NHL Team Rankings

Hockey's Future ranks the prospect talent of each NHL team from best (#1) to the worst (#30). We publish these rankings twice a year, once before and after each regular season. NHL prospects considered for these rankings meet HF's prospect criteria at the time the list is published.

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Fall Team Rankings 2015-16

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: While the prospect pool does not have a real game-breaker currently, the Dallas Stars possess a number of excellent role players that could help their talented, young NHL core. With Julius Honka, Brett Ritchie and Radek Faksa being the most recent early-round headliners, some solid secondary prospects have made strides. Euro products like Esa Lindell and Denis Guryanov, have potential, as do other North American skaters like Brett Pollock and Stephen Johns. Devin Shore, Mattias Janmark and Patrik Nemeth are also proving to be quality prospects. The Stars have few top-shelf talents but quite a number of good second-tier prospects in the ranks. They also have a whopping 18 defensive prospects.

Weaknesses: As stated before, there is just a lack of overall game-breakers. The shine has really worn out on players like Jason Dickinson, Jack Campbell, and Radek Faksa. Also, outside of Ritchie, Honka, and maybe Shore there is no sure-fire talent. There are a lot of names in this pipeline, and options are good, but there is limited true quality across the board.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Julius Honka, D; 2. Brett Ritchie, RW; 3. Cole Ully, LW; 4. Denis Guryanov, RW; 5. Patrick Nemeth, D

Key Additions: Mattias Janmark (Trade – DET), Mattias Backman (Trade – DET), Stephen Johns (Trade – CHI) Key Losses: John Klingberg (Graduation), Jamie Oleksiak (Graduation), Jyrki Jokipakka (Graduation)

Key Losses: John Klingberg (Graduation), Jamie Oleksiak (Graduation)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Columbus Blue Jackets possess a fairly average group across the board mixed with some good headlining talent. Sonny Milano, Gabriel Carlsson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Zach Werenski, and Kerby Rychel all have a good shot at becoming impact NHL players. They also have a good follow-up wave of prospects like Kole Sherwood, Markus Nutivaara, Keegan Kolesar, and Vlad Gavrikov to name a few. There is a good overall balance of talent at every position except for goaltending. The headliners are of significant quality and would likely show up on a number of top 50 lists. There is a high skill level to this Columbus pipeline.

Weakness: There is a fair amount of worthwhile although undersized talent in the Blue Jackets’ pipeline. There is no lack of quality, but there may be a lack of diversity overall. Their goaltending, outside of possibly Dansk, is also a question mark.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Zach Werenski, D; 2. Kerby Rychel, LW; 3. Sonny Milano, LW; 4. Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW; Gabriel Carlsson, D

Key Additions: William Karlsson (Trade – ANA), Michael Paliotta (Trade – CHI), Gabriel Carlsson (Draft)

Key Losses: Marko Dano (Trade – CHI), Alex Wennberg (Graduation)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: Chicago hit a home run with the free-agent signing of Russian forward Artemi Panarin, who has stepped right into the lineup for the Blackhawks. University of North Dakota sophomore Nick Schmaltz is one of the top forwards in his age group and should be an impact playmaker. Defensively, Ville Pokka has had to be patient skating for AHL affiliate Rockford due to the depth in Chicago but should one day move into a top-four role. Trevor van Riemsdyk is seeing full-time minutes with Chicago as a rookie and has not looked out of place with a deep group of potential NHL defensemen waiting behind that pair.

Weaknesses: The Blackhawks made several trades en route to the 2015 Stanley Cup championship, parting with several talented young prospects and sending their first-round pick in 2015 to Arizona as part of the deal for Antoine Vermette (who is back with the Coyotes). As a result, the organizational depth below the top prospects consists largely of role players or lower-line types. Goaltending is also a concern. Matt Tomkins and Ivan Nalimov—both late round, project picks—are the only young goaltenders in the system.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Marko Dano, C; 2. Nick Schmaltz, C; 3. Ville Pokka, D; 4. Artemi Panarin, LW; 5. Mark McNeill, RW

Key Additions: Artemi Panarin (Free agent), Marko Dano (Trade – CBJ), Graham Knott (Draft), Kyle Baun (Free agent)

Key Losses: Teuvo Teravainen (Graduation), Stephen Johns (Trade – DAL), Michael Paliotta (Trade – CBJ), Joakim Nordstrom (Trade – CAR)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Vancouver Canucks are surprisingly deep up front in terms of skill, particularly on the wing. Hunter Shinkaruk, Jake Virtanen and Brock Boeser all have top-six potential. The Canucks are deep down the middle, but lack potential game-changers. Cole Cassels, Jared McCann and Brendan Gaunce, however, should all become full-time NHL players. And while they have just one goaltending prospect, the Canucks are happy with Thatcher Demko, who has been the best goaltender in the NCAA this season.

