Re-Ranking Every Team's Prospect Pool After 2015 NHL Draft
With the 2015 NHL draft now in the rearview mirror, we can begin to appreciate the impact of the annual event on every team's prospect system. A number of clubs, mostly thanks to high picks, substantially improved their situations, offering hope for the future.
The following slideshow evaluates every team's system. As a reminder, our definition of a prospect is based on eligibility for the NHL's Calder Memorial Trophy, meaning we ignore those players who have accrued 25 or more career NHL games or who have two consecutive seasons of six or more games. We also ignore anyone who will be older than 26 by September 15.
There are three parts to our analysis. We start with incumbent prospects, considering the existing depth of the system. Then we add in new draftees, many of whom (especially those who will jump to the NHL next season) will immediately be their respective teams' best prospects. Finally, we summarize the overall state of each club's prospect system and rank it accordingly.
The rankings reward all aspects of the system but pay special emphasis to elite players. This disproportionately rewards teams with high picks, but teams with high picks also tend to have the most dynamic prospects waiting in the wings.
Read on for our full rankings of all 30 NHL prospect pools.
30. New Jersey Devils
Existing Talent: Steven Santini, a shutdown defenceman with mobility and a nasty streak, was the crown jewel of the Devils' existing prospect list despite a year marred by injury. The Devils entered draft day with nothing in net, very little on the blue line behind Santini and a list of mediocre forward prospects.
Key New Additions: Pavel Zacha may not be a totally safe pick, but he's instantly the best prospect in the organization by a significant margin. And on the forward list there's a case to be made that No. 67 overall pick Blake Speers should come in second. Mackenzie Blackwood addresses a need in net.
Summary: The Devils added three solid prospects (along with two other other sleepers) to what was a nearly barren system. It helps, but much, much more work is needed. General manager Ray Shero has his work cut out for him.
29. Chicago Blackhawks
Existing Talent: The graduation of Teuvo Teravainen, along with a number of in-season trades, leaves Chicago with a thin prospects list. Centre Nick Schmaltz is a good prospect but had an underwhelming college campaign and is years away; forwards Mark McNeill and Ryan Hartman are closer but may not score enough to hold down top-six jobs in the NHL. On the back end, Stephen Johns does a lot well.
Key New Additions: Chicago's first pick was No. 54 overall, so the team didn't have a lot of opportunity to add impact players to its roster. Most of the players, including top pick Graham Knott, have little likelihood of playing more than depth roles in the NHL. The addition of Ryan Haggerty, who came over in trade for Antti Raanta, is more of the same; he slots in as a depth prospect up front.
Summary: The Blackhawks have three Stanley Cup wins in the last six years. They've shipped away prospects and draft picks by the boatload in the name of winning in the here and now, and any other team in the league would happily make the same trade for dynasty status. But all that winning and all that sacrifice of futures understandably have an impact on the prospect system.
28. New York Rangers
Existing Talent: The departure of Anthony Duclair and a monster KHL season have propelled scoring winger Pavel Buchnevich to the top of the Rangers' prospects list.
New York's main strength is on the back end, however. The team has three good goalie prospects as well as a couple of quality defencemen in Brady Skjei and Conor Allen.
Key New Additions: New York had no first-round selections and ended up with only one pick in the top two rounds, taking offensive forward Ryan Gropp out of the WHL. The additions of Gropp and Ryan Kovacs help but hardly revitalize the whole system. Also, the Rangers dealt away second-tier prospect Ryan Haggerty, who is closer to being NHL-ready than the majority of the players the team added today even if he does lack top-end potential.
Summary: The Rangers have decent depth but lack the top-end firepower of most of the teams in front of them on this list.
27. Los Angeles Kings
Existing Talent: Swift skating winger Adrian Kempe had a nice AHL playoff debut, with eight goals in 17 games at the tender age of 18. Although Kempe is the only blue-chip prospect in the system, the Kings' pipeline boasts a nice set of secondary talents at all positions. It's a deep group, but the marquee talent is lacking, owing to L.A.'s success in recent years.
