Re-Ranking Every NHL Team's Prospect Pool After the 2016 Trade Deadline

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistMarch 3, 2016

Re-Ranking Every NHL Team's Prospect Pool After the 2016 Trade Deadline

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Monday's NHL trade deadline and the days leading up to it saw teams with Stanley Cup ambitions load up for playoff runs, and that (rightly) is where most of the media focus has gone. However, it also saw sellers add draft picks and prospects in the hopes of being better in the future, which is what we're focused on today.

    In this slideshow, we consider the additions and subtractions from each team's prospect system, players such as Conner Bleackley (above), who was dealt from the Colorado Avalanche to the Arizona Coyotes. We provide a spotlight on each team's top prospect and a necessarily brief general overview of each club's pipeline and ranked the teams based on the overall strength of their prospect groups.

    What makes a prospect? For our purposes, a prospect is any player eligible for the NHL's Calder Trophy this year who is not an established NHLer. For example, the Detroit Red Wings' Dylan Larkin is eligible for the Calder, but there's no question as to which league he should be playing in now and for the next 15 years.

    It's important to remember teams with good young players in the NHL will be penalized under this system, as their young players are not considered part of the prospect pool. Additionally, bad teams with high picks tend to do better than longtime contenders just because they have higher-end talent waiting in the wings.

    Read on for our ranking of all 30 NHL prospect pools.

30. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil. 
    • Subtraction(s): Phillip Danault and Dennis Robertson.

    Top prospect: Nick Schmaltz. Schmaltz is an exceptionally gifted offensive player, particularly when it comes to setting up his teammates. He has just four goals but 30 points overall in 28 games at the college level, which represents an impressive step forward from previous campaigns. 

    System overview: The Chicago Blackhawks lack elite talent, which isn't a surprise given how good the team has been; part of what gives Schmaltz the edge over some of the other players in the system is he offers the kind of high-end scoring potential that is in such short supply. 

    Chicago has some interesting role players up front (Ryan Hartman is a fascinating prospect despite his modest offensive potential) and has done a good job of picking up defensive prospects from other organizations, including players such as Ville Pokka, Gustav Forsling and Erik Gustafsson. Overall, though, it's a shallow system.

29. Los Angeles Kings

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil.
    • Subtraction(s): Valentin Zykov, Scott Sabourin.

    Top prospect: Adrian Kempe. Kempe was the Los Angeles Kings' first-round pick in 2014, and he plays a Los Angeles-style game. He has a solid 6'1" frame and plays physically, excelling in traffic and on the cycle. He was only a couple of days away from being eligible for the 2015 draft, yet he's already playing in the AHL and doing rather well as a rookie pro.

    System overview: The Kings are a tough team to grade because, like most successful NHL teams, they lack really high-end prospects. What they have is a bunch of guys who will play at a major league level.

    For a team with a core locked up for the long term, that's basically the primary need. L.A.'s drafting and development system provides cheap young players for depth roles/trading at the deadline and the occasional player such as Kempe when it gets the chance to draft a little bit earlier. 

28. Edmonton Oilers

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil.
    • Subtraction(s): Martin Gernat. 

    Top prospect: Griffin Reinhart. The No. 4 selection in the 2012 draft, Reinhart brings impressive size and exceptional on-ice intelligence to the organization. His skating and ability with the puck could be improved upon, however, and his development has not gone as hoped for since his draft day.

    System overview: The Edmonton Oilers have a bunch of interesting prospects behind Reinhart, but they all play left defence, and for the most part they are secondary talents.

    Laurent Brossoit looks ready for an NHL promotion after two strong AHL campaigns—averaging .918 and .919 save percentages, per Elite Prospects—and is a top-end goaltending prospect. There are also a couple of useful forwards bouncing around in the system, with Jujhar Khaira and Anton Slepyshev of particular interest.

    For the most part, though, the cupboard is bare. Edmonton's best prospects (including Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse off last season's list) have almost all entirely made the jump to the NHL, and there isn't a lot behind them. 

27. New York Rangers

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil.
    • Subtraction(s): Aleksi Saarela, Ryan Bourque.

