, 2. Taylor Beck, LW, 3. Ryan Ellis, D, 4. Austin Watson, RW, 5. Roman Josi, D.
Lost to Graduation: Matt Halischuk,
Lost to Trade: Taylor Stefishen.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs

Strengths: The Leafs have continued improving the organization’s overall depth the last few years under GM Brian Burke. The team has solid prospects developing at every position in the AHL with Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner, Keith Aulie, Matt Frattin, and Ben Scrivens recently gaining some NHL experience. There is a large contingent of talented two-way players at the junior level headlined Greg McKegg and Josh Leivo.
Weaknesses: Though skilled, Joe Colborne is not considered a true number one center. The organization needs to generally draft more offensively skilled forwards and puck-moving, offensive defensemen to become a top contender in the NHL.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nazem Kadri, C, 2. James Reimer, G, 3. Joe Colborne, C, 4. Jake Gardiner, D, 5. Keith Aulie, D.
Lost to Trade: Robert Slaney.

9. Anaheim Ducks

Strengths: The Ducks boast some top notch talent, headlined by a pair of elite finishers in Kyle Palmieri and Emerson Etem. Justin Schultz and Sami Vatanen are both brimming with offensive skill on the blue line, while the addition of John Gibson in the second round of the 2011 draft gives the team a legit future number one goaltender. Forwards such as Devante Smith-Pelly and Peter Holland provide strong two-way ability to the professional ranks.
Weaknesses: Much like last season, the Ducks still lack defensive prospects that can provide some snarl and grit, aside from Matt Clark. There is also a bit of a talent drop off at the center ice position after Holland.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Kyle Palmieri, RW, 2. Emerson Etem, RW, 3. Peter Holland, C, 4. Devante Smith-Pelly, LW, 5. Justin Schultz, D.
Lost to Graduation: Brandon McMillan.
Lost to Trade: Jake Newton.

10. Chicago Blackhawks

Strengths: The Blackhawks boast nearly unmatchable depth at forward, defense, and in net. Marcus Kruger, Mark McNeill, and Brandon Saad headline a large group of forwards who should be able to complement current Blackhawk stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Brandon Pirri, Ben Smith, and Jeremy Morin all look to be NHL ready and should be NHL regulars sooner than later. There are also a large amount of defensemen who can play either a two-way or physical style of game.
Weaknesses: For all of the depth, there is no real star talent in the system. Several prospects such as Kyle Beach and Phillip Paradis have not developed as hoped.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jeremy Morin, LW, 2. Marcus Kruger, C, 3. Mark McNeill, C, 4. Dylan Olsen, D, 5. Shawn Lalonde, D.
Lost to Graduation: Nick Leddy.

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