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 Ottawa Senators are playing Nick Paul exclusively at center in Binghamton, the team also drafted Colin White and Filip Chlapik in 2015, giving them terrific depth up the middle. The Senators also have a large group of capable defenders, although we may not see any of them in the NHL for a few years. Matt O’Connor, Marcus Hogberg, Joey Daccord and Chris Driedger ensure that the team won’t lack for goaltending depth for a long time. Meanwhile, Francis Perron, Filip Ahl and White are having incredible seasons in their respective leagues.

Weaknesses: Although the Senators had a solid group of players graduate to the AHL this season, none of them have adjusted particularly well. Tobias Lindberg and Nick Paul started strong, but had long point droughts in November. Defenseman Ben Harpur in particular has had difficulty, with his -13 rating being the worst on the Binghamton roster. Matt Puempel and Shane Prince have both fallen out of favour in Ottawa due to inconsistent play, prompting Dave Cameron to move Mark Borowiecki to forward in their place. Unfortunately, the best players in Ottawa’s system are years away from the NHL.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Thomas Chabot, D; 2. Colin White, C; 3. Nick Paul, C; 4. Matt Puempel, LW; 5. Filip Chlapik, C

Key Additions: Thomas Chabot (Draft), Colin White (Draft), Matt O’Connor (Free agent), Gabriel Gagne (Draft), Filip Chlapik (Draft)

Key Losses: Andrew Hammond (Graduation), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (Graduation), Chris Wideman (Graduation)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The St. Louis Blues are strong down the middle, both with high-end center and defensive prospects. Though the organization has just four centers, they happen to be Ivan Barbashev, Robby Fabbri, Glenn Gawdin and Adam Musil, all of whom have legitimate top-nine potential. Defenseman Colton Parayko has surprised many as a viable top-four option in his rookie season, while Jordan Schmaltz, Tommy Vannelli and Vince Dunn all give reason to believe that the Blues defensive corps will be strong for years to come.

Weaknesses: St. Louis doesn’t have many promising prospects on the wing, partly due to the fact they haven’t selected inside the top 20 since 2010 when they took Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko at 14th and 16th overall. Ty Rattie was a prolific scorer in junior but has failed to crack the Blues lineup on a consistent basis. There are a few wingers playing in the NCAA that might carve out a career, but none that might fill a scoring-line role.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Robby Fabbri, C; 2. Ivan Barbashev, C; 3. Jordan Binnington, G; 4. Ty Rattie, RW; 5. Colton Parayko, D

Key Additions: Vince Dunn (Draft), Adam Musil (Draft), Pheonix Copley (Trade – WSH)

Key Losses: Dmitrij Jaskin (Graduation), Jani Hakanpaa (Not re-signed)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The San Jose Sharks have a trio of exciting defensemen in Mirco Mueller, Julius Bergman and 2015 second-round pick Jeremy Roy. There is also significant depth behind those three, so San Jose should be set at defense for the foreseeable future. The Sharks have added several offensively-gifted forwards in the past couple of years after relying on veterans at the NHL level and neglecting the system for a few seasons. Timo Meier and Nikolay Goldobin, the Sharks’ last two first-round picks, are exciting young players while Kelowna’s Rourke Chartier has the look of a late-round gold nugget. Joonas Donskoi, signed as a free agent after winning back-to-back championships in Finland with Karpat Oulu, is playing for the Sharks as a 23-year-old rookie.

Weaknesses: The Sharks acquired Martin Jones from Boston over the summer in hopes that the 25-year-old was ready to be a full-time starter. The results have been mixed so far. San Jose has seven goalies in their system behind Jones and veteran Alex Stalock at the NHL level, but at this point none appear to be certain NHL starters. In terms of forward depth, San Jose appears a lot deeper on the wings than at center.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Timo Meier, RW; 2. Nikolay Goldobin, RW; 3. Mirco Mueller, D; 4. Jeremy Roy, D; 5. Joonas Donskoi, RW

Key Additions: Timo Meier (Draft), Jeremy Roy (Draft), Joonas Donskoi (Free agent), Nikita Jevpalovs (Free agent)

Key Losses: Chris Tierney (Graduation), Sean Kuraly (Trade – BOS)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: With a new focus on rebuilding, allowing prospects time to develop rather than rushing them to the pros, the Carolina Hurricanes are on the right path. Management started restocking the system from the back end and have done well gathering promising defensemen. Noah Hanifin is the headliner and a future star on the blue line. Despite being an 18-year old, he has not looked out of place in the NHL. Trevor Carrick, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce are other defenders on the rise in the pros. Down the pipeline, Haydn Fleury is a top-pairing defenseman who can provide an offensive punch. Of the forward positions, left wing is in good shape with a balance of talented scorers like Sebastian Aho, to two-way players like Phil Di Giuseppe.