    Top prospect: Brady Skjei. A 2012 first-round pick, the New York Rangers drafted Skjei primarily for his shutdown ability, with Red Line Report comparing the 6'3", 206-pound defenceman to longtime Ottawa Senators rearguard Chris Phillips. Skjei's game has translated well to the AHL as a rookie, and he's shown puck-moving ability, making him something more than the typical stay-at-home blueliner. 

    System overview: Winger Pavel Buchnevich is a whisker back of Skjei for top spot on this list, but after him, the forward cupboard is awfully bare, particularly with the departure of Saarela and the graduation of Oscar Lindberg. Defence is in a similar way; outside of Ryan Graves, there aren't a lot of players worth mentioning.

    New York entered the year relatively stacked in net, and despite some disappointing performances (notably from Mackenzie Skapski) the team has at least three and perhaps as many as five legitimate goalie prospects. Igor Shestyorkin is probably the best of the bunch, but there's a lot of talent there. 

26. San Jose Sharks

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil.
    • Subtraction(s): Nil.

    Top prospect: Timo Meier. A big winger who has gradually improved his skating, Meier generally gets top marks from scouting organizations for his work ethic and his scoring skill. His point totals are down from last season, though, in large part as a result of a collapse in goal-scoring; he went from 44 goals in 61 games down to just 24 goals in 43 contests this year in the QMJHL. 

    System overview: Ever so gradually, the San Jose Sharks' list of prospects has been improving. Our criteria excludes defenceman Mirco Mueller, who played 39 NHL games last year and is a key cog on the blue line. He leads a group that also includes Julius Bergman and Jeremy Roy. Behind them, San Jose's list of goaltending prospects is long but almost entirely undistinguished.

    Outside of Meier and Nikolay Goldobin, most of the Sharks' best forward prospects are already at the NHL level. Barclay Goodrow, who played almost all of last season in the majors, is an exception—but like Mueller he's excluded from our list. 

25. Ottawa Senators

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Jason Akeson, Jerome Leduc, Michael Keranen.
    • Subtraction(s): Cole Schneider, Michael Sdao, Alex Guptill, Conor Allen.

    Top prospect: Colin White. White over Thomas Chabot will surprise some, but the two were picked all of three selections apart at the 2015 draft, and while Chabot has had a good year, White has enjoyed a great one. Sportsnet compared White stylistically to Patrice Bergeron in their 2015 draft guide; he is an exceptional defensive forward who also contributes offensively. The size of that offensive contribution increased dramatically this year at Boston College, where he has 39 points in 30 games in a tough league. 

    System overview: Chabot is obviously the No. 2 prospect, a mobile, puck-moving defenceman who is scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace in the QMJHL. After him, there is a significant drop-off.

    Both Nick Paul and Matt Puempel are probably the next most famous prospects in the system. Paul has played seven NHL games this year but hasn't scored a lot in the AHL. The question with the 6'4" forward is how much he's going to produce as a pro. Puempel has similar issues, though he's finally enjoying something of a breakthrough in his third AHL campaign.

    Ryan Dzingel has had a good year and is one of the few non-veteran players producing for the Baby Sens. 

24. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Matthias Plachta.
    • Subtraction(s): Sergei Plotnikov.

    Top prospect: Matt Murray. Murray was a project when the Pittsburgh Penguins took the 6'4" goaltender in the third round of the 2012 draft, but as it turns out, he was a worthwhile one. He steadily improved over his time in junior and was stunning as an AHL rookie with a .941 save percentage performance for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2014-15. He's been nearly as good this year and was spectacular in an NHL cameo over the festive period.

    System overview: A lack of first-round picks hurt. Everyone in the Penguins system has either graduated (Derrick Pouliot) or been moved on down the line (Kasperi Kapanen).

    Pittsburgh has managed to find some useful pieces with other picks. Daniel Sprong, a second-rounder last season, got an 18-game NHL run before being returned to junior and is probably the most dynamic offensive player in the system. Tristan Jarry, another second-rounder, is almost as good a goalie as Murray. Jake Guentzel and Oskar Sundqvist are forwards worth keeping an eye on.

23. St. Louis Blues

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Anders Nilsson.
    • Subtraction(s): Niklas Lundstrom.

    Top prospect: Ivan Barbashev. An early second-round pick in the 2014 draft, Barbashev gets high marks for work ethic and two-way play. The 6'1", 194-pound centre had a big offensive season in the QMJHL last year, which pushed him up the prospect depth chart, but he hasn't been able to transfer all of that scoring to the AHL as a rookie professional. 

