TSP: 2015 NHL Organizational Prospect Rankings Part 2

Welcome to the 2015 edition of Top Shelf Prospects.  As the summer progresses, I will be featuring each NHL team’s top prospects, following the order of the first round of the 2015 NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) —you can find all the articles here.

Because we already published an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in 2015, as my reports on them will not have changed — I will, however, link you to those articles. Instead I will focus on prospects that were acquired in past drafts, examining their progress and their chances of making the 2015-16 roster of their respective NHL team. I will also choose one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the fourth round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as a darkhorse to make the NHL.

For those wondering, the determining factors for defining who is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played or being 25 years old. These are not set in stone, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.

2015 NHL Organizational Prospect Rankings

Click on the team name to see a full report.

For teams 30-21 click here

20. Nashville Predators: Up front, Kevin Fiala shows high end offence and is knocking on the door of the NHL.  Meanwhile Jimmy Vesey had a monster season at Harvard and was a legitimate Hobey Baker contender.  Behind them, Colton Sissons leads a group with plenty of depth, but seem to top out as 2nd/3rd line players.  Juuse Saros has been excellent in goal, but his size remains a question mark. Defencemen Jack Dougherty, Conor Allen and Jonathan-Ismail Diaby provide blue line depth, but their ceiling is in question.

19. Ottawa Senators:  Having a pair of first rounders, and a pair of second rounders in this year’s draft helped the Sens rebuild some of the depth they have lost in recent year.  Thomas Chabot, Colin White, Gabriel Gagne and Filip Chlapik were good additions.  Adding Matt O’Connor was also a major coup this off-season.  Matt Puempel and Shane Prince look ready to make the NHL up front, while Nick Paul could be a year or two away.  The big issue for the Sens is the blueline, where there isn’t any high end talent beyond Chabot.

18. Carolina Hurricanes: In Noah Hanifin, Haydn Fleury, Brett Pesce and Roland McKeown, the Hurricanes have a strong group of defenders.  Alex Nedeljkovic, Daniel Altshuller and Callum Booth gives the team a high end goalie prospect.  Beyond that though, there is a complete lack of forward talent that must be addressed over the next several years.  While there are some players in the system who could become good grinders, there is a serious lack of top six potential in this system.  The only really high end talent appears to be Sergei Tolchinsky and he still has some big question marks.

17. Washington Capitals:  The Capitals are another team where the graduations of young players has taken a real toll on the strength of the prospect group.  There is little in the way of quality depth beyond the team’s top prospects.  That said Madison Bowey is still a high end offensive defenceman prospect, while Jakub Vrana has talent up front. The Capitals drafted Ilya Samsonov this year, giving them a top notch goaltending prospect.  With Philip Grubauer, and Vitek Vanecek also in the system, they are amongst the best stocked teams in the NHL at the position.

16. St. Louis Blues: The Blues did an excellent job in the 2014 NHL Draft as Robby Fabbri and Ivan Barbashev are looking like steals for where they were selected. Along with Ty Rattie, they provide a good group of forwards replacing the many forwards the Blues have graduated in recent years.  On defence Jordan Schmaltz will go pro, and I like the 2015 pick of Vince Dunn.  Jordan Binnington is the top goalie prospect.  A good group that could use a bit more depth though.

15. Montreal Canadiens: Nikita Scherbak has the potential to be extremely good offensively, but must learn to play in his own end.  Martin Reway and Charles Hudon showed the ability to play with, and score against men in their first pro seasons.  Jacob de la Rose was called up to the NHL in February, and showed a very mature two-way game for a 19-year old.  Michael McCarron took a step forward in London/Oshawa and could become a two-way player with size.  Daniel Carr, Arturri Lehkonen, and Sven Andrighetto have also shown offensive potential.  A defensive group that was thinned out by the graduation of Nathan Beaulieu, added a strong two way defender in Noah Juulsen at the draft.  Jarred Tinordi and Greg Pateryn are knocking on the door for full-time NHL spots.  In goal Mike Condon was excellent in the AHL, and Zach Fucale will make the jump to the pros.

14.Philadelphia Flyers:  With Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Robert Hagg the Flyers have one of the best blueline groups in the NHL. Provorov and Sanheim are absolute studs, with top pairing potential, while the other three could all be quality additions to the top four. Up front though, the addition of Travis Konecny was much needed as the team lacked high end forward prospects.  Scott Laughton is a very good player, but beyond him there are a bunch of projects. Nicolas Aube-Kubel is one I believe in, but there are some question marks. There is really nothing to speak of in terms of goaltending, as Anthony Stolarz had a rough season for Philly.

13. Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets prospect pool took some major hits this off-season.  Mike Reilly refused to sign and left for Minnesota. Marko Dano was traded as part of a move to acquire Brandon Saad, and Alexander Wennberg graduated.  Even after the loss of these three players, the Jackets have a strong system.  Oliver Bjorkstrand helped the Danish team be the surprise of the World Junior Tournament. He also led the WHL in goals and points and was named the league’s best player. Sonny Milano and Kerby Rychel also showed great progression and are high end talents.  There is also plenty of depth behind those three.  On defense the drafting of Zach Werenski adds a stud to a group that was weak.  The addition of Michael Paliotta also helps. Gabriel Carlsson, Paul Bittner, Kevin Stenlund, Keegan Kolesar, Sam Ruopp, and Vladislav Gavrikov gave the Jackets an excellent showing at the NHL draft.  In goal, Anton Forsberg was excellent in the AHL last year.

12. Boston Bruins:  The Bruins had so many picks in this year’s NHL draft that they made a major injection of talent into their prospect pool.  There has been some debate about the Bruins reaching on some of the selections, but overall its hard to argue with the sheer amount of depth they got in taking seven out of our pre-draft top 100 ranking of 2015 draft eligible players.  They are added to a system that has a stud in David Pastrnak who barely slipped under the games played criteria and is still considered a prospect for this report.  Malcolm Subban is a top goalie prospect and knocking on the door of being NHL ready. Joe Morrow and Colin Miller will compete for spots on the blueline in training camp, while Alexander Khoklachev will be looking to crack the NHL roster at forward.  Behind them, the Bruins already had some depth even before the draft’s talent infusion.

11. Calgary Flames: Sam Bennett has the potential to be a franchise centre and should make his way to a full-time NHL job this year.  He was excellent in the playoffs. Emile Poirier has speed to burn and could be a top six forward in time, he had a very good first year of pro hockey.  Morgan Klimchuk had another good year in the AHL and is ready to go pro. There is excellent depth behind them as well.  Last year we said the Flames were weak on the blueline, but this has been corrected. Kenney Morrison was a great get from the college ranks. In the draft, the additions of Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington give the Flames two high-risk, high-reward prospects. Brandon Hickey’s development at Boston College this past year also has to be considered a big positive. In goal, Jon Gilles finished up an outstanding college career and is ready to move to the pro ranks. Mason McDonald gives the Flames another high quality goalie prospect.

For the Top 10, click here.