Over the next five days, NHL fans will read countless 2011 NHL Mock Drafts that take into account many factors, perhaps the biggest of which being team needs.
However, many take into account current team needs. For instance, the Toronto Maple Leafs desperately need a center to play alongside Phil Kessel. That being said, a late first round pick is not going to address that need, as these players take time to develop. Furthermore, the Leafs are currently developing Nazem Kadri at the center position.
So, let's take a different perspective on team needs and how they will affect the 2011 NHL Draft by diving into each team's prospect pool to see what type of prospects each team lacks and could be targeting this weekend.
Many of the players drafted in the 2011 NHL Draft won't see any NHL action for a couple of seasons, but that doesn't mean they are not valuable pieces to a team's plans for the future.
Here's a look at the soft spot in each NHL team's farm system. I will address the team's based on the current 2011 NHL Draft order.
Biggest Need: Franchise Center
This is a need that applies all the way though the organization for the Edmonton Oilers. With the likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi offering immense promise on the wing, the Oilers don't have a player that offers "franchise" potential at center.
Last season's second round pick Tyler Pitlick (pictured above) is progressing nicely and figures to be a second liner at some point in his career, but he is not of the same caliber of some of the centers available in the 2011 NHL Draft.
Joey Hishon headlines the center prospects for Colorado
Biggest Need: Winger
The Colorado Avalanche own the second overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, and the selection appears to be coming down to either Adam Larsson or Gabriel Landeskog.
If the Avs picked strictly on need, Landeskog would be the obvious choice, as the prospect pool is full of muckers on the wing for Colorado, while Joey Hishon headlines a solid group of centers.
Adding an elite talent like Landeskog would do wonders for the system, although he would probably be instantly promoted to the NHL ranks.
Biggest Need: An elite scorer
Given the number of top 10 draft picks the Florida Panthers have had over the past few years, it should come as no surprise that the club boasts one of the deepest and most talented groups of prospects in the entire NHL.
Erik Gudbranson and Jacob Markstrom represent the cream of the crop for Florida, but Nick Bjugstad and Colby Robak speak to the depth that this crew has.
However, the sore thumb is the absence of an elite scoring threat up front for the Panthers. Luckily, the third overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft should provide them with the goal scorer they so desperately crave in the Sunshine State.
Biggest Need: Goaltending
As much as it pains Devils fans to think about, Martin Brodeur cannot play forever. The legendary netminder will retire within the next few seasons, and there is nobody in the system who is ready to step into a big role at the NHL level.
New Jersey has some terrific talent at both forward and defense in their system, but the lack of a potential starting goaltender is worrisome.
Biggest Need: A tough defenseman
The pick that makes the most sense to me in the top five of the 2011 NHL Draft is Dougie Hamilton to the New York Islanders.
The Islanders are fairly loaded with talented prospects, but most of the top blue chip blue liners are puck movers. The system lacks a true physical presence on the blue line and in front of their net.
Biggest Need: Center with Top Line Potential
The Ottawa Senators possess a plethora of defensive talent in their system, both on defense and at the forward positions. They also have one of the top goaltending prospects in the world in Robin Lehner. What's missing is a top tier forward talent to put the puck in the back of the net.
Given all of the talent on the back end, and the role players the Senators have in the system, the team could be a goal scorer or two away from a playoff roster at the NHL level.
Biggest Need: Talent
The Atlanta Thrashers left the Winnipeg franchise with an interesting group of prospects.
While the pool is loaded with gritty players with some high upside guys mixed in, not a whole lot has come to fruition for this group.
With the seventh overall selection in the draft, Winnipeg needs to land a top level talent at forward to begin the turnaround for this system.
Biggest Weakness: Goaltending
Given the amount of talent the Columbus Blue Jackets have stockpiled in recent years, it should come as no surprise that they are willing to part ways with their top 10 pick in order to secure an NHL superstar.
