Re-Ranking Every NHL Team's Prospect Pool After the 2014 Trade Deadline
This year's NHL trade deadline saw a lot of current stars move from one team to another, but it also saw potential future stars shift teams, too, and often in the other direction.
Thomas Vanek now plays for Montreal, but Sebastien Collberg has joined the New York Islanders' system. Ryan Miller is stopping pucks in St. Louis, but William Carrier is now part of a deep system in Buffalo.
Given moves like those, now is an appropriate time to look at every NHL team's prospect system and determine which clubs have the best collections of young, up-and-coming players. Are deadline sellers like the Sabres and Islanders moving to the top of the list, or are teams like Tampa Bay—a team that held back last year's third overall pick for a season—at the forefront of the NHL today?
Read on for our rankings.
30. Colorado Avalanche
Top Talent: Chris Bigras is the crown jewel of Colorado's prospect group and a defenceman with a range of skills, though it's hard not to note that his offensive game hasn't developed as hoped for.
Depth: There are some decent defencemen on the way, depending on how one feels about perpetual prospect Stefan Elliott and struggling rookie pro Duncan Siemens. But that's Colorado's strongest position, and there isn't similar talent en route up front or on the back end.
Overall: The graduation of Nathan MacKinnon and other top talents has left the cupboard bare in Colorado.
29. New Jersey Devils
Top Talent: With the graduations of Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas to the NHL, New Jersey is short on top prospects. Defenceman Damon Severson, a near point-per-game WHLer who was a second-round pick in 2012, is probably the best guy in the system.
Depth: The Devils' cupboard is pretty bare. Defenceman Steven Santini is a solid prospect, and left wing Reid Boucher is scoring at a decent clip in the AHL, but beyond that, there isn't much.
Overall: Even with the graduations, there are some good defencemen in the system, but this is a pipeline lacking both top-end talent and a broad base of depth prospects.
28. St. Louis Blues
Top Talent: The St. Louis Blues don't have any blue-chip prospects. Dmitrij Jaskin, the 20-year-old with 28 points in 39 AHL games this season, probably has the most value today.
Depth: The Blues have nice depth at all positions. Ty Rattie has enjoyed a solid season as a rookie AHL forward. Tommy Vannelli and Jordan Schmaltz are both good defensive prospects, albeit ones that are a long way off. Goaltender Jake Allen is stuck in the minors but is probably NHL-ready.
Overall: A system lacking top-end talent got thinner with the trade of William Carrier to Buffalo as part of a package for Ryan Miller.
27. Minnesota Wild
Top Talent: A strong group of Wild prospects are now mostly in the NHL, and the result is that a faltering Mathew Dumba is now the leader of a greatly weakened group. Dumba was originally projected as a top-pair defenceman owing to speed, offence and physical play, but he has been erratic at times and needs to do more.
Depth: With so many players graduating to the majors, pickings are slim. That Zach Phillips, the disappointing 2011 first-round draft pick, is likely second on the prospect depth chart after Dumba in terms of value says it all.
Overall: Minnesota has gone from one of the best prospect groups in the league to one of the weakest, but with nine players in the 23-or-under range at the NHL level, the team can now boast one of the best groups of young major leaguers. And really, isn't that what every team wants out of its prospect group?
26. Carolina Hurricanes
Top Talent: The top talent in Carolina's system—Ryan Murphy and Elias Lindholm—has spent most of the year in the NHL, leaving rookie AHLer Victor Rask, a centre with a range of skills, as the likely top prospect.
Depth: Carolina has traded a lot of top picks and some of its top prospects in recent years, leaving a thin crop. Diminutive dynamo Sergey Tolchinsky was a smart under-the-radar signing, and along with Brock McGinn, the two represent the most interesting part of the forward crop. A number of limited defencemen and goalie Daniel Altshuller round out a thin group.
Overall: The Hurricanes have some good pieces, but most of them are in the NHL.
25. San Jose Sharks
Top Talent: With Tomas Hertl and Matthew Nieto in the NHL, there is a definite lack of top-end prospects in the Sharks' system. One exception to the rule is defenceman Mirco Mueller, a smart rearguard the team took in the first round last summer.
Depth: The Sharks are seriously lacking in prospect depth. Goaltending is a mess, defence is shallow beyond Mueller and the forward group leans heavily on guys like free-agent signing Daniil Tarasov and 2010 fifth-round pick Freddie Hamilton.