    System overview: There's plenty of room for glass half-full/half-empty debate when it comes to the St. Louis Blues' prospect system. There are a lot of intriguing names, but each player tends to have warts, too.

    The goalie duo of Jordan Binnington and Pheonix Copley is promising, but each has had a difficult year with the Blues' farm team, the Chicago Wolves. Offensive forward Ty Rattie continues to spin his wheels in the AHL, a breakthrough season still eluding him. Jordan Schmaltz, a first-round pick in 2012, has been criticized in the past for being something of a one-way offensive defenceman, but at least he's adapted well in his first AHL campaign. Tommy Vannelli has been hurt almost all season. Petteri Lindbohm seemed to graduate to the NHL late last season but is now back in the A. 

    The mixed records of those players puts more pressure on 2014 and 2015 draft picks, players such as goaltender Ville Husso and defencemen Jake Walman and Vince Dunn, all of whom are tracking nicely. 

22. Calgary Flames

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Hunter Shinkaruk, Brett Pollock.
    • Subtraction(s): Nil. 

    Top prospect: Hunter Shinkaruk. After a tough transition to the AHL a year ago, Shinkaruk was performing well for the Vancouver Canucks, scoring at just under a point-per-game pace with Utica Comets of the AHL and even earning a one-game major league cup of coffee. He's the rare prospect in the Calgary Flames system with legitimate offensive potential. 

    System overview: Shinkaruk somewhat surprisingly lands at the top of this not-very-strong list. 

    Calgary has a bunch of first-round picks in the system—Emile Poirier, Morgan Klimchuk and Mark Jankowski—who are various shades of disappointing. The former two have been mediocre AHL scorers this year, while the latter has yet to play a pro game because he's still finishing up his college career.

    Goaltender Jon Gillies has a case as the organization's best prospect, but the 6'6" stopper has missed almost the entirety of the season with what the team reported (h/t's Aaron Vickers) is a hip injury.

21. Colorado Avalanche

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil.
    • Subtraction(s): Kyle Wood, Conner Bleackley, Colin Smith.

    Top prospect: Mikko Rantanen. Colorado has stored its 2015 No. 10 pick in the AHL, and Rantanen has responded with an exceptional campaign, posting 47 points in just 39 contests after starting the year as a 19-year-old. The 6'4", 211-pound right wing is a good skater and obviously has high-end offensive upside.

    System overview: The Avs have at least one strong prospect at every position. Rantanen is obviously their best piece at forward, while defenceman Chris Bigras has pushed himself into the NHL in his rookie pro season. Calvin Pickard remains a strong goaltending option. 

    After that, things get tough. The forward group after Rantanen is unimpressive as a whole; J.T. Compher has had an impressive year, but beyond that there's not a lot worth mentioning. The loss of Kyle Wood hurts on defence, but at least Colorado has a few options.

20. New Jersey Devils

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil. 
    • Subtraction(s): Nil.

    Top prospect: Pavel Zacha. Zacha was the New Jersey Devils' first-round pick (sixth overall) last summer and combines a 6'3", 210-pound frame with good offensive skill and excellent skating. His scoring numbers are better than they were last season, though with 51 points in 44 OHL games, he hasn't had the explosive development New Jersey must have hoped for.

    System overview: When Ray Shero took over the Devils last May, he inherited a weak prospect system, but things are picking up. The 2015 draft added not just Zacha but also a top goalie prospect in Mackenzie Blackwood and useful depth up front and on the back end. Avalanche reject Joe Blandisi has been superb for New Jersey and won't be on this list next year, having earned a job. Steve Santini gives the team an above-average prospect on the back end.

    This is definitely a system on the upswing, though there remains plenty of work to do.

19. Dallas Stars

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    Joel Auerbach/Associated Press

    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil.
    • Subtraction(s): Brett Pollock. 

    Top prospect: Julius Honka. Honka, an undersized, right-shooting defenceman, is playing his second full AHL season despite having only turned 20 in December. Regardless of his 5'11" stature, he's a competitive player. His offensive instincts are exceptional, and he has 35 points in 58 AHL contests. 

