Re-Ranking Every NHL Team's Prospect Pool

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistMarch 5, 2015

Re-Ranking Every NHL Team's Prospect Pool

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    Anthony Duclair was one of a number of significant prospects changing addresses at the NHL trade deadline, leaving the New York Rangers organization in favour of Arizona. Given the shifts seen across the league, this seemed like a good time to re-evaluate the prospect pools of the NHL's 30 teams.

    For our purposes, a prospect is any player eligible for the NHL's Calder Trophy. Because we're focused on players not yet in the NHL, we haven't included established rookies (players like Johnny Gaudreau and Aaron Ekblad) for the purposes of our rankings, although we do touch on them in the comments on each team.

    Read on to see where your team ranks.

30. New Jersey Devils

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    Trade deadline impact: The Devils added draft picks that will help replenish their prospect pool in the future, but didn't add any live bodies to the system. 

    Top prospects: Damon Severson has had a significant impact as a rookie and he leads a prospect group heavy on defencemen, including fellow NHL freshman Seth Helgeson as well as Steven Santini. Top forward prospect Reid Boucher has played in the majors too in a largely disappointing campaign. 

    Why they're here: Because the Devils don't have anything but defencemen. We've described Boucher as the team's best forward prospect and he's averaging half-a-point per game in his second AHL season. The team's best goalie prospect (Scott Wedgewood) is in his third pro season and continues to desperately seek a 0.900 save percentage. The defensive position is fine, but every other position aspires to mediocre. 

29. Colorado Avalanche

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    Trade deadline impact: Fringe prospects Paul Carey and Michael Sgarbossa were shipped out of town, while two other prospects were brought in. Freddie Hamilton is a two-way forward who has struggled to score in the AHL, while 24-year-old Mat Clark is a defensive defenceman trying to make the jump. 

    Top prospects: Calvin Pickard has had some ups and downs over his career, but 2014-15 has been very good for him and he has re-established himself as a prospect of note. It's not enough to put him past defenceman Chris Bigras, who is having a fantastic junior campaign, but it does improve the goalie position significantly. 

    Why they're here: The Avs have pretty decent strength on defence and in net, but the forward group is awfully shaky. Even 2014 first-round pick Conner Bleackley is having a disappointing WHL campaign, and he's probably the best of a bad lot. But then, that's a symptom of graduating so many good young players to the NHL. 

28. Carolina Hurricanes

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    Trade deadline impact: The Hurricanes added a pretty good defensive prospect in Roland McKeown, along with a quartet of draft picks. 

    Top prospects: McKeown joins a pretty good defensive group, one headlined by 2014 seventh overall pick Haydn Fleury and boasting several solid prospects. The goaltending position is less strong, but Alex Nedeljkovic is a good prospect. 

    Why they're here: Like several other teams near the bottom of these rankings, the Hurricanes are pretty close to bereft of legitimate forward prospects.

27. Minnesota Wild

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    Trade deadline impact: The Wild mostly flushed draft picks for immediate help, though the deadline also saw a prospect swap, with the team sending disappointing 2011 first-rounder Zack Phillips to Boston in exchange for 2010 second-rounder Jared Knight, who is suffering through a horror show of a season. 

    Top prospects: Matt Dumba and Christian Folin are getting NHL minutes now and represent the cream of the prospect crop on defence. Alex Tuch, a first-rounder in 2014, probably deserves the nod as top prospect after a very impressive college season.

    Why they're here: Most of the Wild's best young players have graduated to the majors. Significant restocking is going to be required before the system recaptures its former glory. 

26. San Jose Sharks

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    Trade deadline impact: In the short term, the loss of Freddie Hamilton to Colorado weakens the system a little, but in the long term the addition of several draft picks is more than likely to offset the loss. 

    Top prospects: The Sharks have had some surprising contributions from rookies Melker Karlsson, Chris Tierney and Barclay Goodrow, while defenceman Mirco Mueller has shown well given his age. The top end of the 2014 draft looks pretty good, too.

    Why they're here: The Sharks' prospect pool is pretty shallow overall and particularly lacking in net, though the team has a pretty decent history of turning nondescript prospects into players.   

25. St. Louis Blues

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    Trade deadline impact: The Blues did pick up some late picks but the biggest move was the decision to ship Maxim Letunov to Arizona, robbing a shallow system of one of its few prospects of note. 

    Top prospects: The 2014 draft supplies the two most relevant names in the Blues' system: offensive forward Robby Fabbri and two-way threat Ivan Barbashev. After that draft year the candidates are pretty limited, with the AHL in particular providing virtually nobody of note outside of goalie Jordan Binnington. NHL rookies of note include Dmitrij Jaskin and recently promoted defenceman Petteri Lindbohm. 