Key New Additions: The Kings appear to have made reasonable bets at the draft. All three of their top picks are respectable selections who continue the team's fine work in recent years. However, the biggest new addition is non-prospect Milan Lucic, who cost Los Angeles its first-round pick and one of its better prospects, Colin Miller.
Summary: While every other team in the league improved its prospect cupboard, the Kings opted to tread water as they looked for immediate help. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a good team gearing up for a Cup run; it's just not the kind of thing that helps in a prospects ranking.
26. San Jose Sharks
Existing Talent: Nikolay Goldobin had an impressive campaign in Finland last year, and his bona fides as a scorer are absolute. The player taken right after him in 2014, defenceman Julius Bergman, is also nicely on track after an impressive OHL debut.
After that the list thins out in a hurry. The farm team is loaded with veterans; outside of a couple of second-tier defencemen there really isn't much else to talk about here.
Key New Additions: There is everything to like about Timo Meier, a big (6'1", 209 lbs), fast offensive threat who posted 90 points in the QMJHL last season. Jeremy Roy at No. 31 overall looks like an excellent pick; as a rule it's tough to land point-per-game junior defencemen with solid defensive reputations that late in the draft.
Summary: There's quite a bit more talent at the top of the San Jose prospect list than there was before the weekend, even if it's still relatively shallow outside the top four.
25. Colorado Avalanche
Existing Talent: Chris Bigras looks like a nice second-round find from 2013; the 6'2" stay-at-home defenceman surprised with 20 goals and 71 points in his final junior campaign. Calvin Pickard, the team's top goalie prospect, was also outstanding in a cameo in 2014-15 and is on track. The trouble is that after those two, almost none of the incumbents are worth a second look.
Key New Additions: Mikko Rantanen is a superb player to add to the system, a big Finn winger who does almost everything well, while No. 40 pick Nicolas Meloche is valuable because he does so many things well.
Another significant add was J.T. Compher, who came over in trade for Ryan O'Reilly. Unlike Nikita Zadorov or Mikhail Grigorenko, who moved in the same deal, Compher has yet to make his NHL debut. He's a solid two-way player whose scoring dipped as a college sophomore in 2014-15.
Summary: With five picks in the top 101 selections of a deep draft, the Avs had the opportunity to rebuild their prospect depth chart but in too many cases opted for safe selections over players with really high-end potential. Mostly though, the problem is that Colorado was starting from a difficult position and despite strides still has work to do.
24. Minnesota Wild
Existing Talent: Alex Tuch, the team's first-round pick in 2014, is pretty clearly the best of the team's incumbent prospects. He's a 6'4", 220-pound power forward currently at Boston College. The system doesn't go empty after Tuch, but the question marks attached to players get more pronounced.
Gustav Olofsson is the club's best defence prospect, but he lost last year to injury. Tyler Graovac is the most promising forward at the professional level, but he's coming off a 46-point season. There are some intriguing players behind them, but nobody who really jumps out.
Key New Additions: Joel Eriksson Ek fits the franchise mold of playing responsible two-way hockey. He perhaps lacks the top-end offensive talent of others on the board, but that happens once teams get to the bottom-third of the draft. Massive power forward Jordan Greenway (6'5", 223 lbs) has value, and the Wild kept adding guys with a legitimate shot at careers down into Round 6.
Summary: Tuch is still top-dog, but the Wild did a really good job of injecting talent behind him, particularly since they weren't in an especially advantageous draft position. Ultimately, this ranking is mostly the result of the team's lack of top-10 draft picks in recent years, as my method places strong emphasis on top talent.
23. Ottawa Senators
Existing Talent: The Senators have some strong players in the system and have struck a good balance between the positions. Nick Paul, acquired in trade from Dallas, may be the team's top prospect; he's a power forward who adds an element that Ottawa could use at the NHL level. Marcus Hogberg and Mikael Wikstrand lead the way in net and on defence, respectively.
Still, compared to other NHL teams the Sens lack really high-end prospects.
Key New Additions: Thomas Chabot, the highly mobile puck-moving defenceman whom the Senators selected 18th overall instantly becomes the team's best prospect. Colin White, the intelligent two-way forward who went at No. 21, slides into the second position on the team's list.