    System overview: Brett Ritchie is considered graduated for our purposes following a 31-game run in the majors last season, but the presence of 2013 first-rounder Jason Dickinson means the Stars still have an awfully good offensive prospect in the system. Dickinson has adjusted superbly to the pro game after a tough final year of junior hockey.

    Denis Guryanov, a first-round pick in 2015, is in the KHL but isn't blowing the doors off just yet. Another first-rounder, 2012's Radek Faksa, has played his way into the NHL after some disappointing years. Esa Lindell and Stephen Johns provide defensive depth behind Honka. 

18. Florida Panthers

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil.
    • Subtraction(s): Nil. 

    Top prospect: Lawson Crouse. Crouse was one of the more polarizing prospects in the 2015 draft—at least among hockey's online community. He's exceptionally big and strong, a good skater and a committed two-way player. However, there were questions about his offensive upside. He's made encouraging strides in that regard this year

    System overview: Michael Matheson was the team's first-round pick in 2012 and is coming along nicely, recently earning an NHL recall in this, his rookie pro season. The highly mobile defenceman projects as a two-way threat in the majors.

    There are a number of significant secondary prospects—notably Ian McCoshen, Jayce Hawryluk and Rocco Grimaldi—but on the whole the depth of the Florida Panthers' prospect pool isn't overwhelmingly strong. 

17. Minnesota Wild

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Conor Allen, Scott Sabourin.
    • Subtraction(s): Michael Keranen.

    Top prospect: Alex Tuch. There are three plausible candidates for top spot in the Minnesota Wild's prospect pecking order, but it's hard to look past Tuch. It isn't easy to find 6'4", 213-pound power forwards, and Tuch has not just the size but also the physical and offensive game to play that role. The one knock is he projects as more of a complementary top-six player at the NHL level rather than a talent who can drive a forward line.

    System overview: None of Minnesota's trade deadline additions makes a significant difference to the team's prospect pool.

    The other two players in competition with Tuch for top spot in the system are 2015 first-rounder Joel Eriksson Ek, a complete centre competing in Sweden's top league, and free-agent defenceman Mike Reilly, who has already found his way into some NHL games. Both are first-rate prospects. 

    After that trio, the Wild have a decent collection of defensive prospects. The secondary group at that position is headlined by 22-year-old Gustav Olofsson and features a number of other interesting players. The forward pipeline looked less impressive, but some good work at the 2015 draft added massive (6'5") Jordan Greenway and pint-sized (5'10") Kirill Kaprizov, both of whom have had excellent post-draft seasons.

16. Montreal Canadiens

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Phillip Danault.
    • Subtraction(s): Nil. 

    Top prospect: Nikita Scherbak. Scherbak's development since being drafted has in some ways been a disappointment; he didn't have a big post-draft season in the WHL in 2014-15, and the past year in the AHL featured a long chunk of time lost to injury. He's still a predatory offensive player with high-end skill. 

    System overview: Unlike a lot of organizations on this list, the Montreal Canadiens aren't built around one top-flight prospect. Montreal has plenty of prospect depth.

    Mike McCarron is the name that will be most familiar around the league; the 2013 first-round pick is a massive (6'6") forward with enough offensive skill to plausibly be projected into an NHL top nine. Defenceman Noah Juulsen was another first-round pick, in 2015, and he provides mobility and intelligence on the back end.

    What the Canadiens have a lot of is smaller forwards with offensive skill. Charles Hudon, Artturi Lehkonen, Sven Andrighetto, Martin Reway and Daniel Carr are all in this basic mold—and all are of significant interest.

15. Buffalo Sabres

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Cole Schneider, Michael Sdao, Alex Guptill.
    • Subtraction(s): Jason Akeson, Jerome Leduc.

    Top prospect: Justin Bailey. Bailey has adapted reasonably well to the pros as a rookie, putting up 26 points in 49 AHL games and even earning an eight-game NHL recall. The 20-year-old combines a 6'4" frame, skill with the puck and strong skating into one package.  

    System overview: The graduation of three spectacular prospects—Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Jake McCabe—plus the movement of others in trades this past summer has gone a long way toward draining the Buffalo Sabres' prospect pool.

