Hockey’s Future Spring 2007 Organizational Rankings (1-15)

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. Teams ranked 16-30 can be found here. For information on individual prospects for each of the NHL teams, please visit the various team, league, or country pages here at Hockey’s Future.

1. Los Angeles Kings

Strengths: The Kings have two of the top 10 prospects (Jack Johnson and Patrick O’Sullivan) on Hockey’s Future’s Top 50 list and a third (Jonathan Bernier) also on the list, three players who could be the top prospect for 90 percent of the other teams in the league. The fact that the Kings have all three lifts them to elite status. A forward, a defenseman and a goaltender, the cupboards in LA are stocked very well indeed. There are also NCAA stars Brian Boyle and Scott Parse as well as notables Trevor Lewis, Joey Ryan and Richard Petiot.
Weaknesses: You don’t get to be at the top of the list if you have many holes so any faults with the Kings prospect pool would only be found with a microscope. The right wing might be a bit thinner than the other positions as former first rounder Lauri Tukonen‘s 13 goals and 32 points in the AHL this year was a small drop in production.
Top Five Prospects: Jack Johnson (D), Patrick O’Sullivan (LW), Jonathan Bernier (G), Brian Boyle (C), Lauri Tukonen (RW)
Key Graduates: Anze Kopitar

2. Montreal Canadiens

Strengths: The club is rich in prospects, with great depth — a healthy combination of both quality and quantity. They have elite prospects at all positions, with Carey Price between the pipes, and Andrei Kostitsyn and Mikhail Grabovski in the fold on the wings. They are complemented by valuable, solid, but unspectacular talents on the point Alexei Emelin, Pavel Valentenko, and Ryan O’Byrne. From defensive-minded stalwarts like Kyle Chipchura and Maxim Lapierre to offensively gifted projects like Mathieu Aubin and Sergei Kostitsyn, the Canadiens have accumulated talent across the board in all categories.
Weaknesses: While they have solid talent throughout, the club’s forward prospects are lacking in size. In addition, while they have potential on the blue line, the club lacks any marquee talent to quarterback the power play or log the 30 minutes a game one often needs from their top defenseman.
Top Five Prospects: Carey Price (G), Andrei Kostitsyn (LW), Kyle Chipchura (C), Mikhail Grabovski (LW), David Fischer (D)
Key Graduates: Guillaume Latendresse

3. Chicago Blackhawks

Strengths: Chicago will have the luxury of choosing the best player no matter what position with the first overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, as they’ve done a solid job in accumulating potential across all positions. Led by blue-chippers Jonathan Toews up front and Cam Barker on the point, the Blackhawks also can count on a wealth of solid, character prospects like former London Knights Danny Richmond and Dave Bolland, as well as NCAA standout Jack Skille. Netminder Corey Crawford is a solid goaltender of the future for Chicago.
Weaknesses: Beyond Toews and Barker, there are no sure-fire, blue-chippers in the Blackhawks organization. Bolland is solid and plays with some grit, but is not one you’ll hang your offensive hat on. Behind Crawford, the organizational goaltending depth leaves something to be desired.
Top Five Prospects: Jonathan Toews (C), Cam Barker (D), Jack Skille (RW), Dave Bolland (C), Corey Crawford (G)
Key Graduates: James Wisniewski

4. St. Louis Blues

Strengths: The Blues have the league’s top-rated prospect in Erik Johnson according to Hockey’s Future’s top 50 list, and some pundits believe he might be the best rearguard to be drafted since Chris Pronger in 1993. Netminder Marek Schwarz appears to have gotten his development back on track with an all-star season in the AHL and T.J. Oshie was sixth in NCAA scoring and second amongst sophomores with 52 points in 43 games despite beginning the year with a broken thumb. With strength and depth at every position but especially in net and at center, the Blues have done an excellent job of restocking their shelves.
Weaknesses: There aren’t many flaws, but the Blues would probably like to add some more quality defensemen behind Johnson. St. Louis has a lot of European-based prospects, which has proven problematic for some teams in the past in regards to getting them to North America.
Top Five Prospects: Erik Johnson (D), Marek Schwarz (G), T.J. Oshie (C), Patrik Berglund (C), Carl Soderberg (C)
Key Graduates: Lee Stempniak

