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July 8, 2011
Top 10 Prospects
2011 NHL Organizational Rankings

by Corey Pronman

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Welcome to the first edition of Hockey Prospectus' NHL Organizational Rankings.

The following is my view of the current strength of each team's prospect systems, including the recently drafted 2011 class. This is based off discussions I've had with scouts and executives on top of my own personal viewings of the prospects. The valuations of the systems are done with a premium given to teams with more top prospects, but other factors do come into play such as depth, closeness to the NHL, etc.

Every main prospect or detail of the system is not mentioned in these rankings, as that will be addressed in each team's Top 10 Prospects column. The definition of a prospect that I use is based on a subjective evaluation—I disregard players when I believe that they have become established NHL regulars. This does at times cause errors, but I believe there are fewer errors made than when arbitrarily setting age and/or games played limits on prospects.

So without further ado, here they are:

1. Detroit Red Wings: The model of drafting and developing rise to the top yet again. Their system is so stocked with top-end talent like Gustav Nyquist, Calle Jarnkrok, Tomas Tatar, Brendan Smith, Teemu Pulkkinen, Adam Almqvist and Tomas Jurco that even if some of these players flat out miss the remaining players that truly hit will still becp,e the core players to help Detroit continue their winning ways well through the end of this decade and beyond.

2. New York Islanders: Calvin de Haan and Nino Niederreiter left a little to be desired last season, but otherwise there is nothing but positives to say for the Islanders. Getting Ryan Strome and Scott Mayfield were tremendous hauls at the 2011 draft, Matt Donovan looked very impressive in college and I have heard nothing but positive remarks about controversial 2010 draft pick Kirill Kabanov. This is a very well-stocked system.

3. Nashville Predators: The Predators had two of the leading candidates for breakout prospect of the year in Mattias Ekholm and Craig Smith—the former has rapidly turned into one of the better defensive prospects in all of hockey. The system remains full of depth and upside at both skater positions and the Preds staff continues to find ways to keep talent flowing through their organization.

4. Ottawa Senators: The Senators have steadily built up one of the best systems in the league, as they have upside and depth at every position and have a quite a bright future ahead of them. David Rundblad was an absolute monster offensively in the SEL, while countryman Jacob Silfvergberg looked quite impressive as well. I'm not as high on Nikita Filatov as I once was, but he's an elite talent and a great risk for the price he was had at. Jared Cowen looked fine and has his pre-injury mobility back, although I'm not sure I see first pairing potential in his future. Stephane Da Costa was a great pick-up as the best college free agent out there. Patrick Wiercioch underwhelmed this year, but that is a lone sad story in one of hockey's best pipelines.

5. Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks had an elite level of depth prior to the 2011 draft, and then they went on and had one of the best hauls of any team. Marcus Kruger has really emerged into a top-end prospect, Jeremy Morin took a notable step forward despite injuries, and Brandon Pirri did fine despite being very young for the AHL. Beyond those names, the Hawks have a large amount of players with pro prospects in their system. Losing a prospect like Ivan Vishnevskiy to Russia would usually hurt, but it barely caused a blip in this system's depth.

6. Carolina Hurricanes: Top forward prospects Zac Dalpe, Zack Boychuk, Drayson Bowman and Chris Terry all impressed this season in the AHL, while defense prospects Justin Faulk and Brian Dumoulin did the same in college. This system had good depth before the 2011 draft, and they injected top-end talent in Ryan Murphy and by taking a shot at Victor Rask.

7. Boston Bruins: The last two drafts may help define Boston's future core for many years to come as 2010 second rounds picks Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner have looked terrific, and being able to get Alexander Khokhlachev with Dougie Hamilton in the 2011 draft was a complete theft. The Bruins have a very deep system and a fair amount of talent at both skater positions.

8. Los Angeles Kings: Andrei Loktionov looked nothing short of brilliant in the AHL while defense prospect Viatscheslav Voynov had quite a season in the AHL as well. 2010 second round pick Tyler Toffoli was one of the OHL's leading scorers, but their 2010 first round pick Derek Forbort looked overwhelmed at times in the college game and is consequently a ways away. Losing an elite prospect like Brayden Schenn is never easy on a system, but there are pieces here to help hold the fort down, especially Loktionov.