Overall: San Jose didn't make a splash at the trade deadline, and one imagines the lack of talent in the pipeline is a big part of the reason why.
24. Toronto Maple Leafs
Top Talent: With Morgan Rielly and Peter Holland playing in Toronto, defenceman Matt Finn has a pretty decent case as the team's top prospect. Finn is a two-way defenceman who was picked 35th overall in 2012.
Depth: Toronto's pretty strong on defence, where Finn is joined by a nice collection of players in the AHL (Stuart Percy, Petter Granberg), college (Eric Knodel) and Europe (Tom Nilsson, Viktor Loov). The forward crop is quite a bit weaker, though the team does have some reasonably good AHL forwards, players like Josh Leivo and Greg McKegg. There's nobody significant on the way in net.
Overall: There isn't really a bona fide blue-chip prospect on the way at any position. The defensive group overall is strong, and there are some things to like up front, but this is an unexceptional group.
23. Vancouver Canucks
Top Talent: Bo Horvat was picked with the selection Vancouver received from New Jersey as the return on goalie Cory Schneider. The defensive centre was returned to junior this year, where he has posted excellent numbers for a loaded London Knights team and seems a good bet to play in the NHL next season.
Depth: Vancouver has a couple of solid prospects (centre Brendan Gaunce and defenceman Frank Corrado), but depth isn't a notable strength. The picture is bleak on the wings, and if free-agent addition Joacim Eriksson doesn't pan out, there's nothing on the way in net.
Overall: There are some nice options here, but this is a top-heavy group.
22. Philadelphia Flyers
Top Talent: Samuel Morin has top-draft pedigree, but Scott Laughton might be the team's best prospect. Morin's a raw defender with big upside, but there's significant doubt as to whether he'll reach it. Meanwhile, Laughton has blossomed this year as an OHL scorer.
Depth: Tye McGinn and Jason Akeson are doing some decent things as scoring forwards in the minors, while Brandon Manning is reasonably close to ready on defence. Further down the road, Robert Hagg (defence) and Anthony Stolarz (goalie) look like good bets.
Overall: This isn't a great prospect group, but it has some nice pieces.
21. Los Angeles Kings
Top Talent: Valentin Zykov is likely the top prospect in the Kings' system now that Tyler Toffoli and Martin Jones have made the jump to the major leagues. It's not a slam dunk, however; Nikolay Prokhorkin has had a brilliant season in the KHL, and many of L.A.'s AHL players are having solid seasons.
Depth: Nine of the Kings' 10 leading AHL scorers are 23 or under, though three of those (Toffoli, Tanner Pearson and Linden Vey) are presently in the NHL, while a fourth (Nicolas Deslauriers) was dealt to Buffalo. Still, Los Angeles has a nice group of developing young forwards, some defencemen (notably Derek Forbort) worth watching and up-and-coming goalies in Jean-Francois Berube and Patrik Bartosak.
Overall: Given the Kings' success, it isn't a surprise that top-end talent is in low supply, but the team has done a good job of stocking the cupboard at all positions.
20. Winnipeg Jets
Top Talent: A team that had three blue-chip prospects this summer is now down to one, thanks to Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele graduating to the big leagues. Josh Morrissey is the player who remains. The defenceman lacks size but makes up for it with offensive prowess; as of this writing, only one other WHL defenceman had more points, and he (Shea Theodore) has played 11 games more than Morrissey.
Depth: There are some nice players in the system. Undersized dynamo Nic Petan continues to destroy major junior. J.C. Lipon and Brenden Kichton have graduated smoothly to the pro ranks. The goaltending and defence looks quite good overall, but beyond Petan and Lipon, the forward crop is pretty weak.
Overall: This is a solid group, but it's one that needs to add some forward prospects who are morel ikely to pan out as major league players.
19. Ottawa Senators
Top Talent: Curtis Lazar has it all. He's a little undersized, but he's regarded as a character player, he's fast, he's good in his own end, he's physical and this year, he's found another scoring gear.
Depth: Ottawa's forward depth is exceptional. Mark Stone and Jean-Gabriel Pageau are both very good prospects and performing at a high level in Binghamton (AHL), and they're just two of the more notable players in the system at that position. The graduation of goalie Robin Lehner and defenceman Cody Ceci has left other positions a little weaker, though Swedish defender Mikael Wikstrand is a sleeper to watch.
Overall: This is a good group that combines top-end talent with strong depth, albeit mostly at one position.