    Still, despite the loss of most of the high-end prospects, there's quite a bit of depth yet. Nick Baptiste, Hudson Fasching and perhaps even William Carrier are similar to Bailey in that they are bigger wingers with the potential of playing inside the top nine.

    Of particular interest are the Sabres' goalie prospects. Linus Ullmark has done well on his North American debut, even when pressed into action at the NHL level. The 6'4" goaltender certainly figures into the team's future plans. Nathan Lieuwen and Andrey Makarov have both performed reasonably well in the AHL this year while Cal Petersen has a .932 save percentage for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish this term. 

14. Vancouver Canucks

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil. 
    • Subtraction(s): Hunter Shinkaruk.

    Top prospect: Brock Boeser. With so many young players making the jump to the NHL in Vancouver this year, Boeser moves into the top spot in the system. He's put up an impressive 22 goals in just 32 games at the college level. That kind of offence, combined with a reputation for playing an energetic two-way game, makes him an easy prospect to like.  

    System overview: A year ago, the Canucks' system was full. But with players such as Jared McCann, Jake Virtanen and Ben Hutton graduating this year (to say nothing of the subtractions of Shinkaruk, Nicklas Jensen, Frankie Corrado and Adam Clendening), the collection of talent outside the NHL has shrunk significantly. 

    Thatcher Demko is having another great year at Boston College and is one of the top goalie prospects in the world. Brendan Gaunce, the team's 2012 first-round selection, has taken encouraging strides in his second AHL season, though 2013 pick Cole Cassels has struggled badly as a rookie after strong seasons in junior. On defence, the small (5'9") and skilled Jordan Subban and the big (6'5") and hulking Andrey Pedan are worth watching.

13. Boston Bruins

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil.
    • Subtraction(s): Anthony Camara.

    Top prospect: Malcolm Subban. After two strong seasons in the AHL, Subban's save percentage, .911, has taken a bit of a hit (down from .921) with the Providence Bruins this season. He remains a top-quality goaltending prospect and a potential starter at the NHL level.

    System overview: Although much of the attention from the rest of the hockey world focuses on the foibles of the Boston Bruins' three most recent first-round picks, this is still a system with both depth and quality.

    Of those three 2015 first-rounders, Zach Senyshyn has had the best season, falling just below a point-per-game pace in the OHL but contributing 36 goals in 58 contests. Jake DeBrusk has seen his offensive totals regress; he scored 42 goals in 72 games a year ago but managed just 18 in 53 contests this year. Defenceman Jakub Zboril, picked 13th overall, struggled mightily in the QMJHL. 

    Others have played well, though. Undersized winger Frank Vatrano is scoring at a goal-per-game pace in the AHL. Defenceman Colin Miller has impressed since arriving from Los Angeles. Austin Czarnik is enjoying a very strong rookie AHL campaign, and Alex Khokhlachev is in the midst of his best season at that level.

12. Carolina Hurricanes

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Aleksi Saarela, Valentin Zykov, Anthony Camara, Dennis Robertson.
    • Subtraction(s): Nil.

    Top prospect: Haydn Fleury. This was surprisingly competitive despite the promotion of three prospects to the Carolina Hurricanes blue line this year. Fleury, the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft, is coming off a tough season but has done a good job of turning things around. He's a well-rounded, two-way defenceman, though his strengths probably lean more to defence than offence. 

    System overview: Carolina added a bunch of good prospects at the deadline to a system that was already thoroughly respectable. Saarela is the most notable of the bunch; he was a third-round pick of New York last year but is having a breakout performance in Finland. Anthony Camara and Valentin Zykov are both reclamation projects to some degree, while Robertson returned to the Canes organization after being dealt to Chicago in the summer.

    Among the incumbents, 2015 draftees Sebastian Aho and Nicolas Roy are both having tremendous seasons—particularly the latter, who combines a 6'4" frame with 40 goals in 55 QMJHL games. A long list of other names would be at least somewhat familiar to NHL fans; Carolina has broken in three defencemen in the majors this year and introduced multiple forward prospects.

11. Nashville Predators

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil.
    • Subtraction(s): Nil. 

    Top prospect: Kevin Fiala. Fiala hasn't had a big breakthrough in the AHL just yet, but given he doesn't turn 20 until July, that's hardly reason for nervousness. The undersized forward has exceptional offensive potential, is lightning-quick on his skates and competes despite his modest frame. 