One area that is a nagging concern for the Columbus Blue Jackets is goaltender. Steve Mason has slowly regressed the last few seasons, and his future is not as bright as it once seemed.
Biggest Need: A Big Winger
The biggest need for the Toronto Maple Leafs at the NHL level is a playmaking center to play with Phil Kessel. However, the Leafs will look to free agency to bring in that player or hope Nazem Kadri can someday develop into the middle man they need.
As far as the prospect pool goes, Brian Burke will likely be looking to add a talented winger to the system, preferably one with some size. The best prospects in the system are mostly centers, so the Leafs would love to nab a big time winger prospect in the 2011 NHL Draft.
Biggest Need: Top Line Forward Talent
The Minnesota Wild's biggest need at the NHL level trickles down to the prospect pool; scoring. The Wild have struggled to find a legitimate scoring threat since the departure or Marion Gaborik, and it starts in the minors.
The Wild are hoping and praying the Mika Zibanejad falls to pick number 10 in the 2011 NHL Draft so that they can pair him with last year's first round pick Mikael Granlund.
Biggest Need: Defensive Depth
Having just promoted two of their top blue line prospects, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, to full time NHL status, the St. Louis Blues need to replace them in the system with some skilled d-men.
The Blues lack any defensemen as skilled as either of those two in the minors at this point, and currently have no first round pick with which to replace those two.
Biggest Need: Defensive Defenseman
The Carolina Hurricanes, like the New York Islanders, are loaded with skilled defenseman in their minor league system. The presence of at least a somewhat physical rearguard would be a huge boost to the system.
The Canes have prided themselves on offensive ability, both at forward and defense, and now need to focus a bit more on their play in front of Cam Ward and company.
The Flames lost the last of their promising youngsters
Biggest Need: Talent
Plain and simple, the Calgary Flames have an underwhelming group of prospects, to put it lightly.
The club is full of low skill, high energy type of players who don't offer much upside. The loss of Tim Erixon via trade this offseason only left the group more depleted.
With new general manager Jay Feaster in place, the Flames hope to get more disciplined drafting in the coming years to begin stockpiling talent.
Biggest Need(s): Center/Defense
It's getting closer and closer to rebuilding time for the Dallas Stars with the imminent departure of superstar Brad Richards.
The attention now turns to the prospect pool, which is loaded on the wing, solid in net and lacking skill in other areas of the ice.
The club would love to add a potential top six center during the draft, but could also use the services of a big time defensive prospect as well.
Like the 2010 NHL Draft, I would expect the Dallas Stars to select the best player available this time around.
Biggest Need: Goaltender
The Rangers are a team that one would never think would have goaltending issues, but at the minor league level, the goings on between the pipes are a big concern to the Rangers' brass.
They are plugging the holes at the AHL level with undrafted free agents and players who are still in junior hockey at the moment.
Overall, the Rangers are in solid shape in terms of their prospects, but things could get a lot better between the pipes.
Biggest Need: Center Depth
Many of the top youngsters for the Buffalo Sabres play on the wing or the point. Very few talented prospects are up the middle of that offnse.
There will be plenty of capable centers available in the middle of the first round when the Sabres are set to pick. Buffalo would love to get a base hit with this year's first round choice.
Biggest Need: Size/Toughness/Grit
Whether it's by design or just the nature of the club, the Montreal Canadiens have an abundance of speed and skill but a complete lack of lack of grit and size up front.
It's going to be awfully tough for Montreal Canadiens to make a run at the Stanley Cup if they continue to breed undersized skill players that are going to get worn down by more physical opponents in the postseason.
Biggest Weakness: Goaltending Depth
Corey Crawford has emerged into a star in net for the Chicago Blackhawks, but the talent behind him in the system is, well, not there.
The Hawks are a candidate to take one of the Gibsons off the board at 18.
Biggest Need: Winger
This, my friends, is a fine looking group of prospects. The Kings have talent all over the ice from goaltender Jonathan Bernier to center Brayden Schenn and a deep defensive group featuring Derek Forbort.