18. Edmonton Oilers
Top Talent: Defenceman Darnell Nurse is an exceptional prospect, a massive defenceman with a mean streak who can both skate and play the puck; it's a rare player who marries those talents. 2011 first-round pick Oscar Klefbom has many of the same talents but less offensive upside.
Depth: There's defence, where the prospects abound, and then there's everywhere else. The forward prospects are a shallow group anchored by two players (Anton Lander and Tyler Pitlick) who will need to make the jump next year or face the waiver wire. The goaltending situation was ugly, and while it has been helped by the addition of Laurent Brossoit, it's still problematic.
Overall: If every prospect position had the mix of top-end talent and depth that the defence does, the Oilers would have the best group in the league. As it is, they have a decent set of prospects but a badly unbalanced one.
17. New York Rangers
Top Talent: Forward J.T. Miller has yet to decisively make the jump to the NHL, but he's been better than a point-per-game player for the Rangers' AHL affiliate in Hartford and leads an impressive group of forward prospects.
Depth: At forward, there's great depth and quality. With Miller, Danny Kristo, Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast all producing in the AHL and with a strong second wave (all three third-round picks the Rangers made last year look good) on the way, there's a lot to like at the position. The picture is bleak on defence and in net, though.
Overall: The Rangers have a strong but decidedly unbalanced prospect system.
16. Phoenix Coyotes
Top Talent: Two forward prospects both qualify for consideration here. Max Domi is a dynamo—a fast, feisty, skilled forward whose only real difficulty is that he's small. He'll add offensive punch for the Coyotes when he makes the jump, likely next season. Slightly below him is Henrik Samuelsson, a big, gritty centre with a range of skills who is a stereotypical Coyotes forward.
Depth: Brandon Gormley and Connor Murphy are both good defence prospects, but neither has had a great season in the AHL. Lucas Lessio has been quite good in the AHL, as has Tobias Rieder, whom the Coyotes took from Edmonton in a lopsided trade. Overall, though, the depth is only middling.
Overall: There's extremely good talent at the top of the system, but it drops off fast afterward.
15. Pittsburgh Penguins
Top Talent: Derrick Pouliot was the Penguins' eighth overall pick in 2012, and with 67 points in 55 games, he might be the best offensive defenceman in the WHL today.
Depth: Even excluding Pouliot and the graduations of Olli Maatta and Simon Despres, the Pens have former World Juniors standout Scott Harrington and 6'3" shutdown defender Brian Dumoulin as options on the back end, with both being solid prospects. The team has two legitimate goalie prospects, and while the forward group isn't overly strong, Oskar Sundqvist is a nice piece to have.
Overall: The forward prospects need to be bolstered, but the strength on defence includes at least one top player and a bunch of guys who could have NHL careers.
14. Florida Panthers
Top Talent: Defenceman Michael Matheson takes over the top spot in Florida's rankings thanks to the graduation of forwards Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad. He's a skilled defenceman in his second season of college play, and he could probably use the extra time afforded by that route to round out his defensive game. A pair of small forwards (5'11" Vincent Trocheck and 5'6" Rocco Grimaldi) are both good prospects, too.
Depth: The Panthers have solid depth at all positions, with multiple options on defence, at forward and in net behind the top prospects in each spot. A number of departures and graduations over the last year or two have cut into the overall strength of the team's farm system, however.
Overall: The Panthers have lots of good young players in the NHL today, and that has diminished the top end of their prospect group, but there's still lots of help on the way.
13. Columbus Blue Jackets
Top Talent: Alexander Wennberg, the 14th overall pick in 2013, has succeeded Ryan Murray as the Blue Jackets' top prospect. He's a smart two-way player who scored 16 goals in 51 games for Frolunda in Sweden's top league this year.
Depth: There's nice balance to the Blue Jackets' system. They have a number of good forwards behind Wennberg, notably recent picks Kerby Rychel and Marko Dano. The team also a couple of decent forward prospects and some solid defensive options on the way, with Tim Erixon the best of those.
Overall: A balanced prospect group with strength at all positions and some high-end talent en route bodes well for the Blue Jackets.
12. Montreal Canadiens
Top Talent: Defenceman Nathan Beaulieu is the organization's top prospect, a fluid puck-moving defender with decent size who stepped right into the AHL and flourished immediately.
Depth: As this is Montreal, the prospect pipeline is full and diverse. Zachary Fucale is a very nice goaltending prospect to have, there are probably half a dozen forwards worth acknowledging and players like Dalton Thrower and Jarred Tinordi sit behind Beaulieu on the defensive list.