Weaknesses: The Hurricanes rebuilding has done well to strengthen the defense but the forwards need more attention. The concern is on right wing where there are only two players at that position. Center could use more help as Joakim Nordstrom and Lucas Wallmark are the only two players that have shown potential. Goaltending has improved with Alex Nedeljkovic and Callum Booth in juniors, but there are no immediate options in case Carolina’s goaltending situation becomes dire.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Noah Hanifin, D; 2. Haydn Fleury, D; 3. Sebastian Aho, LW; 4. Alex Nedeljkovic, G; 5. Jaccob Slavin, D

Key Additions: Noah Hanifin (Draft), Sebastian Aho (Draft)

Key Losses: Victor Rask (Graduation)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Minnesota Wild have two top forward prospects in Boston College right wing Alex Tuch and 2015 first round pick Joel Eriksson Ek, an 18-year-old Swedish center who is currently playing for Farjestad in the SHL. At the moment, those two appear to be the only clear-cut elite prospects in the system. Minnesota does have several players working their way through the college ranks. Defensemen Mike Reilly and Gustav Olofsson are skating for AHL affiliate Iowa and are the top two defensive prospects. Goalie Kaapo Kahkonen has impressed for the struggling Espoo Blues in Finland’s Liiga and played well when it counted for gold medla-winning Finland at the 2016 World Junior Championship.

Weaknesses: The Wild have depth in terms of the number of players with the potential to one day play in the NHL, but other than Tuch and Eriksson Ek, there does not appear to be a lot of high-end potential. Forwards Raphael Bussieres, Mario Lucia, and Brett Bulmer — all former second round draft picks — have never reached the level their potential suggested. After Kahkonen, the goaltending in the system appears limited.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Alex Tuch, RW; 2. Joel Eriksson Ek, C; 3. Mike Reilly, D; 4. Gustav Olofsson, D; 5. Jordan Greenway, LW

Key Additions: Joel Eriksson Ek (Draft), Mike Reilly (Free agent), Jordan Greenway (Draft), Kirill Kaprizov (Draft)

Key Losses: Matt Dumba (Graduation)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Los Angeles Kings have a fairly hefty number of role players, grinders, and players with a loaded toolbox and a developing ability to potentially use those tools. But outside of the big boys like Mike Mersch, Nick Shore, Adrian Kempe, and Valentin Zykov, the Kings have a glut of aggressive, mobile defensemen and two-way forwards. Mike Amadio is developing extremely well at the junior level, and players like Kevin Gravel, Nick Ebert, Zach Leslie, and Alex Lintuniemi are attempting to refine their wealth of skills at the pro level. They also have a decent amount of center depth with Amadio and Nic Dowd stepping forward.

Weaknesses: The Kings have no blue chip prospects, and therein lies the real knock on their system. They have not one single game-breaking talent. There is not a great deal of meat in this sandwich, but there are plenty of condiments, and decent ones at that. But without a few, true-blue killer prospects, it is hard to separate the Kings from the mid- to low-tier teams. Their goaltending pipeline is nearly non-existent.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Adrian Kempe, W; 2. Michael Mersch, W; 3. Valentin Zykov, W; 4. Derek Forbort, D; 5. Alex Lintuniemi, D

Key Additions: Erik Cernak (Draft)

Key Losses: Nick Shore (Graduation), J.F. Berube (Waivers – NYI), Colin Miller (Trade – BOS), Roland McKeown (Trade – CAR), Jordan Weal (Trade – PHI)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The New York Rangers have two of the top young goaltending prospects in 2014 draft picks Brandon Halverson and Igor Shestyorkin. Pavel Buchnevich is the leading scorer for Cherepovets Severstal in the KHL as a 20-year-old. Seattle Thunderbirds forward Ryan Gropp and Finnish center Aleksi Saarela also have scoring ability. Oscar Lindberg, thought to be organizational depth at the start of the season, has put up points at a surprising pace as an NHL rookie. Former Minnesota Golden Gopher Brady Skjei is in his first season of pro hockey with AHL affiliate Hartford and is the Rangers’ top defensive prospect. Skjei’s Wolfpack teammate, Ryan Graves, also shows promise at that position.