    Why they're here: The Blues' system is in bad shape and needs significant restocking at pretty much every position. Only shrewd drafting in 2014 keeps this group from being the worst in the league.  

24. Ottawa Senators

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    Trade deadline impact: The Sens didn't make any deadline moves. 

    Top prospects: Ottawa's best prospects are in the majors right now. Late-blooming Mike Hoffman has had a great season, as has Mark Stone. The younger Curtis Lazar has been less impressive but has real value as a defensive forward.

    Why they're here: Defence is a real weakness, though efforts to address the position at the 2014 draft have helped somewhat. There is a lack of blue-chip youth beyond that currently on the NHL roster. 

23. Los Angeles Kings

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    Trade deadline impact: The loss of Roland McKeown hurts. Despite a poor season, he was one of the team's better defence prospects. 

    Top prospects: Tanner Pearson and Martin Jones are doing their thing in the NHL and won't be on this list in the summer, with Nick Shore not far behind. Outside of that trio, many if the Kings' best prospects have had disappointing 2014-15 campaigns, including headliner Adrian Kempe. 

    Why they're here: There are a lot of maybes in the system, but not many definites. That's a hard thing to avoid when a team has been as consistently good as the Kings in recent years. 

22. New York Rangers

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    Trade deadline impact: The loss of Anthony Duclair is a heavy blow which isn't remotely compensated for by the addition of Carl Klingberg. 

    Top prospects: Kevin Hayes has had a solid rookie season after being stolen away from Chicago. Behind him, the trio of Brady Skjei, Pavel Buchnevich and Oscar Lindberg leads the way and offers the Rangers some quality options both up front and on the back end. 

    Why they're here: Even before the trade of Duclair this was a system with a real lack of blue-chip talent. That shouldn't be surprising given that New York hasn't had just two top-50 picks in the last four drafts.  

21. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Trade deadline impact: The real pain of Chicago's deadline will be felt years from now, when the void created by all those traded draft picks is really felt. Defensive prospect Klas Dahlbeck was sent away at the deadline too. 

    Top prospects: Teuvo Teravainen's adjustment to North American hockey has not gone as smoothly as hoped. There aren't a lot of blue-chippers in the system; 2014 first-round pick Nick Schmaltz is probably the best prospect after Teravainen, while Stephen Johns leads the defensive group. 

    Why they're here: There aren't a lot of freshly drafted players with really high-end potential, and the truth is the group playing in the AHL isn't blowing the doors off, either. 

20. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Trade deadline impact: The Penguins sent away three draft picks at the deadline, as well as young defenceman Simon Despres, but no prospects. 

    Top prospects: Most of the team's best prospects—defencemen Derrick Pouliot, Scott Harrington and Brian Dumoulin—have seen time in the NHL this season. Forward prospects Kasperi Kapanen and Oskar Sundqvist are posting modest offensive totals over in Europe.

    Why they're here: Beyond the guys who have played in the NHL this year, there really aren't many safe bets in the Penguins' system. Even Kapanen is not without his warts. 

19. Florida Panthers

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    Trade deadline impact: None of the Panthers' trades involved prospects.

    Top prospects: Aaron Ekblad has made a serious impact as a rookie defenceman, and he's been joined by the less-heralded but still impressive Vincent Trocheck in the majors. A good defence group includes Ian McCoshen and Mike Matheson as name prospects while Rocco Grimaldi is the forward most worth noting in a weak group. 

    Why they're here: The graduation of Ekblad and Trocheck, along with countless others over the last few years, has robbed the system of blue-chip talent. 

18. Boston Bruins

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    Trade deadline impact: Boston had a pretty lousy deadline, but it did manage to flip imploding Jared Knight for the slightly more promising Zack Phillips. 

    Top prospects: Boston has two top-flight goalie prospects in Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre. the rest of the system lacks the star power of Subban in net, but with players like David Pastrnak and Alex Khoklachev the forward group isn't in bad shape. The defence is headlined by Joe Morrow. 

    Why they're here: Boston is set in net, but the rest of the system (with a handful of exceptions) is mostly guys with low-end NHL ceilings.

17. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Trade deadline impact: The Flyers didn't add any prospects at the deadline, but they did come away with a quartet of significant draft picks, including three in 2015.  

    Top prospects: Rookie forward Scott Laughton hasn't had much impact in the NHL yet, but he's still a very impressive prospect and headlines a reasonably balanced group. Brobdingnagian defenceman Samuel Morin is scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace in junior and is one of several quality rearguards in the system, while Anthony Stolarz is a credible goaltending prospect. 

