Top Shelf Prospects: NHL Team Rankings – Part One
Now that we’ve taken a look at every team in the NHL, I felt that I should give a 1-30 ranking of every team in the NHL and the quality of their prospects. This is an overall view of each team’s entire system and includes players drafted in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. In this ranking, my philosophy is that it is important to look at the elite prospects in a system, as well as the overall depth and number of quality prospects a team has. For an indepth look at the prospects on each team, click on the team name and the link will bring you to that team’s page.
The Cupboard is Nearly Bare
30. Philadelphia Flyers – Scott Laughton was a nice draft pick, but I question if he can be a top 6 player, or if he is destined to be a very good third line centre. The rest of the system is a mess featuring players who are bottom 6 forwards, or bottom pairing defencemen at best. It said a lot when the top prospect Erik Gustafsson was projected as a bottom pairing defenceman. At least the big club has some promising youth in Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier and has effective young NHL stars in Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, and Jakob Voracek, because they won’t be getting much help from the farm going forward.
29. San Jose Sharks – I liked the pick of Tomas Hertl, who immediately becomes the organization’s top prospect. Matt Nieto also has the potential to be a top 6 player. However after these two prospects there is not much else in the system as far as players with top 6 forward or top 4 defence go. The Remaining players such as Freddie Hamilton, Matt Tennyson, and Travis Oleksuk appear to be long shots, or bottom tier players.
Below Average Systems
28. New Jersey Devils – Top Prospect Jon Merrill faces a number of questions about his defensive ability and his off-ice activities. Stefan Matteau was a quality pick, but faces questions about whether he has high end offensive potential. The Devils have three intriguing goalie prospects, but the system really thins out after that.
27. Vancouver Canucks – Brendan Gaunce was a great pick, and Eddie Lack is an outstanding goalie prospect. Nicklas Jensen and Jordan Schroeder are serious boom or bust type players. Kevin Connaughton is a bottom pairing defence prospect. However after these 5 players the Canucks have little else.
26. Los Angeles Kings – While Jake Muzzin, Alexei Loktionov, Tanner Pearson, and Tyler Toffoli are good prospects, the Kings system is probably at the weakest point its been at in several years. High profile graduations and trades made by GM Dean Lombardi have paid off, as seen by the good young team that won this years’ Stanley Cup.
Still Some Good Here
25. Colorado Avalanche – Most of the Avalanche’s best young talent is currently playing in the NHL and are considered graduated. As a result the team’s prospect group is a little thin at this point in time. Avs fans shouldn’t be too concerned as we know how good Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, Eric Johnson and Semyon Varlamov can be. Fans can still look to prospects like Stefan Elliot, Michael Sgarbossa, Joey Hishon, and Duncan Siemens to offer future hope.
24. Carolina Hurricanes – Ryan Murphy needs to add strenghth and improve his defence, but he’s a top notch offensive defenceman and will have a big impact in the NHL soon. However this system is lacking beyond Murphy. Phil DiGiuseppe and Zach Dalpe provide some depth on offence, but overall the system has taken big hits with recent graduations and trades. Still the Hurricanes are a young team at the NHL level, so this mitigates this somewhat as young players like Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk, Zach Boychuk, Jamie McBain and Drayson Bowman are not included in this ranking.
23. Nashville Predators – Ryan Ellis is a top young defence prospect who should contribute to the Predators powerplay immediately. However prospect depth has taken a hit in recent years due to graduations (Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, Roman Josi, Jonathan Blum, Gabriel Bourque) and trades of draft picks. Pontus Aberg is a potential draft day steal.
22. Phoenix Coyotes – Brandon Gormley is an outstanding defence prospect who leads a group of strong defenders including David Rundblad, Max Goncharov, Connor Murphy, and Mike Stone. The Coyotes also feature good goalies in Mark Visentin, Mike Lee, and Louis Dominique. The system is thin on forwards even after signing Andy Miele last year and drafting Henrik Samuelsson and Jordan Martinook this year.
Good but Not Great Systems
21. Boston Bruins – Dougie Hamilton is an elite defence prospect, but the Bruins have little else of that caliber. Malcolm Subban is a good goalie prospect, and Jared Knight is a decent forward prospect, but the system is clearly all about Hamilton right now.
20. Calgary Flames – Sven Baertschi is the Flames next stud winger. John Gaudreau is an intriguing but undersized prospect. Max Reinhart and Markus Granlund provide forward depth. This system’s depth was greatly benefitted by an excellent 2012 draft.
19. New York Rangers – Chris Kreider is a great prospect who showed glimpses of his future in the NHL playoffs. J.T. Miller, Christian Thomas, Boo Nieves, Brady Skjei, and Dylan McIlrath provide the Rangers with depth. The system was able to absorb the loss of a player like Tim Erixon and still maintain a number of quality players.
18. Dallas Stars – A good draft featuring Radek Faksa, Ludvig Bystrom, Mike Winther, Devin Shore, Gemel Smith, and Branden Troock saves this team from the bottom portions of the rankings. Goalie Jack Campbell must show consistency going forward, and Jamie Oleksiak is a project who will need to learn to adjust to the speed of the pro game, as many defencemen his size do.
17. Winnipeg Jets – Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba give the system two elite talents, but there is little beyond those two. Patrice Cormier is a bottom line pest, and Paul Postma is a decent offensive defenceman, but has big questions in relation to his defence. However two elite prospects is enough to make them a group close to the middle of the pack despite that lack of depth. Another team that has graduated a lot of young players in recent years with guys like Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov, Zach Bogosian, Bryan Little, all considered full time NHLers. The system needs a goalie though.
16. Columbus Blue Jackets – A team with two elite prospects in Ryan Murray and Tim Erixon. Overall the defence is quite deep with David Savard and John Moore included. The forwards don’t have the same level of talent but Matt Calvert, Cam Atkinson Boone Jenner, Tomas Kubalik, Michael Chaput all are potential NHLers. They even have two excellent goaltending prospects in Oscar Dansk and Joonas Korpisalo. Decent depth in this system and just misses out on being among the top half in the NHL.