Top Shelf Prospects: NHL Team Rankings – The Top 15

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.

We did 30-16 yesterday, so lets continue with the Top 15.

Above Average Groups

15. Buffalo Sabres – an excellent draft gave them much needed quality and depth down the middle in the form of Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons. Centre prospects were an organizational weakness heading into the draft, and is an organizational strength today.  Those two combine with wingers Joel Armia, and Marcus Foligno to provide the team with a strong group of forwards. Brayden McNabb, Mark Pysyk, and Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, provide quality on defence.   The team has good depth, but lacks the great depth that we see in teams to come.

14. Anaheim Ducks – Kyle Palmieri, Emerson Etem, Peter Holland, Devante Smith-Pelly, Rickard Rakell, Max Friberg, Nick Kerdiles, and Kevin Roy are a deep forward group. Hampus Lindholm is a solid defence prospect, but overall more defencemen are needed, though that is mitigated somewhat with Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa already in the NHL. John Gibson provides a quality goaltending prospect. A deep system, but one that falls in the rankings due to the lack of an elite talent.

13. Toronto Maple Leafs – Morgan Rielly was a very good draft pick, and Matt Finn was a steal falling to the second round. The system was incredibly deep to begin with and there are a number of potential NHLers including Ben Scrivens, Joe Colborne, Nazem Kadri, Greg McKegg, Jessie Blacker, Tyler Biggs, Korbinian Holzer and Stuart Percy. The defence is stacked, and the forwards and goalies have quantity, but the lack of an elite centre prospect keeps the group outside the top 10.

12. St. Louis Blues – Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz give the Blues two elite forward prospects, and Ty Rattie is another decent forward. Jake Allen is a good goalie prospect. The defence has Jordan Schmaltz and Jani Hakanpaa but needs a lot more. Overall the Blues system is very top heavy but lacks depth, keeping it outside the top 10.

The Second Tier

11. Tampa Bay Lightning – Slater Koekoek and Andrei Vasilevski were quality first round picks. Vladislav Namestnikov had an excellent season for the London Knights. While the Norfolk Admirals led by Mark Barbiero, Dustin Tokarski, Richard Panik and Cory Conacher were winning the Calder Cup and setting AHL records along the way. With other prospects like Alex Killorn at Harvard, Nikita Kucherov and Nikita Nesterov in the KHL, and recently signed J.T. Brown; Steve Yzerman has really accelerated the Tampa Rebuild.  The depth is outstanding, but they are second tier because they don’t have that elite prospect that jumps out at you as a future superstar.

10. Detroit Red Wings – Brendan Smith and Gustav Nyquist are NHL ready prospects and should take big roles in Detroit this year. Teemu Pulkkinen is among my favorites of all the super sleeper prospects profiled in this series. The System has serious depth at all positions with Martin Frk, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan, Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, Calle Jarnkrok, Tomas Tatar and Peter Mrazek all being solid prospects.  Among the league’s deepest pools but again lacks the home run prospect to elevate them into an elite system.

9. Montreal Canadiens – An Excellent 2012 Draft Class propels the Habs into the Top Ten. Alex Galchenyuk is the stud centre that every team covets. Michael Bournival, Brady Vail, and Louis Leblanc create depth at the position, though Leblanc may ultimately switch to RW full time. Sebastian Collberg was the steal of the 2012 Draft as we had him rated much higher than where he was picked.  Brendan Gallagher, Danny Kristo, Tim Bozon, Charles Hudon and Patrick Holland create skill and depth on the wings. Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi, Morgan Ellis and Dalton Thrower are all potential top 4 Defencemen, while Darren Dietz, Josiah Didier, Mac Bennett, Greg Pateryn, and Brendan Nash create depth in a defence group that rivals any in the league except maybe the Penguins. The lack of a quality goaltending prospect is the only thing that keeps this group in the second tier and away from the NHL elites.