Overall: It's a nice set of prospects, which is why the Habs could move Sebastien Collberg at the deadline.
11. Boston Bruins
Top Talent: Two very good players—goalie Malcolm Subban and forward Alexander Khokhlachev—are impressing as AHL rookies. Subban, the 24th overall pick in 2012, has a .920 save percentage in his debut campaign for Providence, while Khokhlachev leads the team in scoring with 46 points through 51 games.
Depth: Boston has options at every position and addressed its weakest slot by adding defenceman Joe Morrow as part of the return on Tyler Seguin from Dallas. The depth at each position is a little questionable, but the Bruins have a diverse group and some top-end guys in each spot, so depth problems hurt them less than they do other teams.
Overall: The team has solid options up front, on defence and in net and middling depth behind them. It's a well-built system.
10. Washington Capitals
Top Talent: Evgeny Kuznetsov has long been one of the world's best prospects, and the Capitals have long awaited his arrival from Russia. Finally, he's made the trip across the Atlantic, and after four years of destroying the KHL, he's set to show what he can do in North America. Andre Burakovsky is also well worth mentioning, as he's been exceptional in his first OHL campaign.
Depth: The Caps also boast depth, with half a dozen decent defence prospects, Philipp Grubauer in net and a number of good forward prospects after Kuznetsov and Burakovsky.
Overall: With a pair of high-end forwards and a bunch of serviceable players at all positions, Washington's development pipeline is in good shape.
9. Chicago Blackhawks
Top Talent: Diminutive forward Teuvo Teravainen is looking to be a great gamble by the Blackhawks. He's an offensive weapon with few equals who led his Finnish team in scoring at the age of 19 and finished tied for second in that country's top league in total assists.
Depth: Chicago has good depth at all positions and upgraded its defensive depth chart by adding David Rundblad from Phoenix at the trade deadline. That was offset somewhat by the departure of Brandon Pirri, but the 'Hawks had a greater need for prospect defencemen than forwards anyway.
Overall: This is a model NHL system in a lot of ways, with brilliant depth across the board. The only criticism is that there aren't more high-end guys beyond Teravainen, and given where the 'Hawks have been drafting, that's a hard thing to criticize.
8. Calgary Flames
Top Talent: Sven Baertschi returns again as Calgary's top prospect, but he continues to have difficulties cracking the parent club. As a result, the gap between him and a surprisingly strong group of prospects is beginning to close, with John Gaudreau and Markus Granlund hot on his heels.
Depth: Things have really changed in Calgary, with the Flames boasting good prospects at every position. In net, the team has no fewer than three potential NHL goalies in the system, and the number of quality forwards in the system is almost shocking. The only thing resembling a weak spot is the defence, where there's a steep drop-off after Tyler Wotherspoon.
Overall: The Flames have an exceptional collection of prospects, and the team's forward depth stacks up against nearly any team in the NHL.
7. Nashville Predators
Top Talent: Filip Forsberg, stolen from Washington in the Martin Erat trade, is the top prospect in Nashville's system. He's a do-it-all forward who isn't far from NHL duty. Another Swede, Pontus Aberg, is highly regarded, while a pair of forwards (Colton Sissons and Miikka Salomaki) have had shockingly good rookie AHL seasons.
Depth: There's a lot of depth in net, something that has long been the case in Nashville, as the Predators are consistently among the best NHL teams at developing goalies. There's lots at forward, too, where Taylor Beck, Calle Jarnkrok and Austin Watson all deserve individual mention. The graduation of rookie defenders Seth Jones and Mattias Ekholm has substantially cut into the defensive system, however.
Overall: Nashville has a very good group, particularly up front, and acquiring Jarnkrok from the Red Wings bolstered it still further.
6. Detroit Red Wings
Top Talent: Goalie Petr Mrazek continues to shine in the AHL and NHL alike and is almost certainly ready to graduate to the big leagues. When he does, there won't be any question as to the identity of the Red Wings' top prospect: Anthony Mantha is scoring at a goal-per-game pace in the QMJHL, and the 6'4" winger will have nobody near him at the top of the list.
Depth: The best-run prospect system in the NHL continues to crank out players, despite a number of notable departures. Forwards like Teemu Pulkkinen, Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan give the Red Wings options at that position, while Xavier Ouellet headlines a decent group on defence. Only in net is there a lack of prospects behind Mrazek.