Summary: Ottawa is much-improved in the prospects department today, but overall there isn't much here to distinguish the Senators from the pack.
22. Montreal Canadiens
Existing Talent: Graduations and uneven development have hurt the Habs. Top prospects like Nikita Scherbak, Zach Fucale, Artturi Lehkonen and Dalton Thrower have showed slow growth and in some cases even regressed. A lot of those guys are still prospects of note, but the development arc isn't encouraging.
The news isn't all bad, of course. Power forward Michael McCarron had a rebound 2014-15 after a difficult first year in the OHL. Winger Charles Hudon had a great rookie campaign in the AHL. But the team is considerably less impressive at all positions than one would expect based on its past successes at the draft.
Key New Additions: Noah Juulsen is a big (6'1", 176 lbs), mobile defenceman capable of both putting points on the board and shutting down top opponents. He's a very toolsy player and instantly the best defence prospect in the system by a significant margin.
Summary: Juulsen helps, but this was not a good year overall for Montreal's prospect corps. The Canadiens have a deserved reputation as shrewd judges of junior-age talent, but the current crop of players is not living up to its potential.
21. Pittsburgh Penguins
Existing Talent: Flashy Finnish forward Kasperi Kapanen gets much of the attention, but he's just the tip of the iceberg. There is a lack of high-end pieces up front, but Oskar Sundqvist and Jake Guentzel are both worth keeping an eye on. Still, the quality depth is on the back end.
Massive goalie Matt Murray enjoyed a spectacular rookie year (25-10-3, 0.941 SV%) and along with Tristan Jarry gives the Penguins two solid prospects at the position. Defensively, Brian Dumoulin and Scott Harrington are both solid citizens and give the team respectable talent here despite the graduation of Derrick Pouliot.
Key New Additions: Pittsburgh had all of one pick in the first four rounds, but it looks like a good one. Dutch forward Daniel Sprong has exceptional offensive ability, and while there are questions about his game away from the puck, realistically a scorer of his caliber would not have fallen to No. 46 otherwise.
Summary: This was a good group heading into the draft, but the Penguins had precious little opportunity to add to it while many rivals loaded up.
20. Dallas Stars
Existing Talent: Graduations have opened up some holes on the Stars' prospect depth chart. At the top end, Julius Honka and Jason Dickinson give the team blue-chip options at centre and on defence, but the field gets pretty thin afterward. Top picks like Radek Faksa and Jack Campbell have been highly disappointing. Fortunately, some later choices such as Esa Lindell and Remi Elie are picking up some of the slack.
Key New Additions: Denis Guryanov seemed to fly a little under the radar in the lead-up to the draft, which I'm tempted to chalk up to the Russian factor. Dallas' No. 12 pick is a big (6'2", 190 lbs), mobile winger with exceptional offensive tools, and he's a very nice add to the organization. Energetic winger Roope Hintz was a solid add at No. 49 too.
Summary: Dallas has a reasonably solid prospect system, and Guryanov and Hintz help. It's not particularly deep by NHL standards, but it isn't as shallow as some either.
19. Florida Panthers
Existing Talent: The strength of the Panthers' prospect group is on the blue line. That's where college defencemen Mike Matheson and Ian McCoshen sit, and entering the draft they were clearly the two best players in Florida's system.
The Panthers do have some good forwards as well, albeit not ones as highly touted as McCoshen and Matheson. Jayce Hawryluk is scoring reasonably well in junior, and at the AHL level Rocco Grimaldi, Connor Brickley and prodigal son Corban Knight have all fit in nicely.
Key New Additions: Florida landed one of the most polarizing players in the 2015 draft when it selected Lawson Crouse No. 11 overall. The Panthers must have been surprised that Crouse was still there, though; the 6'4", 215-pound power forward plays a strong two-way game and is an elite physical presence.
Summary: The addition of Crouse adds some star power to an adequate but understated system.