5. Washington Capitals

Strengths: Washington’s strengths start back in the net where they have Semen Varlamov and Michael Neuvirth. Varlamov and Neuvirth seem to have the biggest upside as of now. Both are highly athletic goaltenders that move very fast and are capable of making key saves. On the defensive end Jeff Schultz and Patrick McNeill are providing solid but unspectacular depth. Up front, Nicklas Backstrom, who is one of the best prospects outside of the NHL right now, leads the troops. He doesn’t need any further introduction, while his fellow prospects Eric Fehr, Tomas Fleischmann, Francois Bouchard still haven’t reached same status (but bring excellent offensive ability).
Weaknesses: The team could use some more depth on the left side, as the prospects behind Fleischmann aren’t really close to the NHL. The center position could also use another solid centerman, as the only two that look like future NHLers right now are Backstrom and Chris Bourque.
Top Five Prospects: Nicklas Backstrom (C), Eric Fehr (RW), Semen Varlamov (G), Francois Bouchard (RW), Tomas Fleischmann (LW)
Key Graduates: Mike Green

6. New York Rangers

Strengths: The Rangers have a top goaltending prospect in Al Montoya, expected to be NHL-ready either next season or in 2008-09. The Blueshirts are also strong along the blue line, with both Marc Staal and Bob Sanguinetti projected to be big impact defensemen in the NHL. The Rangers also have plenty of depth at the center position, with Brandon Dubinsky and Tom Pyatt bringing grit and skill to the table.
Weaknesses: Although the organization contains a plethora of potential second, third and fourth line forwards, outside of the newly-acquired Bourret, the Rangers’ organization is short on young forwards that have first line potential. The Rangers also only have one goaltending prospect among their top 20 prospects.
Top Five Prospects: Al Montoya (G), Marc Staal (D), Alex Bourret (RW), Jarkko Immonen (C), Nigel Dawes (LW)
Key Graduates: Ryan Hollweg

7. Minnesota Wild

Strengths: Even with the loss of Patrick O’Sullivan last summer, Minnesota continues to be very deep in talent. With an excellent scouting network that has a very good record in identifying players that fit into the organization’s philosophy, and strong coaching at the minor league levels, Minnesota remains among the best in drafting and developing their young prospects. Goaltender Josh Harding looks to be ready to step into a No. 1 NHL netminding role, either next season or during 2008-09. The Wild also have solid prospects up front, including Benoit Pouliot, James Sheppard, and Danny Irmen, who are all no more than two seasons from NHL play.
Weaknesses: The Wild organization’s blue line prospects did not have 2006-07 seasons that were hoped for. Although AJ Thelen seems to have found his game in the playoffs, he had at best a mediocre regular season in the WHL. Additionally, both of the Wild’s other top prospects along the blue line, Shawn Belle and Clayton Stoner, were disappointing in the AHL. Minnesota also has a shortage of netminders after Harding.
Top Five Prospects: Josh Harding (G), Benoit Pouliot (LW), Roman Voloshenko (LW), James Sheppard (C), Danny Irmen (RW)
Key Graduates: none