Weaknesses: Defense is undeniably the organization’s biggest weakness, which should be no surprise; when the Canucks selected defenseman Guillaume Brisebois in the third round of the 2015 NHL Draft, he was the first defender the team has selected in the top three rounds since Kevin Connauton was chosen in the third round in 2009. Ben Hutton, Jordan Subban and Andrey Pedan might have a future in the NHL, but none are potential first-pairing defenders.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Jake Virtanen, RW; 2. Jared McCann, C; 3. Cole Cassels, C; 4. Thatcher Demko, G; 5. Brock Boeser, RW

Key Additions: Brock Boeser (Draft), Guillaume Brisebois (Draft)

Key Losses: Bo Horvat, (Graduation), Adam Clendening (Trade – PIT)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Nashville Predators have a healthy stable of prospects that will keep them in contention going forward. While Filip Forsberg has graduated, the forwards remain in good condition with Kevin Fiala, Pontus Aberg and Viktor Arvidsson currently in the AHL waiting for reassignment to Nashville. Strengthening this group is the burgeoning Jimmy Vesey, who appears to be a special player in the college ranks. On defense, Jack Dougherty is next in a line of rising Predators defensemen. Conor Allen is the next best in a deep, defensively oriented unit.

Weaknesses: The graduation of Forsberg has left the system in need of more firepower at forward. The center position has received a boost in numbers, but the better players are uncertain to reach their potential. That goes especially for those prospects in the minors. Right wing needs an influx of talent as Max Gortz is the only readily available player, while depth wingers Saku Maenalanen and Patrick Cehlin are still in Europe. Behind Dougherty, there is little high-end talent and a need for more puck-moving defensemen.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Kevin Fiala, LW; 2. Juuse Saros, G; 3. Jimmy Vesey, LW; 4. Vladislav Kamenev, C/LW; 5. Viktor Arvidsson, LW

Key Additions: Yakov Trenin (Draft), Steve Moses (Free agent) and Conor Allen (Free agent)

Key Losses: Filip Forsberg, (Graduation) Magnus Hellberg (Traded – NYR)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Philadelphia Flyers prospects failed to make an impact on the NHL roster in 2014-15, so the system benefits from age and experience. The only changes have been additions, with both Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov improve the depth chart considerably. Although Konecny combines with a much-improved Scott Laughton to make the team very strong down the middle, the Flyers are strongest on the blueline. While Samuel Morin won gold at the World Junior Championship last season, it was Travis Sanheim’s turn to join the Canadian National Junior Team this season. Meanwhile, Shayne Gostisbehere is turning heads as a call-up to the big club.

Weaknesses: The Flyers are lacking on the wings, where the team lacks elite talent. Only Nicolas Aube-Kubel has the potential to play in the top half of the lineup, and the rest of Philadelphia’s wingers are role players at best. The Flyers also lack a sure-thing in goal. Although Anthony Stolarz and Matej Tomek have played brilliantly this season, neither will displace Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth anytime soon—nor do they need to.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Ivan Provorov, D; 2. Travis Konecny, C; 3. Travis Sanheim, D; 4. Scott Laughton, C; 5. Samuel Morin, D

Key Additions: Travis Konecny (Draft), Ivan Provorov (Draft)

Key Losses: None

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Montreal Canadiens have a large number of prospects who could become solid competitors, both offensively, and defensively. The team is also tremendously balanced at each position, particularly at wing. Forwards like Mike McCarron, Sven Andrighetto, Nikita Scherbak, Charles Hudon and Jacob de la Rose all have the potential to score goals reliably for the big club. The Canadiens also have a terrific group of defensemen, in spite of the fact that Jarred Tinordi’s development seems to have stalled. Goaltenders Michael McNiven and Zachary Fucale will both push for backup jobs in the future.