Weaknesses: New York’s depth chart drops significantly after its top tier prospects. With the push to win a Stanley Cup, the Rangers have not had a first-round pick since 2012 and have used several other picks and prospects to acquire veteran talent. The AHL roster in Hartford consists primarily of older minor league veterans with few genuine NHL prospects. While there are a few quality prospects in junior, college and Europe, few are of the high-end variety.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Pavel Buchnevich, LW; 2. Brady Skjei, D; 3. Igor Shestyorkin, G; 4. Brandon Halverson, G; 5. Ryan Graves, D.

Key Additions: Ryan Gropp (Draft), Magnus Hellberg (Trade – NSH), Robin Kovacs (Draft), Brad Morrison (Draft), Aleksi Saarela (Draft)

Key Losses: Conor Allen (Not re-signed)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: The Pittsburgh Penguins don’t have much to boast about, but Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry both have potential in goal (Murray in particular). Daniel Sprong, taken in the 2015 NHL Draft, livened up a right side that was largely made up of role-players beforehand, but he has now been returned to the Charlottetown Islanders of the QMJHL. Derrick Pouliot should be an All-Star one day, but he has yet to get into the NHL lineup this season (he spent 34 games in Pittsburgh during the 2014-15 season).

Weaknesses: For the first time in years, the Penguins are having trouble scoring goals. Even more troubling is the lack of help on the way. Aside from Sprong, the Penguins do not have any wingers that have the potential to become goal-scorers in the NHL anytime soon (if ever). NCAA forwards Jake Guentzel and Teddy Blueger could provide scoring help someday, but they will need at least a year or two of conditioning in the AHL before they are ready to contribute. Aside from Derrick Pouliot and Brian Dumoulin, there is a severe lack of NHL talent on the back end. Pittsburgh’s scouting staff has their work cut out for them this year, and in the near future.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Derrick Pouliot, D; 2. Daniel Sprong, RW; 3. Matt Murray, G; 4. Oskar Sundqvist, C; 5. Brian Dumoulin, D

Key Additions: Daniel Sprong (Draft)

Key Losses: Scott Harrington (Trade – TOR), Kasperi Kapanen (Trade – TOR)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: Under new management, the New Jersey Devils‘ system has seen an overall uptick in performance. Center is the deepest position, starting with top prospect Pavel Zacha. The Czech Republic native is the first potential star forward the Devils have had in some time. Joe Blandisi, Blake Coleman, and John Quenneville represent the Devils’ identity of two-way forwards who can contribute at both ends of the rink. While Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau are getting the chance to show their worth in the pros, Miles Wood is having a breakout season with Boston College. Defense remains a strength, with the defensive-minded Steve Santini and offensive-minded Joshua Jacobs progressing well. The rest of the group provide a specific role that could help shore up the second and third pairings. Goaltending was redeveloped and strengthened over the summer with the additions of Mackenzie Blackwood and Ken Appleby.

Weaknesses: The forward group is limited on top-tier scorers. The number of boom-or-bust prospects has decreased under new management, but a few still remain. Right wing remains a concern with Connor Chatham being the only dedicated player at that position. The defensive pool has started to thin out due to graduation.

Top 5 Prospects: Pavel Zacha, C; 2. Steve Santini, D; 3. Mackenzie Blackwood, G; 4. Reid Boucher, LW; 5. Blake Coleman, C

Key Additions: Pavel Zacha (Draft) Mackenzie Blackwood (Draft)

Key Losses: Damon Severson (Graduation)

Team Breakdown:

Strengths: In terms of depth, the Colorado Avalanche boast solid depth on defense in terms of prospects. The trio of Brandon Gormley, Chris Bigras and Duncan Siemens are projected as top-four defenders developing in the AHL. They may become the anchors of Colorado’s defense in the future, although Gormley’s future is somewhat cloudy after he recently passed through waivers. Top prospect Mikko Rantanen is quickly learning the pro game in the AHL. He is not flashy but is an effective scorer that gets the job done. There are also underrated forwards like Conner Bleackley and J.T. Compher who are skilled, two-way players that can contribute in all three zones. Goaltending is a strength, especially in Calvin Pickard who has shown growth following a short stint in the NHL last season.

Weaknesses: Colorado has many prospects who could fill bottom-six roles in the NHL, but the organization is low on high-end, skilled prospects. The wings are lacking depth and the centers leave much to be desired.

Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mikko Rantanen, RW; 2. Chris Bigras, D; 3. Calvin Pickard, G; 4. Conner Bleackley, C/RW; 5. Nicolas Meloche, D

Key Additions: Mikko Rantanen (Draft)

Key Losses: Stefan Elliott (Trade – ARI)