8. Edmonton Oilers

Strengths: After adding three of the New York Islanders top prospects at the NHL trade deadline the Oilers’ offensive prospects potential is at an all-time high. Andrew Cogliano finished eighth in NCAA scoring as a sophomore, Robert Nilsson led two AHL teams in scoring last season. Taylor Chorney, Jeff Petry, Tom Gilbert and Cody Wild are a few of the impressive puck-moving, offensive-minded blue liners in the system. Thanks to an incredible rash of injuries last season, the Oilers saw 14 rookies make their debut and gain valuable experience.
Weaknesses: The Oilers are heavy on the high risk/high reward spectrum, especially up front. Goaltenders in the system appear to be developing but none are sure-fire NHL starters. Some of the players who had a chance with the big club didn’t perform as expected, and Rob Schremp‘s rookie season in the AHL was forgettable until the final month.
Top Five Prospects: Andrew Cogliano (C), Robert Nilsson (LW), Rob Schremp (C), Taylor Chorney (D), Marc Pouliot (C)
Key Graduates: Ladislav Smid, Matt Greene, Patrick Thoresen

9. Columbus Blue Jackets

Strengths: The Blue Jackets have been drafting in the top-eight of each and every draft since they entered the league back in 2000. This has helped the team gather several interesting prospects. Sitting on top of the prospects chain in Columbus is the speedy and deft-playmaking center Derick Brassard. He has the potential to be a top-two line center. Supporting him are solid wingers Alex Picard, Adam Pineault and Joakim Lindstrom whom all should be roster contenders for next season.
Weaknesses: The Jackets are missing a top-notch goaltending prospect and a defensive prospect. Right now the top players in those categories are Steve Mason (G) and Kris Russell (D). Both are intriguing prospects that should be roster contenders in a few years time, but they don’t have the making of blue-chip prospects.
Top Five Prospects: Derick Brassard (C), Kris Russell (D), Alex Picard (LW), Adam Pineault (RW), Geoff Platt (C)
Key Graduates: Gilbert Brule, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen

10. Philadelphia Flyers

Strengths: The Flyers primary weakness used to be at defense. They addressed this need at the trade deadline, adding prospects Ryan Parent and Braydon Coburn to the mix, to go along with a developing Alexandre Picard. Add in Oskars Bartulis‘s solid two-way play, and the Flyers previous weakness is now their greatest strength. The Flyers also have plenty of sandpaper amongst their forward lines, headlined by their top prospect Steve Downie, with Ryan Potulny and Freddy Cabana filling in in a supporting role. Downie, Potulny, and Claude Giroux bring excellent offensive ability to the table as well.
Weaknesses: Philadelphia is very thin down the left side up front, with Cabana being the only left winger ranked among the top 20. Though they have several decent goaltending prospects in Scott Munroe, Martin Houle, and Jeremy Duchesne, the Flyers lack a definitive No. 1 goaltender to build around.
Top Five Prospects: Steve Downie (C), Braydon Coburn (D), Claude Giroux (RW), Ryan Parent (D), Alexandre Picard (D)
Key Graduates: none

11. Boston Bruins

Strengths: Boston’s greatest strength lies between the pipes. In Tuukka Rask, the Bruins have arguably the top goaltending prospect in the world. Also, in spite of an up-and-down year this past season, fellow Finn Hannu Toivonen is still young and full of potential, assuming he can rebound next season. Boston is still strong up the middle as well, with Petr Kalus and David Krejci serving as strong scoring threats from the position. They also have a solid group of blue liners, headlined by Matt Lashoff and Mark Stuart.
Weaknesses: Boston lacks any semblance of scoring on the wings. Their top prospect on the side is Martins Karsums, who is more an energy player than a scorer. Left wing Milan Lucic is improving, but still has plenty of work to do.
Top Five Prospects: Tuukka Rask (G), Matt Lashoff (D), Petr Kalus (C), Mark Stuart (D), David Krejci (C)
Key Graduates: Phil Kessel