The Kings would like to add some depth on the wings, though. Tyler Toffoli had a standout season in the OHL, but some depth would be the icing on the cake of this wonderful pool or prospects.
Biggest Need: Depth at Forward
The Coyotes struggled to put the puck in the net all season long, and that issue trickles down to the minor league system, where there is very little talent surrounding Brett MacLean at forward.
If there was such a thing as a "lock" in the NHL Draft, the Coyotes drafting a forward might be it.
Biggest Need: Forward with Top Line Upside
While the Nashville Predators possess one of the deepest and most well rounded groups of prospects in the entire league, the club could still use a truly high upside player at forward.
The prospect pool has a handful of potential top six forwards, but to get to the next level, the Preds need a big time forward.
Biggest Need: Size and Physicality on the Blue Line
As mentioned previously in this write up, a team's needs at the NHL level can often be the result of a void in the system.
That is exactly the case for the Ducks, who have struggled to work big and physical defensemen through their system. The offensively talented defensemen Anaheim has are valuable pieces to the puzzle, but a bruiser needs to be added.
Biggest Need: Puck moving Defenseman
Perhaps the biggest strength of the Penguins' prospect system is the depth and size the club has on the blue line. There are plenty of physical players, but the lack of a smooth puck mover to man the powerplay is evident.
Pittsburgh could also stand to add sheer numbers to the pool of prospects, which is relatively a small group.
Biggest Need: Winger
With 15 centers in the system, the Detroit Red Wings have to be focused on securing som prospects who can naturally play on the wing.
Tomas Tatar will likely graduate, leaving the Wings without any capable wingers in the system.
Biggest Need: Talent
A quick look at how the Flyers have handled the last few offseasons makes it apparent why the team is so thin on prospects.
They have opted to trade away draft picks for talented veterans with a "win now" mentality.
Meanwhile, Paul Holmgren let top prospect Joacim Eriksson walk for nothing this offseason, leaving Eric Wellwood as the pride and joy of the Flyers' system.. Things aren't getting better any time soon, as Philly is once again without a first rounder.
Biggest Need: Depth
With the amount of success the Capitals have had, coupled with the number of players the team has had move on to the NHL level, the prospect pool is rather thin in Washington.
The Capitals have a first rounder this season, but it is once again in the bottom part of round one, meaning it will take some shrewd drafting on Washington's part to score another prized prospect.
Biggest Need: Defense
The Tampa Bay Lightning were exposed in the Eastern Conference Finals for their lack of defense.
Unfortunately for Tampa, there is not much help on the horizon, as there is a severe lack of big bodied blue liners in the system.
Victor Hedman looks like he will develop into a superstar, but he has already moved into the NHL ranks, leaving very little behind.
Biggest Need: Top Flight Forward
Charlie Coyle is the extent of the San Jose Sharks' system. Coyle is a big time power forward prospect, but that does not excuse the lack of talent around him.
Benn Ferriero is proof of the developmental system the Sharks have in place for players who fit the system. Benn's brother Cody is also waiting in the wings for the Sharks.
Still, the stud prospect is not present in San Jose. Of course, when a team is drafting in the bottom 10 year after year like the Sharks have been, landing blue chip prospects is easier said than done.
Biggest Need: Elite Defenseman
With a solid all around pool of prospects from which to pick, the only glaring weakness for the Canucks is the lack of a stud defenseman within the system.
Vancouver may also want to plan for life without Cory Schneider, who could be moving on after next season. Eddie Lack can fill his shoes at the NHL level, but who fills Lack's?
Biggest Need: Puck Moving Defenseman
For years, it seems the Boston Bruins have been searching for a puck moving defenseman. They even sold the farm to acquire Tomas Kaberle in an effort to fix the problem this season. Kaberle was not the answer.
Thus, the team could target an offensively gifted d-man at number nine overall.