    Why they're here: This is a group with decent top-end talent reasonably balanced between the positions, but it lacks depth up front and in net. 

16. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Trade deadline impact: the Blue Jackets added forward William Karlsson from Anaheim. His adjustment to North America hasn't been seamless, but he's fared very well overseas and is a player of note. 

    Top prospects: Alexander Wennberg is having a tough rookie season, but he's far from the only player of importance in the system. Sonny Milano, Kerby Rychel and Marko Dano promise a better future up front, while Mike Reilly and Anton Forsberg do the same on defence and in net.

    Why they're here: Some of the shine has come off the Blue Jackets' prospects as several key names have had difficult transitions to the professional level. Even so, it's a good group.

15. Vancouver Canucks

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    Trade deadline impact: Vancouver picked up Sven Baertschi from Calgary at the cost of a second-round pick, adding a nearly NHL-ready prospect for a pick still years away. 

    Top prospects: The Canucks have some strong rookies, with Bo Horvat obviously the prize of that group. The team has some real quality bubbling under, too, with forward and goal the most impressive positions. Notable names include Jake Virtanen, Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk and Thatcher Demko. 

    Why they're here: The Canucks have a good group overall but need to bolster their group of prospect defencemen. 

14. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Trade deadline impact: The Leafs added a lot of picks, but the only prospect added in proximity to the deadline was Brendan Leipsic, who came over a couple of weeks earlier.  

    Top prospects: Highly touted William Nylander is obviously the most important player in the system. Matt Finn and Stuart Percy headline a solid group on defence while Frederik Gauthier, Connor Brown and Andreas Johnson join Nylander up front as players of particular note.  

    Why they're here: Toronto has a good, balanced system, with goal the one area of obvious weakness. 

13. Arizona Coyotes

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    Trade deadline impact: Even if we ignore the draft picks, Arizona brought in a lot of quality futures at the deadline. Anthony Duclair, Maxim Letunov and Klas Dalhbeck are all significant prospects who will help. 

    Top prospects: Max Domi is the name that most fans across the league would recognize, but he's hardly the only player of note in a system that includes people like Brendan Perlini, Henrik Samuelsson and Tobias Rieder. The forward group is very good, but people like Brandon Gormley ensure the blue line doesn't go unrepresented.

    Why they're here: This was already a good group, and the addition of Duclair and company make it better. 

12. Edmonton Oilers

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    Trade deadline impact: The Oilers did add some draft picks but couldn't get a prospect included in the Jeff Petry trade.

    Top prospects: The blue line features several notable prospects, most importantly Darnell Nurse. Centre Leon Draisaitl struggled to score in the NHL fresh out of the draft but is an excellent prospect, too, while goalie Laurent Brossoit injects some real reason for optimism in a position that has not been kind to Edmonton. 

    Why they're here: There is very little depth up front or in net, which hurts a team that has some blue-chip options and good defensive depth.  

11. Dallas Stars

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    Trade deadline impact: Dallas added a couple of mid-tier prospects in a deadline deal with Detroit. Mattiases Backman and Janmark aren't blue-chip options but they do add some solid depth to the system. 

    Top prospects: Jack Campbell (0.888 save percentage over 21 AHL games) continues to be promoted as a top prospect, but the actual quality in the Stars' system lies elsewhere. The Stars have had great results from rookie defenceman John Klingberg, while Jyrki Jokipakka has held his own. More lies in a very deep blue-chip pipeline, including Julius Honka and Jamie Oleksiak. Devin Shore, Jason Dickinson and Brett Ritchie headline the forward group. 

    Why they're here: The top end of the Stars' system doesn't match up with others in the league, but they have the depth to compete with anyone. 

10. Nashville Predators

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    Trade deadline impact: The Predators took care of business earlier in February, not making any trade deadline moves. 

    Top prospects: Filip Forsberg and (to a lesser extent) Calle Jarnkrok have been making noise at the major league level, while 2014 pick Kevin Fiala has been shockingly good in the AHL at age 18. Add Vladislav Kamenev to an impressive list of AHL forward talent (Milwaukee's top eight scorers are all under age 25) and Nashville's customarily strong goalie stable, and it's hard to list all the key players individually. 

    Why they're here: The Preds' defence isn't as impressive as other positions, but this is still a good group overall.

9. Montreal Canadiens

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    Trade deadline impact: The Canadiens lost Jack Nevins, so realistically there was no impact on the overall quality of the system.

    Top prospects: The forward group is solid, headlined by names like Nikita Scherbak, Jacob De La Rose and Mike McCarron, with many others besides. The defence and goaltending is a little less impressive, with key prospects like Dalton Thrower and Zach Fucale having disastrous seasons. 