12. Nashville Predators

Strengths: Alexander Radulov brings high-octane offensive skills to a system that has long been thin up front. Cal O’Reilly is a gifted playmaker who had a good year in Milwaukee. Patric Hornqvist is a bit of a wildcard, after having posted impressive goal numbers and earning the Swedish league’s rookie of the year award. On defense, Cody Franson will turn pro this year, Kevin Klein is very close to contributing for the big club, and Teemu Laakso is about ready out of Finland. This trio’s improvement over the course of the season has been enough to offset the departure of Ryan Parent to Philadelphia.
Weaknesses: The system lacks an elite goaltending prospect, with the 25-year-old Rinne the best of a mediocre bunch. The Predators could stand to add more depth to the offense. A number of highly-touted Russian and European draft picks have been hesitant to come in North America in recent years, and encouraging westward migration would work wonders in improving Nashville’s future outlook.
Top Five Prospects: Alexander Radulov (RW), Cody Franson (D), Kevin Klein (D), Cal O’Reilly (C), Teemu Laakso (D)
Key Graduates: Shea Weber, Scottie Upshall (now with Philadelphia)

13. Detroit Red Wings

Strengths: Blue-chipper Jimmy Howard has the makings of a future starting goalie who can win games on his own. Jakub Kindl, a smooth-skating defenseman who has high-end offensive upside is another impact Wings prospect. He should be a top-four player in a few years time. Amongst the forwards, there isn’t a clear-cut leader but there are several prospects who could be fitting into the Red Wings mold in a few years time. Jan Mursak has been impressive in his first year in the OHL and could be an offensive dynamo. Johan Ryno has size, skill and skating ability. Long-time prospect Igor Grigorenko is finally signed and will compete for a job next year in Detroit.
Weaknesses: The Red Wings are missing a top-line centerman in their system. Darren Helm and Cory Emmerton are smaller hard-working prospects that have fine defensive attributes, but are lacking top-notch offensive skills.
Top Five Prospects: Jimmy Howard (G), Jakub Kindl (D), Johan Ryno (RW), Jan Mursak (LW), Justin Abdelkader (LW)
Key Graduates: Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler

14. Phoenix Coyotes

Strengths: Phoenix’s talented group of players including top WHL star Peter Mueller who raised his game on the international stage at the 2007 WJC in Sweden. Martin Hanzal was near the top in WHL scoring all year and appears ready to challenge for a NHL job. Blake Wheeler has moved from the wing to the middle and seems to have benefited from the change. Defensemen Keith Yandle, Matt Jones and Brendan Bell could be cornerstone players for the Coyotes blue line. Netminder David LeNeveu had a decent year statistically on a terrible AHL team, but was upstaged by free-agent signee Josh Tordjman.
Weaknesses: Phoenix is very deep down the middle, on right wing and on defense but they don’t have any natural left wingers in the system to speak of. Goaltending appears pretty average unless Tordjman continues to surpass the initial estimates.
Top Five Prospects: Peter Mueller (C), Martin Hanzal (C), Matt Jones (D), Keith Yandle (D), Alexei Kaigorodov (C)
Key Graduates: none

15. New York Islanders

Strengths: Although the Islanders dealt two of their top prospects, Ryan O’Marra and Robert Nilsson, to Edmonton in the Ryan Smyth deal, the team maintains a solid core of forwards among its young talent. New York is particularly strong on the wing, with Jeff Tambellini, Blake Comeau, and Jeremy Colliton all at or near NHL-ready, and Kyle Okposo having a big season with Minnesota. They also have a couple of quality developing centermen, headlined by Danish forward Frans Nielsen, who like many of the Islanders top prospects, is almost ready for full-time NHL duty.
Weaknesses: The Islanders most glaring organizational weakness is the lack of any quality goaltender among its prospects. Additionally, the team is weak on young defensemen, with no potential top-pairing prospects, nor quality offensive defensemen in the organization. Wes O’Neil and Dustin Kohn bring great shutdown capabilities, but beyond those two, the Isles are lacking.
Top Five Prospects: Kyle Okposo (RW), Jeff Tambellini (LW), Frans Nielsen (C), Blake Comeau (RW), Rhett Rakhshani (RW).
Key Graduates: Bruno Gervais

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