    System overview: All eyes are on Jimmy Vesey, the 2012 third-round pick who has evolved into a lethal offensive weapon at the college level. He could be a free agent this summer if he decides not to sign with the Nashville Predators. On the other hand, he's so close to being ready he could be in Nashville's lineup prior to the playoffs.

    The Preds have a strong collection of other prospects too. Vladislav Kamenev isn't far behind either Fiala or Vesey; the 6'2" winger has scored well in the AHL as a 19-year-old rookie. So too has Max Gortz, a 23-year-old AHL freshman. Jack Dougherty and Juuse Saros are the latest in a long line of quality defence and goalie prospects respectively.

10. Arizona Coyotes

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Conner Bleackley, Kyle Wood, Sergei Plotnikov.
    • Subtraction(s): Matthias Plachta.

    Top prospect: Dylan Strome. A big centre with great offensive tools, Strome was the No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft. Arizona returned him to the Erie Otters of the OHL, and his scoring rate has increased despite the graduation of former teammate Connor McDavid to the NHL. 

    System overview: Strome isn't the only offensively talented forward on his way to the desert. 

    Three first-round picks are all having somewhat disappointing seasons but all still have potential. Henrik Samuelsson has taken a step back offensively at the AHL level. Brendan Perlini has done the same in the OHL. Nick Merkley has taken a smaller step back in the WHL. 

    There's plenty of talent beyond the first-rounders anyway. Christian Dvorak just hit 100 points for the second consecutive season with the London Knights, and Maxim Letunov is scoring at better than a point-per-game pace in college hockey. That's before we even get to players such as Laurent Dauphin, Ryan MacInnis and Christian Fischer.

9. Washington Capitals

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Ryan Bourque. 
    • Subtraction(s): Connor Carrick.

    Top prospect: Madison Bowey. This one is close; the Washington Capitals have three legitimate contenders for the top spot. It's hard to overlook Bowey's range of skills, though. The 6'2", 209-pound, right-shooting defenceman was described in his draft year by Red Line Report as having "footwork so smooth [he] could win Dancing with the Stars." Combine that size and speed with an offensive skill set, and he's a rare gem of a prospect defenceman.  

    System overview: The other two contenders for the top spot are both first-round picks. Jakub Vrana went 13th overall in 2014 and is scoring at better than a point-per-game pace as an AHL rookie in 2015-16. Goaltender Ilya Samsonov has a projectable 6'4" frame and posted a .925 save percentage in the KHL this year. 

    The loss of Carrick hurts, but the Caps have a decent array of secondary prospects, including Riley Barber, Jonas Siegenthaler, Stanislav Galiev and Christian Djoos.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil.
    • Subtraction(s): Nil. 

    Top prospect: Zach Werenski. The No. 8 selection at the 2015 draft does everything well. He has the size (6'2" and 214 pounds), the intelligence and the skating to play solid defence. He also has an impressive offensive toolkit; this year at the University of Michigan, he has 22 points in just 28 games and projects to be a factor at that end of the ice at the NHL level too.

    System overview: The Columbus Blue Jackets have a decent array of prospects at every position.

    Up front, Sonny Milano and Kerby Rychel are the team's most famous prospects, with the former having some difficulties as a rookie in the AHL and the latter on the cusp of NHL duty. Oliver Bjorkstrand, who developed into a lethal scorer in the WHL, is in much the same boat as Milano in the minors. The Jackets also have a half-dozen other prospects scoring well enough in the AHL to be of at least some interest.

    Defenceman Gabriel Carlsson combines a massive wingspan with a smart defensive game, though the 2015 pick may be a few years away. Michael Paliotta and Dillon Heatherington have both been good in the AHL and may not be far away. Goaltender Joonas Korpisalo may have won himself an NHL job, and behind him Anton Forsberg remains a prospect of interest.

7. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil.
    • Subtraction(s): Nil.

    Top prospect: Andrei Vasilevskiy. The 6'3" goaltender is in the middle of his second campaign split between the NHL and the AHL. He has put up solid numbers at every level and is legitimately ready for full-time employment. He's the heir apparent to Ben Bishop for the starter's job. 