    Why they're here: This is a deep system, particularly up front, but not one loaded with blue-chip names. 

8. Winnipeg Jets

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    Trade deadline impact: The increasingly irrelevant Carl Klingberg was shipped out of the system in a trade that brought journeyman Lee Stempniak to town. 

    Top prospects: Nikolaj Ehlers is a special prospect; already the ninth overall selection in 2014 looks like a draft-day steal. Ex-Buffalo prospects Brendan Lemieux and Joel Armia bolster a forward group that already boasted Ehlers and Nicolas Petan, while defenceman Josh Morrissey is another quality talent. 

    Why they're here: There's a nice mix of depth of talent and top-flight prospects in Winnipeg.

7. Washington Capitals

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    Trade deadline impact: Washington sent out some draft picks at the deadline, but no prospects.

    Top prospects: Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky headlined the prospect group this summer, and both have since shown why in the NHL. Jakub Vrana is the next forward of real note to keep an eye on; the 2014 first-rounder is having a very good year in Sweden. Defenceman Madison Bowey and goalie Philipp Grubauer both do their positions proud. 

    Why they're here: The Capitals have a solid list of talent and at least one impact player waiting in the wings at every position. 

6. Detroit Red Wings

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    Trade deadline impact: The Red Wings sent a pair of middle-tier European prospects, Mattiases Backman and Janmark, to Dallas at the deadline.

    Top prospects: Even with the constant stream of trades to other teams, Detroit always seems to have quality in the system. Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin are the key pieces up front, the trio of Ryan Sproul, Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet hold down the blue line and Petr Mrazek is just waiting for a full-time NHL job in net at this point. 

    Why they're here: With a wealth of top-end talent at every position and a solid supporting cast behind those names there's little reason to worry about Detroit's next wave. 

5. Calgary Flames

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    Trade deadline impact: The Flames added draft picks but lost forward Sven Baertschi to the Canucks. 

    Top prospects: Johnny Gaudreau has justified the hype as an NHL rookie, while Josh Jooris and Markus Granlund have showed well too. Sam Bennett is clearly the most important prospect in the system, though this season has been largely a write-off thanks to injury. Defenceman Tyler Wotherspoon and forwards Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk round out an impressive top four. 

    Why they're here: Great top-end talent and lots of depth is a pretty hard combination to overlook. 

4. Anaheim Ducks

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    Trade deadline impact: The Ducks made some moves, mostly in the direction of weakening the prospect pool. William Karlsson and Mat Clark left the system, with only Michael Sgarbossa coming back the other way.

    Top prospects: John Gibson appears to have graduated to the big leagues, following Rickard Rakell and Josh Manson to the big club; he looks like a sure-thing NHL starter. Shea Theodore is the best of a good group of defence prospects, while the forward group boasts names like Nick Ritchie, Nicolas Kerdiles and Stefan Noesen.

    Why they're here: Gibson is the elite prospect in this group, but the rest of the list is quite long and features some very good talent quite a way down.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Trade deadline impact: The Lightning made lots of deadline deals involving draft picks, but none centered on prospects.

    Top prospects: Jonathan Drouin and Cedric Paquette have both shown why they were so highly regarded in the NHL this year, but there is plenty in the system behind them. Andrei Vasilevskiy is one of the best goalie prospects in hockey, the defence boasts names like Anthony DeAngelo and Slater Koekkoek while scoring forward Adam Erne headlines the offence. 

    Why they're here: The Lightning have done solid work at the draft over the last few years, and the system is showing that. It's incredible how much is left given how much youth is already in the majors. 

2. New York Islanders

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    Trade deadline impact: The Isles dealt some picks but not prospects at the deadline. 

    Top prospects: Anders Lee has adjusted nicely to the majors, but his graduation hasn't come close to emptying the system. Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang both have the potential to be significant scoring forwards in the NHL, while Griffin Reinhart, Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield offer plenty of hope on defence. 

    Why they're here: The Islanders have a combination of high-end talent and solid depth that few NHL teams can match. 

1. Buffalo Sabres

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    Trade deadline impact: The Sabres mostly added picks at the deadline, though they also acquired prospect Jack Nevins from Montreal.

    Top prospects: The Sabres have good prospects at all positions. Sam Reinhart, Nick Baptiste and J.T. Compher are just the top edge of a rich forward group while rookie Nikita Zadorov and Jake McCabe fill the same role on defence. 

    Why they're here: Ridiculous talent and ridiculous depth give the Sabres the best prospect pool in the league.


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