NHL Teams Loaded with Offensively Gifted Prospects
While signing free agents, adding the proper pieces and coming out on the right end of trades can help bolster an NHL team, nothing is more important than drafting these days. Whether a squad is looking for a future No. 1 goaltender, or a guy who could play No. 2 center within the next three years, franchises that are able to scout and draft well are able to fill those kinds of holes from within.
All of the model franchises around the NHL have built from the draft since the implantation of the salary cap, and there are several other squads that have built up an embarrassing amount of riches up front by drafting high-quality offensive minded players.
Worth noting is that this is just an examination of the farm systems and youth on NHL rosters. It's not a power ranking. Also, to be considered a prospect, a player can not have played more than 65 games at the NHL level.
All statistics appear courtesy of HockeyDB.com.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Few teams have been as surprising this season as the Tampa Bay Lightning. They've come out of the gate flying, and are playing very well in front of Ben Bishop. While the netminding has put Tampa in playoff contention, the franchise as a whole has managed to collect quite the stable of young talent over the last three or four years.
Alex Killorn is playing top-six minutes for the Lightning with Steven Stamkos on the shelf. He's nearing the 65-game limit, but there's no question that he's an extremely talented goal scorer. He was successful at the AHL level, and that's translated to strong play in the NHL.
Among other top-end prospects is Brett Connolly. He's way over our games limit, but we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the former sixth-overall selection from 2010.
And let's not forget Jonathan Drouin. The third-overall selection from the 2013 draft was shipped back to the QMJHL and given the simple task of dominating the competition. He's done just that while playing for the Halifax Mooseheads, and has accumulated 39 points in just 17 games so far this year.
Rounding out the deepest and most talented prospect pool in the NHL is Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov, who have been dominating in the AHL this season.
New York Islanders
While the New York Islanders may not have the offensive depth that the Tampa Bay Lightning boast, they still posses several outstanding young players that will contribute to the team's continuing slow-and-steady rebuilding effort.
Leading the charge for the Isles is Ryan Strome. He could probably be playing in the NHL right now, but New York is giving him the time and space to acclimate his game to the professional ranks in the AHL before bringing him up to the big leagues.
He didn't miss a beat in jumping from the junior level to the AHL least year, and is scoring more than a point per game for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers this season. Strome will be in the NHL soon enough, and he'll be primed to make an impact as soon as he touches down.
Most of New York's most dynamic offensive players actually are on the blue line at this point. They may have had a steal fall into their lap when they were able to draft Ryan Pulock with the 15th overall selection in the 2013 draft, and he's posting points at a rapid pace in the WHL.
Griffin Reinhart will be a steady presence for the Isles at some juncture, and Brock Nelson is quietly having a solid rookie season with seven points in 26 contests.
Dale Tallon is clearly using the same strategy to build that Florida Panthers as he did when he was the architect of the Chicago Blackhawks. He's stockpiling as many solid young players as possible, and continues to add to the depth and foundation of the team by trading away veteran players on a yearly basis.
The most obvious strength of the Florida Panthers is down the middle of the ice. You won't see a team compete for the Stanley Cup without utilizing strength at center, and Tallon has aggressively sought to make that a position of strength for Florida.
Aleksander Barkov has been every bit as good as advertised since the Panthers selected him with the second-overall pick at the 2013 draft. His net presence is the perfect yin to Jonathan Huberdeau's slick yang, and that pair will do a lot of damage in Florida over the next few years.
A guy that some folks might not know about but should keep an eye on moving forward is Nick Bjugstad. He's a towering pivot that has great hands and knows how to finish up close.
Rounding out Florida's trifecta at center is Drew Shore. He's bounced between the NHL and AHL over the last few seasons, but still has the talent to be an excellent pivot for the Panthers.
Quinton Howden is another noteworthy prospect that has been developing his chops with the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL. The Panthers don't have many prospects under the 6'2" mark, and this could be a large and talented hockey team within the next year or two.
Detroit Red Wings
If you want to see the face of a Detroit Red Wings fan light up, mention the name Anthony Mantha to them. He's been an absolutely unstoppable force since the Wings sent him back to the junior level this season, and he could break the team's long tradition of over-seasoning prospects.
It's that way of doing business that keeps Detroit near the top of the NHL when it comes to offensive-minded prospects. They rarely bring players up before they are more than ready, and this allows them to stockpile talent at the AHL and junior level.
Gustav Nyquist would have been a regular NHL player two years ago in most of the other franchises around the league. In Detroit, he is just now being considered for more than a cup of coffee.
Tomas Tatar finally made the opening-night roster this year, and has been a solid depth player for the Wings so far this season. He showed off a lot of scoring potential in the minors, and those instincts should kick in sooner or later.
Quinton Howden is adjusting to the North American game in the AHL right now, and Tomas Jurco has a lot of folks around the team excited with his outstanding stick handling and attention to detail in the offensive zone.
The Calgary Flames have done an excellent job in balancing home run picks and safe selections over the last few years. General manager Jay Feaster seems to have a pretty clear idea of the kind of players that he wants to build his team around.
After watching a high-character player like Jarome Iginla be the heart and soul of the organization for a long, long while, Feaster seems to be gunning for guys with that same kind of personality and talent package.
Up front, the Flames are loaded with players who just drip intangibles. Sean Monahan immediately comes to mind since he's been crushing it for Calgary this season, but there are other players throughout the organization that utilize a heavy north-south game while bringing a lot of guts to the rink every night.
The Flames appear to have landed quite a player in the smallish, but feisty Johnny Gaudreau. He only stands at 5'7", but his talent and heart are enormous.
Max Reinhart and Mark Jankowski are both cut from the same cloth, and Feaster has done an outstanding job of moving out veterans for strong young players. Joe Colborne is the most immediate example, while Corban Knight could be a solid center that could make the jump to the NHL next year.