Weaknesses: Although the Canadiens have a deep group of prospects, none of them are considered elite. The team hasn’t picked higher than 25th since 2012, and it shows on their depth chart. Also, with the parent club remaining among the top clubs in the Eastern Conference, many players who are perhaps ready for a call-up will have to continue developing in the AHL, at the risk of having their progress stall.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nikita Scherbak, RW; 2. Mike McCarron, RW; 3. Jacob de la Rose, LW; 4. Charles Hudon, LW; 5. Jarred Tinordi, D

Key Additions: Noah Juulsen (Draft)

Key Losses: None

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Calgary Flames farm system is flushed with a balanced mixture of talented and gritty prospects. There have been some big losses due to graduation over the last two years, but credit management for restocking the system with the necessary pieces. Top prospects Sam Bennett, Markus Granlund and Michael Ferland have settled into roles in Calgary while Joni Ortio begins his second NHL season. Down in Stockton, Emile Poirier, Tyler Wotherspoon, Bill Arnold and Kenny Agostino are progressing well and could be ready for NHL duty in the near future. Down in the college and junior ranks, there are a few notably skilled players, including Nick Schneider, Andrew Mangiapane, and Mark Jankowski.

Weaknesses: Due to the high turnover of graduates, Bennett is the only elite top-line scoring option in the system. While the defense is deep, the organization needs more mobile, puck-moving defenseman. The Flames are also thin on the right wing.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Sam Bennett, C; 2. Emile Poirier, RW; 3. Markus Granlund, C; 4. Tyler Wotherspoon, D; 5. Michael Ferland, LW

Key Additions: Oliver Kylington (Draft)

Key Losses: Josh Jooris (Graduation), Sean Monahan (Graduation)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: With six goaltending prospects, the Florida Panthers are deep between the pipes and also boast an above average group of defensemen. Recent 2015 draftee Samuel Montembeault is perhaps the best young goalie in the organization, but is still a long way from making an impact at the NHL level. Mike Matheson, the organization’s first-round pick in 2012, is having a great start to his pro career with Portland of the AHL, and his former teammate Ian McCoshen, another top prospect, is in his junior season at Boston College. Behind those two defensemen are a few more with some NHL promise, including recent draft pick Thomas Schemitsch, who has a good combination of size and offensive instincts while Michael Downing is playing first-pairing minutes in his third season with the University of Michigan.

Weaknesses: Because the organization has graduated many high-end prospects in the past few seasons, the team’s depth is lacking, particularly up front. There are some undersized yet skilled prospects among the group, including Rocco Grimaldi and Denis Malgin, but too many career AHL talent and role players. Lawson Crouse, meanwhile, gives the Panthers a forward prospect capable of playing in the top six, but many question if he has the speed and skill to do so. The organization is particularly lacking on the right side, with Logan Shaw being the only right wing of note.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mike Matheson, D; 2. Lawson Crouse, LW; 3. Ian McCoshen, D; 4. Rocco Grimaldi, C; 5. Jayce Hawryluk, C

Key Additions: Lawson Crouse (Draft), Samuel Montembeault (Draft), Colin Stevens (Free agent)

Key Losses: Vince Trocheck (Graduation), Zach Hyman (Trade – TOR)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Washington Capitals have a few standouts prospects left, but that type of talent is limited. The top end includes the explosive defensemen Madison Bowey and Connor Carrick, talented KHL goaltender Ilya Samsonov, and shifty winger Jakub Vrana. Aside from Carrick, each of these players could be considered on a “Best of” list of prospects at each position in the world right now.

Weaknesses: The Capitals still have some standouts, but the shine has definitely worn off of the overall pool as players like Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky have graduated to the NHL. They have some big names at the very top, but that is where it ends. Everything else with the Capitals is pretty ho-hum. Washington also suffers from the unique problem of having the least number of “prospects” by HF’s standards. With no real center or left wing depth, and a wealth of mid- to lower-tier depth prospects making up most of their picks, there is no question that the team’s prospect depth has slipped overall.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Madison Bowey, D; 2. Ilya Samsonov, G; 3. Jakub Vrana, RW; 4. Riley Barber, C/W; 5. Connor Carrick, D

Key Additions: Ilya Samsonov (Draft), Jonas Siegenthaler (Draft)

Key Losses: Evgeny Kuznetsov (Graduation), Andre Burakovsky (Graduation), Nate Schmidt (Graduation)