18. Carolina Hurricanes
Existing Talent: Haydn Fleury, the reliable two-way defenceman whom Carolina took No. 7 overall in 2014, had a down year offensively, but offence isn't really his calling card. He and physical defenceman Trevor Carrick—who impressed as a rookie pro—make defence a strength for the Hurricanes.
Unfortunately, other positions aren't nearly as strong. With all due respect to Alex Nedeljkovic and Rasmus Tirronen, there's not much in net, and the forward cupboard is entirely lacking in impact prospects.
Key New Additions: Loaded on the back end and in dire need of help up front, the Hurricanes selected...defenceman Noah Hanifin. It was the right choice; he was the best player on the board, and that's the pick to make. Carolina did a good job addressing need with later picks, adding a clever scorer in Sebastian Aho, a power forward in Nicolas Roy and a new goalie prospect in Callum Booth.
Summary: The Hurricanes' top pick gives the team an enviable list of prospect defencemen, and the club also did better than many at replenishing its overall depth through the draft.
17. Washington Capitals
Existing Talent: Washington has two top-end prospects, with not much gap separating the two. Czech winger Jakub Vrana had a massive year in Sweden and looked great during a late-season cameo in the AHL, while defenceman Madison Bowey is a right-shooting rearguard with size (6'2", 207 lbs) who scored at better than a point-per-game pace in the WHL this year.
The Capitals have depth at all positions and even boast an NHL-ready goalie prospect in Philipp Grubauer, who was exceptional during a 17-game cameo in 2013-14.
Key New Additions: Washington banked hard on its ability to develop goalies, taking the draft's consensus best netminder in Ilya Samsonov late in the first round. Defenceman Jonas Siegenthaler was the Caps' other top-100 pick; he's a mature defensive defenceman who fits the same mold as some players currently on the big club.
Summary: A lack of picks this year is less of an issue than it normally would be because the Capitals already have strong depth.
16. St. Louis Blues
Existing Talent: Robby Fabbri, as expected, has been superb. He's had some injury problems in junior, but the 2014 pick creates tons of offence. Perhaps more surprising is the offensive dominance of two-way forward Ivan Barbashev in the QMJHL, who went from 25 to 45 goals and from 68 to 95 points.
On defence, Petteri Lindbohm just comes in under our Calder cutoff and headlines a group of a half-dozen or so quality blueliners, including 2012 first-round pick Jordan Schmaltz. Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso give St. Louis two quality goalkeepers as well. The team had strength at all positions even prior to the draft.
Key New Additions: The Blues' first pick came way down at No. 56 overall, and while Vince Dunn is an impressive offensive defenceman, he's not the kind of blue-chip prospect other teams added with higher picks. The other choice St. Louis made didn't really stand out; the club's other top-100 selection was forward Adam Musil, who has a lot of good qualities but also has skating concerns and unimpressive WHL production for his age.
Summary: The Blues had a good group going in but lost ground to several other teams this weekend with a weak crop of new draftees.
15. Boston Bruins
Existing Talent: Boston's top prospect is goaltender Malcolm Subban, who is generally regarded as a future NHL starter and who has been quite successful at the American League level. With Zane McIntyre also in the fold, the team has two top-end goalie prospects.
Other positions also have talent, albeit less touted talent. Alexander Khokhlachev leads a reasonable group of prospect forwards while defenceman Joe Morrow headlines an equally reasonable group of defencemen.
Key New Additions: The Bruins added a ton of talent at the draft. They made some questionable decisions, notably Zachary Senyshyn at No. 15, but with seven top-100 picks, they added seven really good prospects, filling out all positions and dramatically improving their ranking on this list. Colin Miller is a really nice get from Los Angeles too.
Summary: I'm not particularly enamoured of general manager Don Sweeney's trade decisions, especially the poor return garnered for Dougie Hamilton. There is, however, no question that it greatly improved the list of talent in the Bruins' development pipeline. Whether that was worth dumping two established players under the age of 27 is another matter entirely.
14. Vancouver Canucks
Existing Talent: Despite a difficult AHL playoff debut (10 games, one assist) and a stagnant junior season after shoulder surgery, power forward Jake Virtanen remains a very attractive prospect and the best in the Canucks' system. He's a rare blend of physical play and offensive ability and along with Jared McCann, Hunter Shinkaruk and others gives Vancouver a wealth of talent up front.