Overall: Few teams would be ranked so highly after the departure of players like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Danny DeKeyser (all in the NHL) and Calle Jarnkrok (traded to Nashville), but Detroit has an incomparable approach to development and so remains highly ranked.
5. Dallas Stars
Top Talent: It's almost a coin toss between mammoth defenceman Jamie Oleksiak and scoring forward Brett Ritchie for the top spot in the Stars' prospect rankings. Ritchie has transitioned smoothly to the professional game after scoring 41 goals in the OHL last year, while Oleksiak is a relatively complete defenceman in a 6'7", 241-pound frame.
Depth: Dallas has plenty of help on the way, too. Beyond the top prospects, the team has a pile of decent forwards and defencemen in the system, with a nice blend of skills represented. Goaltending is the weakest position, as Jack Campbell isn't a sure thing, and the players behind him aren't particularly impressive.
Overall: There's lots to like in Dallas, and a team looking for almost anything can find it in this system.
4. New York Islanders
Top Talent: A number of exceptional prospects sit high on the Islanders' depth chart. 2011 fifth overall pick Ryan Strome has yet to excel in the NHL but laid waste to the American League this season, but the team's real strength is on defence, where the trio of Griffin Reinhart, Ryan Pulock, Ville Pokka are being pushed by a deep group.
Depth: Defence, as noted previously, is extremely deep. Adam Pelech is scoring at a near point-per-game pace in the OHL, 6'4" Scott Mayfield is excelling as an AHL rookie and massive Andrey Pedan brings a nice collection of skills to the mix. Goaltending is more questionable, while the addition of Sebastien Collberg gives a mediocre forward group a shot in the arm.
Overall: The Islanders' prospect group could use a little bit of diversity and some help at positions other than the blue line, but it has so many good players that it's still among the best in the NHL.
3. Anaheim Ducks
Top Talent: Anaheim has a ridiculous number of top players. They boast two of the best goalie prospects in hockey (Frederik Andersen and John Gibson), the top-scoring defenceman in the WHL (Shea Theodore) and some very nice forward prospects, too (notably Rickard Rakell).
Depth: There's so much high-end talent that some of it ends up as "depth" in the system. The Ducks have a pile of quality forward prospects (people like William Karlsson, Kevin Roy and Nicolas Kerdiles) and some decent defencemen, too, but this is a prospect group primarily focused on quality over quantity.
Overall: The Ducks are probably only average in terms of depth players, but they have a wealth of higher-end prospects.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
Top Talent: Jonathan Drouin might be the best prospect in hockey today; he's an elite scorer who could emerge as one of the NHL's best offensive players. Right behind him is Nikita Kucherov, who has impressed in limited minutes in Tampa Bay. Winger Adam Erne, centre Vladislav Namestnikov and defenceman Slater Koekkoek (the latter two rebounding nicely from a tough 2012-13 campaign) are all excellent prospects, too. In net, Andrei Vasilevski has starter-level potential.
Depth: The really scary thing is that a bunch of Tampa Bay's graduating prospects—guys like Radko Gudas, Ondrej Palat, Alexander Killorn and Tyler Johnson—were considered depth prospects not all that long ago. The Lightning aren't quite as strong there as they were a year ago, but they still have a number of good players after the top names are removed, particularly on defence.
Overall: The Lightning have the best prospect in hockey but fall just short of having the best system.
1. Buffalo Sabres
Top Talent: Rasmus Ristolainen wasn't ready for the NHL in his first post-draft season, but he's adapted quite nicely to the AHL, and that in itself is a remarkable development for a 19-year-old defenceman. Behind him on the defensive chart is Nikita Zadorov, a 6'5", 221-pound defenceman scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace in the OHL.
Even with the graduation of Zemgus Girgensons, the Sabres also boast two exceptional (if problematic) forward prospects: Mikhail Grigorenko and Joel Armia.
Depth: If it wasn't enough that the Sabres had top talent, the team also has depth players in spades. Newly acquired players like Nicolas Deslauriers, William Carrier and Hudson Fasching joining a group that already included J.T. Compher, Connor Hurley and Jake McCabe. A number of these players would be the top prospect in some of the NHL's weaker systems.
Even in net, Buffalo has three legitimate NHL prospects.
Overall: There's a blend of top-end skill and depth here that almost nobody in the league can compete with, and given the haul of draft picks new general manager Tim Murray added at the deadline, the rich are about to get richer.
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