8. Washington Capitals – Elite players Evgeni Kuznetsov, Braden Holtby, and Filip Forsberg are mainly responsible for this high ranking. Stanislav Galiev and Tom Wilson are decent forward prospects as well. However the quality falls off greatly after that, which places the group into the Second Tier instead of the first.  This group is like the opposite of Tampa Bay.  Tampa has the huge depth, but lacks the standout prospect.  Washington has 3 standouts.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins – The Penguins feature the deepest group of Defence in the NHL. Derrick Pouliot, Olli Maatta, and Brian Dumoulin were added on Draft Day to a group that already featured Simon Despres, Scott Harrington, and Joe Morrow. Beau Bennett and Tom Kuhnackl lead the offense, but the group is nowhere near as good or as deep as their defensive roster.

6. Chicago Blackhawks – An excellent ranking for a team that hasn’t had much opportunity to draft near the top of the heap. Having players like Brandon Saad and Teuvo Teravainen drop in their lap was a huge bonus. Mark McNeill, Phillip Danault, Jeremy Morin, and Andrew Shaw give the team a very solid group of forward prospects. The team has good depth on defence but no stars, even if Dillon Fournier, Adam Clendening and Dylan Olsen are quality prospects. They also have decent goalie prospects in Kent Simpson, Mac Carruth, and a possible draft day steal in Brandon Whitney.

The Elite

5. New York Islanders – Ryan Strome, and Griffin Reinhart are top tier players. Brock Nelson, Kirill Petrov, Casey Czikas, and Kirill Kabanov are an intriguing group of forwards, while Calvin De Haan, Ville Pokka, Scott Mayfield, and Matt Donovan provide depth on defence. Kevin Poulin appears to be the goalie of the future. Overall a solid group with excellent quality and depth. Centre is a clear position of strength, but they are covered in other areas as well.

4. Ottawa Senators – The Swedish invasion of Mika Zibanejad, Jacob Silfverberg, and Robin Lehner should combine with Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson to create both the core of the future Ottawa Senators teams and the core of future Swedish National Teams. Having Cody Ceci fall into their lap on draft day 2012 was a major bonus. The Senators now wait on their big time draft crop from 2011, including Shane Prince, Stefan Noesen, and Matt Puempel, to graduate to the big club and help the team grow on last year’s surprisingly good results.

3. Edmonton Oilers – Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz are two of the best prospects in hockey and both should play in the NHL this season, if there is a season. Oscar Klefbom is another solid defenceman, and the Oilers have depth in Mitch Moroz, Colton Teubert, Daniil Zharkov, David Musil, Tyler Pitlick, Martin Marincin, Teemu Hartikainen and Martin Gernat. Amazingly the Oilers have such a lofty position despite Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Jordan Eberle all being considered full time NHLers. Include them (and similar under 21 year old NHLers of all teams) and the Oilers would easily take down the number 1 spot.  Three straight years of drafting 1st overall will certainly lead to amassing a collection of great young talent.

2. Florida Panthers – In Jonathan Huberdeau the Panthers have a stud forward prospect. In Jacob Markstrom, they also have a stud goalie prospect. Nick Bjustad, Quinton Howden, Drew Shore, and Rocco Grimaldi fill out the forward prospects nicely and there are plenty of potential top 6 players here. On Defence, the team lacks a true elite prospect but Michael Matheson, and Alex Petrovic could become top 4 defenders. This system isn’t far off from Number 1.  Dale Tallon has clearly focused on building through the draft amassing a number of picks in 2010 and 2011 and that will soon start to pay off in Florida.

1. Minnesota Wild – This is a system full of both quality, and depth. In Michael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Mathew Dumba, Jonas Brodin, and Matt Hackett there are high end players at every position.  Add to that strong depth prospects in Johan Larsson, Brett Bulmer, Zack Phillips, and Jason Zucker, among others and its quite simply the best system in hockey.  Chuck Fletcher has done a fantastic job with the Wild, and a strong lineup is being built in Minnesota.

That wraps up our look at the top systems in the NHL. Check back next week as I will rank the individual prospects.

As always, Feel Free to leave your comments below and follow me on twitter @LastWordBKerr.