The defensive group is less impressive, though the arrivals of Adam Clendening and Andrey Pedan in midseason trades helped. The presence of Thatcher Demko also gives the team a top goalie prospect.
Key New Additions: Brock Boeser is a good two-way player and a strong addition to Vancouver's strong group of forwards, while Guillaume Brisebois is a talented defenceman with a variety of strengths. The club made some intelligent bets outside the top 100, but with picks that low we won't know the results of those decisions for some time.
Summary: The Canucks have a stocked system. There's some reason for concern about the state of the parent club, but general manager Jim Benning has a lot of talent on the way.
13. Philadelphia Flyers
Existing Talent: The Flyers boast frankly ridiculous quality on the blue line. The team owns the rights to four first-rate defensive prospects and a bunch of second-tier guys behind them. The trouble is other positions. There's not much on the way in net, and the forward hopes primarily rest on overachievers like Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Oskar Lindblom.
Key New Additions: Make that five first-rate defence prospects. Ivan Provorov is a fantastic prospect; he might end up being the best defenceman in the draft. He plays a very intelligent game and has no obvious weaknesses.
Nor were other positions neglected. Pint-sized dynamo Travis Konecny injects talent into the system up front, and the Flyers spent a number of later picks on good bets at forward. Two significant goalies were drafted, overhauling Philly's depth at that position. Overall, the team addressed needs while simultaneously adding excellent players.
Summary: Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg are just a crazy list of blue-line talent. The wealth could be spread across all positions better, but even so that's an abundance of riches.
12. Nashville Predators
Existing Talent: Undersized forward Kevin Fiala (5'10", 187 lbs) is the headliner. The 18-year-old played extremely well in Sweden for half the season then joined Nashville's AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. His production fell off slightly but was quite strong given his age, and the 2014 No. 11 pick is nicely on track.
The forward position is also where the Preds' best secondary prospects reside. Vladislav Kamenev is progressing nicely in Russia, Jimmy Vesey is doing good work in college, and after Fiala, Colton Sissons and Viktor Arvidsson are the standouts on a loaded young Milwaukee team.
Nashville is weaker on defence but makes up for it with goalie prospects, a traditional strength of the team. Juuse Saros is coming along nicely in Finland, while 6'5" Magnus Hellberg and 6'4" Marek Mazanec battle for time in North America.
Key New Additions: Nashville had no first-round pick, so Yakov Trenin at 55th overall ended up being the most significant prospect to come out of the draft. Trenin is a well-rounded forward with size (6'2", 194 lbs) who plays a two-way game and topped the point-per-game mark in the QMJHL this past season.
Summary: A lack of top picks this year hurts Nashville's ranking, but the team was so well-stocked entering the draft that it doesn't drop all that far.
11. Tampa Bay Lightning
Existing Talent: Tampa Bay's top prospect is goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who appears on this list by virtue of his eligibility for the 2016 Calder Trophy. He's been great in Russia, great in the AHL and at the age of 20 looked an excellent NHL goalie over 16 games. He's as close to a sure thing as goalie prospects get.
Continuing on from the net out, the Bolts have great strength on defence. Anthony DeAngelo averaged just under two points per game in the OHL after a midseason trade to Sault Ste. Marie; DeAngelo has his flaws but has offence that's hard to find. Dominik Masin and Slater Koekkoek are also prospects of significant interest at this position.
The pool shallows out somewhat up front, where most of the team's best prospects have already graduated. However, the presence of Adam Erne, a big QMJHL forward (6'1", 218 lbs) who scored 21 times in 22 playoff games for Quebec this year, means that the cupboard is hardly empty.
Key New Additions: After trading out of the first round, the Lightning took Mitchell Stephens with their first pick at No. 33 overall. He's an undersized (5'11", 187 lbs) but extremely competitive pivot who plays a complete game. Eleven picks later the Lightning took a similar player, Matthew Spencer, a defenceman who gets high marks for his work ethic.
