Welcome to the 2018 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2018 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2018 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed.
What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2018-19 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
2018 NHL Organizational Prospect Rankings (20-11)
After going through the top 10 prospects of every team in the NHL and giving full scouting reports, we will now be ranking each team’s prospect pools.
Note: If you click on the team name, you will get a link to a full report on that team. The snippets here are just a taste of the information available.
20.) Boston Bruins
Incredibly, the Bruins graduated six prospects last year to their NHL club last year. Despite all the youth, they were still one of the league’s best teams. They also moved some solid prospects at the trade deadline. The Bruins don’t have a true blue-chip prospect but the group remains deep. They have a number of players who could be contributors at the NHL level. Forwards Ryan Donato and Anders Bjork have already shown a scoring touch. Jakub Lauko, Zachary Senyshyn, and Peter Cehlarik provide wing depth. Meanwhile, Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jack Studnicka, Trent Frederic, and Ryan Fitzgerald are two-way centres. On the blueline, the Bruins have Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Axel Andersson, and Jeremy Lauzon.
19.) Minnesota Wild
The Wild’s top prospect, Kirill Kaprizov, is playing in the KHL for CSKA Moscow. He has two years left on his current deal. The team hopes that Jordan Greenway is ready to make the jump to full-time NHLer. He signed after three years of college hockey. They also hope that Luke Kunin will show more offensive production in his second full pro season. They lead a deep group of forwards. Louis Belpedio and first-round pick Filip Johansson are the team’s top defensive prospects, though Johansson was a bit of a reach as a pick. With Paul Fenton now in charge, expect the Wild to build their defensive depth over the next several drafts.
18.) Arizona Coyotes
They Coyotes also graduated a number of prospects in recent years, although without the on-ice team success seen in Boston. Still, one top prospect they have been patient with is Dylan Strome. He tore up the AHL last year and should advance to the NHL this year. Top pick Barrett Hayton was likely a reach at fifth overall but is still a talented centre. They are joined by Nick Merkley and Tyler Steenbergen as the Coyotes top forward prospects. On the blueline, Arizona has Pierre-Oliver Joseph, Kyle Capobianco, and Cam Dineen as the top three members of a very deep group. Their top goalie prospect is Adin Hill.
17.) Chicago Blackhawks
The Hawks have really improved their defensive prospect group in recent years. 2017 first-round pick Henri Jokiharju, second rounder Ian Mitchell and 2018 first-rounders Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin have started that process. They also have 2016 second-round pick Chad Krys. NCAA star Dylan Sikura, and trade acquisition Victor Ejdsell are ready to help the team up front. Evan Barratt and Jake Wise will need some development time. If Corey Crawford is not ready to start the year, the Hawks hope that Colin Delia can continue his AHL playoff heroics.
16.) Winnipeg Jets
Up front, Jack Roslovic is already contributing to the team and should be an even bigger part of the squad this year. Brendan Lemieux could crack the roster in a bottom line role. 2017 first round pick Kristian Vesalainen had a great season in Finland but may need another year of development. They are joined by Mason Appleton, David Gustafsson, Michael Spacek, and C.J. Sues as notable forward prospects. The defence features AHL defenceman of the year Sami Niku who should make the jump to the NHL this year. Logan Stanley, Dylan Samberg, and Luke Green are also in the system. The team has a pair of potential goaltenders in Eric Comrie and Mikhail Berdin. Comrie could challenge for the backup role in pre-season.
15.) Los Angeles Kings
2017 first-round pick Gabriel Vilardi was out with injury at the start of the OHL season. When he returned, he was a dynamic offensive force. Defenceman Kale Clague was one of the best defencemen in junior hockey, giving the team a second high-end prospect. Defensive depth comes from Mikey Anderson and Daniel Brickley. 2018 draftees Rasmus Kupari and Akil Thomas add to the team’s centre depth, which also includes Jaret Anderson-Dolan. Goaltender Cal Peterson had a solid first year as a professional. Overall, there is some good prospects here, but this system lacks depth beyond the surface.
14.) Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning have real depth in their system. Wingers Boris Katchouk, Taylor Raddysh, and defenseman Cal Foote were all key members of Team Canada at the World Juniors. Centre Anthony Cirelli joined the NHL team late in the year and made some key contributions down the stretch. Wingers Mathieu Joseph and Alexander Volkov; centre Mitchell Stephens; and defenceman Erik Cernak all had solid rookie seasons in Syracuse. Dominik Masin provides depth on the blueline. Goaltender Connor Ingram also had a good rookie season for the Crunch and means that Tampa has at least one quality prospect at every position.
13.) Colorado Avalanche
In Cale Makar, the Avalanche may have an elite offensive defenceman. There are some concerns about his defensive game though. He will spend another season in the NCAA. Conor Timmins is on his way to the AHL. He has a good offensive game as well, not as good as Makar, but he is also more well-rounded. The Avs also have Nicolas Meloche, as three of their top four prospects are blueliners. Avs first round pick Martin Kaut shot up draft boards. He is a two-way winger who is probably a couple years away. The Avs have some depth down the middle in Shane Bowers, Igor Shvyryov, and Vladislav Kamenev.
12.) Ottawa Senators
Brady Tkachuk was one of the most controversial prospects in this year’s draft. We had him just outside the top 10 in our rankings. There are questions about his ultimate offensive upside. After a disappointing 2016-17, Logan Brown bounced back with a strong 2017-18. Forwards Colin White and Filip Chlapik have had NHL opportunities. They both look to win full-time jobs in training camp. World junior sensation Drake Batherson was a breakout star in the QMJHL last year. Winger Alex Formenton impressed in last year’s training camp. He was eventually sent back to London. He should have one more year in the OHL. Swedish netminder Filip Gustavsson was acquired in the Derick Brassard trade. He is the Sens top goalie prospect. The team was weak on the blueline but addressed that at the draft table. They took Jonny Tychonick and Jacob Bernard-Docker. Christian Jaros is their most NHL-ready defenceman.
11.) Florida Panthers
Centre Henrik Borgstrom is an elite-level prospect and should be a Panther this year. Owen Tippett is another blue-chipper who could help the team now, but making the team is less certain for the winger. Aleksi Heponiemi put up big numbers in the WHL. The Panthers might convert the Finnish centre to wing. They drafted Grigori Denisenko, another dynamic but undersized winger in the first round. The Panthers took Serron Noel early in the second round. He is huge, a potential power forward in the making. On defence, Max Gildon, Riley Stillman, and Ian McCoshen lead the way. Goaltender Samuel Montembault is their main hope in the crease.