    System overview: Even with a potential franchise goalie leading the way, the Tampa Bay Lightning haven't skimped at other positions. 

    On the blue line, Anthony DeAngelo is a wickedly talented offensive threat. He's coming off an 89-point season in the OHL, including 51 points in 26 games for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds following a midseason trade. So far as an AHL rookie, he has 33 points in 50 games. Meanwhile, the No. 10 pick in the 2012 draft, Slater Koekkoek, hasn't developed as quickly as hoped but remains a prospect of considerable interest on the cusp of full-time NHL duty.

    The draft pedigree of the forward prospects isn't as impressive but there are some real gems there. Brayden Point has put up 77 points in 39 WHL games as a 19-year-old, while Nikita Gusev has scored at better than a point-per-game pace in the KHL since a midseason trade to SKA Saint Petersburg. At the AHL level, Adam Erne, Matthew Peca and Tanner Richard all have good points. Jonathan Marchessault seems to have pushed his way into the majors.

6. Anaheim Ducks

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    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Martin Gernat.
    • Subtraction(s): Nil.

    Top prospect: Shea Theodore. The 20-year-old defenceman entered pro hockey this year with a formidable offensive resume at the junior level, and he hit the ground running. Through 39 AHL games in his rookie pro campaign, he's managed 24 points; he also managed a 53.1 percent Fenwick rating (and six points) over a 13-game NHL recall. He's very good and almost ready for full-time work. 

    System overview: The Anaheim Ducks are blessed with an impressive group of prospects, many of them not far from NHL work.

    In the minors, 6'2", 232-pound winger Nick Ritchie is scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace in his rookie season. Defenceman Brandon Montour has 40 points in 50 games; he's also in his first year in the A. Both are highly touted and on the fast track to the NHL.

    Outside of the AHL system, the Ducks have Jacob Larsson, the No. 27 pick in last year's draft; Anaheim has repeatedly and successfully gone to Scandinavia for defensive help. Centre Julius Nattinen started his career overseas, but the second-rounder is laying waste to the AHL.

5. Detroit Red Wings

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil.
    • Subtraction(s): Nil. 

    Top prospect: Evgeny Svechnikov. Svechnikov fits the traditional Detroit prospect mold in that he's an intelligent player who has strengths in multiple areas. He's big (6'2"), strong on the puck and highly talented offensively. Skating isn't a particular strength, but he's good enough in other areas to compensate. 

    System overview: Detroit's legendarily patient approach to prospect development means there are numerous quality players down on the farm, but this year the most promising talent may actually lie at other levels.

    Seventh-round selection Axel Holmstrom is scoring well in Sweden as a 19-year-old and looks like another steal by the Wings' European scouts. Undrafted defenceman Joe Hicketts is scoring at a point-per-game pace in the WHL, while undersized third-rounder Vili Saarijarvi has managed to stand out even amid the circus that is the Flint Firebirds of the OHL.

    In the AHL, massive (6'5") winger Anthony Mantha continues to make strides, though his offensive numbers have yet to really take off. Speedy Andreas Athanasiou has earned an 18-game NHL recall, and hulking Tyler Bertuzzi has scored well for a rookie. Martin Frk is suddenly dangerous after two disappointing seasons, scoring a goal every other game. On defence, the trio of Robbie Russo, Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul is all close to NHL duty, but someone is likely to be lost in the logjam. 

4. New York Islanders

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    RICH SCHULTZ/Associated Press

    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil.
    • Subtraction(s): Nil.

    Top prospect: Michael Dal Colle. Dal Colle retains his position at the top of the New York Islanders' prospect list despite what, in some ways, was a disappointing year. A slow start in Oshawa, Ontario, saw the offensively gifted winger fall well below his usual scoring pace, but a midseason trade to the Kingston Frontenacs revitalized him nicely. He has 23 goals and 46 points in 23 contests since the trade. 

    System overview: Dal Colle is one of a quartet of talented offensive forwards in the Islanders system.

    Mathew Barzal was the No. 16 pick in last year's draft and has progressed splendidly in the WHL, with 82 points in 51 games this year. Anthony Beauvillier, selected 13 picks later in the same draft, is a major offensive threat in the QMJHL. Finally, Josh Ho-Sang in the OHL is not without his issues but his offensive talent is undeniable. 