Summary: The Lightning still have plenty of talent waiting in the wings, though the lack of high picks at this year's draft may reduce the team's prospect profile in years to come.
10. Detroit Red Wings
Existing Talent: The Red Wings don't get a lot of high draft picks, but somehow they keep acquiring top prospects. Dylan Larkin is likely at the head of the list at the moment; he's a smooth two-way pivot who fits the Detroit mold of being good at everything.
He's far from alone, though. Power forward Anthony Mantha combines impressive scoring potential with a massive frame (6'5", 205 lbs). A trio of defencemen—Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko and Ryan Sproul—sits behind him on the organizational hierarchy; all three have significant NHL potential.
The Red Wings are renowned for shrewd drafting and are the gold standard for development in the NHL. They always seem to have this kind of prospect depth making its way toward the majors.
Key New Additions: It defies belief a little that Evgeny Svechnikov fell to Detroit at No. 19. He's a big winger (6'2", 201 lbs) with natural scoring skills, excellent playmaking vision and deceptive stick-handling. His acceleration could be improved, but his offensive skill set is among the best in his draft class. And somehow he ended up with the Red Wings.
Summary: The rich get richer. Detroit is a drafting-and-developing machine.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs
Existing Talent: William Nylander is obviously at the head of the class after an impressive half-season with the AHL's Toronto Marlies at age 18, but he's far from the only player worth noting. The Marlies got strong performances from both of their young goalies, have some solid defence prospects in Stuart Percy and Petter Granberg and got impressive scoring from rookie Connor Brown. Winger Andreas Johnson is a guy to keep in mind too; the 20-year-old wing is coming off 22 goals in 55 games in Sweden's top league.
Key New Additions: Toronto seems to have taken a Stanley Cup Final that saw two smaller teams go head-to-head to heart. Not only did it take the dynamic but undersized Mitchell Marner No. 4 overall, but it displayed a willingness to take chances on undersized players all through the draft. And the Leafs didn't just get small talent; in the seventh round they picked up Nikita Korostelev, a 6'1", 195-pound forward who scored just under a point per game in Sarnia (OHL) this year. They made nine picks and on paper got good value for all of them.
Summary: This is suddenly a very deep team in terms of prospects, and the Leafs have Marner and Nylander at the top of the chart. Not all of these guys will turn out, of course, but this is a superb list.
8. New York Islanders
Existing Talent: Despite the wealth of young players in the NHL, the Islanders entered the 2015 draft with no shortage of quality in the system either. Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang are both excellent young forwards, with Dal Colle in particular standing out.
Ryan Pulock and Griffin Reinhart anchored an impressive group of defencemen. Ilya Sorokin and Linus Soderstrom aren't blue-chip prospects but give New York depth in net. Overall, there's a nice balance across positions and between high-end quality and depth.
Key New Additions: The first item to note is a subtraction. Reinhart was flipped to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for first- and second-round draft picks, a move which allowed the Islanders to add new help to the system despite having previously traded many top picks for veterans.
They made good use of those picks. At No. 16, the Isles added Mathew Barzal, a high-end WHL forward with great speed and hockey sense. They then moved the second-round pick up to No. 28, where they landed Anthony Beauvillier, an undersized but highly productive scoring machine. The Isles depth picks featured an emphasis on finding value as the team went after some riskier players with greater upside rather than keying in on safe picks with low-end potential.
Summary: The loss of Reinhart hurts a little, but the opportunity to add Barzal justified the decision. This was already a good group relative to the rest of the league entering the draft; it's a better group leaving it.
7. Calgary Flames
Existing Talent: Entering the draft, Sam Bennett may have been the NHL's best prospect. The No. 4 pick in the 2014 draft missed time early in the season because of injury but managed to post 11 goals and 24 points in just 11 OHL games before making the jump to Calgary for the NHL playoffs. He'll be in the majors full-time next year.
The Flames have depth beyond Bennett, though. Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk are both forwards taken in the first round who remain promising prospects, while college centre Mark Jankowski still has time. Goalie Joni Ortio is a legitimate prospect on the back end, while Tyler Wotherspoon headlines a somewhat weaker defence corps.
Key New Additions: Calgary sent a lot of picks away in a trade for the Boston's Dougie Hamilton but still managed to add some talent.
Offensive defenceman Rasmus Andersson is 6'0" and 212 pounds and was just a touch shy of the point-per-game mark in the OHL this year; he went to the Flames in the second round. Wild-card prospect Oliver Kylington, a highly skilled defender with some key question marks, fell to the team at No. 60. He's a boom-or-bust prospect but could be a major steal at that point in the draft.
One of my favourite picks on the day was overage forward Andrew Mangiapane. Calgary got him at No. 166 overall after Mangiapane exploded for 43 goals and 104 points in the OHL at the age of 18.
Summary: Hamilton is the big addition of the weekend, but the Flames did really well with a depleted stock of picks here. A good system not only got better, but addressed an area of need on the blue line.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets
Existing Talent: Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen forged his reputation at the draft table, so it's not a surprise to see the Jackets loaded with talent. That's especially true up front, where even with the graduation of Alexander Wennberg and Marko Dano, the team possesses imposing talent.
Sonny Milano boasts speed and skill, Kerby Rychel is known for his rugged game and Oliver Bjorkstrand has been a revelation, scoring more than a goal per game in the WHL this past season. William Karlsson, added from the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline, is a significant presence also.
The Blue Jackets are strong in net, where Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo have eclipsed high pick Oscar Dansk on the team depth chart. Defence was the team's only notable weakness, and it took a further hit when it became apparent that college rearguard Mike Reilly wanted to pursue his options in free agency.
Key New Additions: Columbus' weakness on the blue line vanished with some high picks at the draft. Zach Werenski, a college defender who is generally projected as a top-pairing NHL'er, went to the team at eighth overall. Then, with another first-round pick, the Jackets added 6'4" shutdown defenceman Gabriel Carlsson.
Size was a theme the rest of the way. Heavy forwards Paul Bittner (6'4", 203 lbs), Kevin Stenlund (6'3", 205 lbs) and Keegan Kolesar (6'2", 216 lbs) rounded out the Jackets' remaining top-100 selections.
Summary: Werenski is now the team's top prospect and addresses the one obvious position of weakness. Columbus has formidable top-end talent and depth pretty much across the board now.
5. Anaheim Ducks
Existing Talent: Much like Tampa Bay's Andrei Vasilevskiy, Anaheim's John Gibson slips into these rankings by virtue of his continued Calder Trophy eligibility. He's a superb goaltending prospect, as can't-miss as it gets.
The Ducks have top prospects at all positions, not just in net. 2014 10th overall pick Nick Ritchie is a big power forward (6'2", 227 lbs) putting up strong numbers in the OHL; he plays the game with an edge and will fit in splendidly in California. Another first-rounder, Shea Theodore, is Anaheim's best defence prospect. Theodore scored better than a point per game in the WHL and then managed 11 points in a nine-game AHL cameo.
Add a rich supporting cast equally spread across all positions, and the Ducks' prospect pool is decidedly impressive.
Key New Additions: Anaheim spent its first-round pick this year on Jacob Larsson, a poised and mobile defenceman who makes good decisions all over the ice and is as valuable in the offensive zone as he is in his own end of the rink. He has top-pairing potential.
Summary: Depth, quality and balance are three qualities that every team would like to claim to describe its prospect pool. In the Ducks' case, it happens to be true.
4. Arizona Coyotes
Existing Talent: Arizona has a reputation for being a tight-checking team without a lot of offensive ability. Its crop of prospect forwards is precisely the reverse of that reputation.
Max Domi and Christian Dvorak each topped 100 points in junior. Brendan Perlini was the most dangerous player on his OHL team and if not for a broken hand might have done the same. Henrik Samuelsson graduated to the pro ranks and was a solid contributor as an AHL rookie. The point is the Coyotes are loaded with scoring forwards, and there are a bunch not even named here worth watching.