    Nor is New York without assets on the blue line. Ryan Pulock, picked 15th overall in 2013, is knocking on the door of NHL duty, while fellow blueliners Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield are nearly ready for the majors too. Ilya Sorokin may be the NHL's best largely unknown goalie prospect; he posted a .953 save percentage at the age of 20 with CSKA Moscow of the KHL.

3. Winnipeg Jets

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil (Marko Dano is ineligible for the Calder Trophy).
    • Subtraction(s): Nil. 

    Top prospect: Kyle Connor. The Winnipeg Jets' No. 17 overall pick in last year's draft, Connor put up big numbers in the USHL but would face a stiffer test at the college level this season. So far, so good. Connor has 26 goals and 54 points in just 30 games with the University of Michigan, leading his older teammates in scoring. He combines lethal speed with a diversified offensive toolkit. 

    System overview: Winnipeg's prospect system has both top-end talent and depth across all positions.

    In addition to Connor, the club has a number of impressive forwards. Nic Petan has scored well as an AHL rookie this year, Jack Roslovic looks like a justified first-round pick a year ago and Windsor Spitfire Brendan Lemieux has increased his point output while decreasing his penalty minutes. Add in Chase De Leo, Joel Armia and a few others and this is a very good group.

    Josh Morrissey is the headliner on defence. The mobile two-way defender is playing big minutes in the AHL as a rookie pro and projects as a top-four defender in the majors. Meanwhile, the goalie pipeline continues to deliver. Connor Hellebuyck is NHL-ready, while Eric Comrie and Jamie Phillips are nice options to have in the system. 

2. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Nil.
    • Subtraction(s): Nil.

    Top prospect: Ivan Provorov. The No. 7 overall pick in last year's draft hangs onto the top spot on this list despite a lot of pressure from other prospects in the system. Provorov is a two-way defenceman with no significant weaknesses who thinks the game at an advanced level. He's a good skater with decent size, better-than-decent offensive instincts and a competitive nature.

    System overview: Even with Shayne Gostisbehere treating the NHL like a chew toy and is thus ineligible for this list, the strength of the Philadelphia Flyers' prospect corps is on the blue line. Travis Sanheim, a 2014 first-round pick, is having a great year in the WHL. Samuel Morin is finding his way as an AHL rookie. Robert Hagg and Mark Alt are both legitimate prospects who risk getting lost in the shuffle.

    Up front, Travis Konecny is having a glorious campaign, jumping from 68 points in 60 games a year ago in the OHL to 89 in just 54 outings this season. Nick Cousins, 22 years old, is scoring a point-per-game pace in the AHL. Goaltender Anthony Stolarz is up to a .918 save percentage for that same team, and given his 6'6" frame, he is very much in the mix in net going forward.

1. Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    Trade deadline impact:

    • Addition(s): Connor Carrick, Colin Smith. 
    • Subtraction(s): Nil. 

    Top prospect: Mitch Marner. There is a lot of quality in the Toronto Maple Leafs system, but it's hard not to go with the 2015 No. 4 pick as the club's top prospect. An elite offensive weapon, Marner put up 38 goals and 101 points in just 48 OHL games this year; this comes after scoring at better than a goal-per-game rate and two points per game in last year's playoffs. 

    System overview: The riches in the Leafs system almost defy belief, as a patient approach this year has kept most of the club's top prospects outside the NHL for the majority of the campaign. 

    The AHL's Toronto Marlies have been frankly ridiculous this year. William Nylander, a 19-year-old scoring better than a point per game in the AHL, is at the top of the list, but he's far from alone. Kasperi Kapanen is the same age and is also scoring well for a rookie pro at that level. And behind them, all of Nikita Soshnikov, Frederik Gauthier, Connor Brown, Josh Leivo and Brendan Leipsic are legitimate prospects.

    Even that list of names ignores the blue line. Carrick, who jumped directly to the AHL after being traded, joins a deep group that includes 2011 first-round pick Stuart Percy, shutdown rearguard Scott Harrington and the steadily improving Rinat Valiev.

    Andreas Johnson is putting up formidable numbers in Sweden—41 points in 49 games for Frolunda of the SHL—while 2015 draftees Jeremy Bracco and Travis Dermott have both had strong campaigns in the OHL. 


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