Other areas are less impressive. Arizona's goalie prospects have floundered at the pro level, while the graduation of Brandon Gormley leaves the team with just newcomers Klas Dahlbeck and Philip Samuelsson as really significant prospects.
Key New Additions: The Coyotes apparently decided they have a good thing going with offensive forwards. The team took Dylan Strome No. 3 overall, adding a top-end centre to the roster, then followed that up by drafting Nick Merkley and Christian Fischer at No. 30 and No. 32. These picks give the team a ridiculous quantity of good forwards, though they leave the 'Yotes short at other positions.
Summary: The Coyotes are the fun-house mirror image of some other teams on this list. Other clubs are all defencemen; Arizona is all forwards. Still, the talent can't be denied.
3. Winnipeg Jets
Existing Talent: The real story of the Jets' prospect system is depth, but we would be remiss not to start at the top.
Nikolaj Ehlers is a magical offensive talent. The No. 9 pick in the 2014 draft, Ehlers posted 101 points in 51 games in the QMJHL this season; he followed that up with a playoffs in which he recorded 31 points in just 14 contests. He's wickedly fast and incredibly gifted.
There is a laundry list of quality forwards behind him on the depth chart and a range of different skill sets. Big winger Joel Armia (6'3", 201 lbs) is close to NHL-ready, undersized Nicolas Petan (5'9", 172 lbs) is an offensive dynamo and agitating forward Brendan Lemieux drives opponents nuts. The list of others is too long to continue.
Nor has the back end been rejected. Defenceman Josh Morrissey is a first-rate prospect, while goalie Connor Hellebuyck enjoyed a stellar rookie campaign in the AHL. Eric Comrie is another good goalie prospect and will be graduating to the professional ranks shortly.
Key New Additions: The Jets had two first-round selections and made a bunch of sharp picks outside the first round, meaning they left the draft with an abundance of talent. Speedster Kyle Connor, an explosive offensive centre, slipped to Winnipeg at No. 17. They followed that selection up with John Roslovic, another quick forward with a little less scoring ability but a penchant for playing energetic, responsible hockey.
Summary: Ehlers is a spectacular prospect, but the real beauty of the Jets' system is its depth and variety. It got stronger over the weekend.
2. Buffalo Sabres
Existing Talent: General manager Tim Murray has raided the cupboard frequently in recent months in the name of rapidly improving his team. Many of those prospects not sent out of town have graduated to the majors; others have hit hurdles in their development. Even so, there is a lot of talent on the way.
Sam Reinhart, the No. 2 pick in 2014, is waiting for his chance to jump to the majors next season. So is top defensive prospect Jake McCabe after a very good rookie campaign in the AHL. Big-bodied winger Hudson Fasching is also well-regarded as a prospect. An assortment of lesser players sits beneath those three on the team depth chart.
Key New Additions: Jack Eichel is the second-best prospect on this list. He's a No. 1 overall talent who happened to be drafted in the same year as Connor McDavid, and that's how he should be regarded. Virtually every projection out there expects him to evolve into a franchise centre, a No. 1 pivot who will define his team for a decade or more.
Summary: Buffalo's prospect pool has seen a lot of change in a very short time period. There are good prospects here, though, and there is good depth. Most importantly, there is Eichel.
1. Edmonton Oilers
Existing Talent: The Oilers have some real quality percolating through the system, even with the graduation of Leon Draisaitl.
Darnell Nurse is one of the top defence prospects in hockey and gives the team a blue-chip player in the system. Goaltender Laurent Brossoit had a breakout year and established himself as a player to watch in the AHL. Russian forwards Bogdan Yakimov and Anton Slepyshev are also positives for the team.
Key New Additions: There were two big additions to the Oilers' prospect pool over the weekend. One of them was 2012 No. 4 pick Griffin Reinhart, acquired at dear cost from the New York Islanders.
The other was No. 1 overall pick Connor McDavid, the best prospect the league has seen since Sidney Crosby in 2005.
Summary: Let's be honest here. Nurse and Reinhart and the rest are great, but the reason the Oilers rank where they do is McDavid, who alone is probably worth the entire prospect pool of a bunch of teams on this list.