9. Florida Panthers: Third overall pick in 2010 Erik Gudbranson did not look good in the least this season and was more representative of a physical project than a cornerstone of the franchise. Getting Jonathan Huberdeau and Rocco Grimaldi was a tremendous injection of talent, while Drew Shore taking a step forward this year also helps.

10. Anaheim Ducks: A breakout year from top defense prospect Justin Schultz helped elevate the Ducks system that has a decent amount of depth and projection at each position. Kyle Palmieri should push for a starting job next season, while Emerson Etem and Sami Vatenen both show a notable amount of upside.

11. Toronto Maple Leafs: Acquiring Joe Colborne and Jake Gardiner via trade massively changed the dynamics of this system, although a better 2011 draft could have helped take them to the next level. Colborne is a top-end center prospect, while Gardiner is a fine offensive defenseman who has a couple of kinks in his game. Brad Ross showed decent flashes of skill that could give reason to believe he can be something more than a fourth line player, Jerry D'Amigo simply looked okay and Jesse Blacker showed moments of pure dominance while at other times showing he has some work to do. Nazem Kadri has top-end scoring ability, but I'm not that confident he reaches his ceiling and may be more of a second line winger than a first line center.

12. Columbus Blue Jackets: Parting ways with Nikita Filatov put a partial damper into this system's stock, but a huge year from David Savard and having Ryan Johansen establish himself as one of the elite prospects in hockey helped compensate for the loss.

13. Minnesota Wild: Prior to the 2011 draft, this system was basically all about Mikael Granlund, but bringing in Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin and Zack Phillips brings back respectability to what was becoming a thin pipeline.

14. Philadelphia Flyers: The easy candidate for worst system in hockey a few months ago injected two elite prospects in Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier as part of the two trades on the day the hockey world shook. Erik Gustafsson looked quite good in the AHL too, but the depth in this system is extremely poor.

15. Washington Capitals: Evgeny Kuznetsov took a huge step forward this year and may be one of the most talented prospects in hockey, but still has some work to do. Stanislav Galiev was simply a different player this season than from what he was in 2010 and showed serious reason to believe in his upside. Cody Eakin is a very projectable two-way player, while Dmitri Orlov has some nice tools but could use still some work. This system isn't good depth-wise, but there is a nice amount of upside.

16. Edmonton Oilers: The system lacks top-end talent aside from #1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, which is understandable when you consider how many talented players they graduated last season, but the Oilers have an above-average amount of depth in this system.

17. New Jersey Devils: The Devils sport one of the best collections of defense prospects in lottery pick Adam Larsson along with the likes of Jon Merrill and Alexander Urbom, but really lack true scoring punch in their system up front.

18. Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres system has fine depth throughout, and a lot of big body players along the way such as Luke Adam, Zack Kassian, Marcus Foligno and Brayden McNabb. 2010 first rounder Mark Pysyk has just looked all right, while 2011 first round pick Joel Armia has the raw abilities to do great things.

19. Phoenix Coyotes: 2011 first rounder Brandon Gormley suffered a couple of injuries, but when he was playing, he logged over 30 minutes a game in the QMJHL for Moncton. Mikkel Boedker looked at times dominant in the AHL while Maxim Goncharov had a serious adjustment period to North American hockey. Andy Miele was a nice college acquisition, Chris Summers looks like a decent defensive defender, and Viktor Tikhonov has embraced his future as a checker as opposed to a scorer.

20. New York Rangers: Getting Tim Erixon from Calgary was a steal for the price he was had at, as he's one of the top five defensive prospects in all of hockey. I had mixed feelings about their 2011 draft, although I was a fan of their day two picks. Chris Kreider is immensely talented, but as time continues to go by, the more and more I start to feel like his poor hockey sense will impede his pro potential significantly. 2011 top pick Dylan McIlrath showed some progression and at times looked quite impressive, but there's still a lot of work to do there and I'm not very optimistic about him becoming a significant piece.

21. St. Louis Blues: This system is very top-end heavy as Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz are two of the better prospects in the game, but it falls off after that although the acquisition of Evgeny Grachev and the 2011 draft picks was a decent start to change that.

22. Colorado Avalanche: The Avs in my opinion didn't get the kind of top-end talent they needed in the 2011 draft that could have elevated their system status to new heights. Stefan Elliot walked away with WHL defenseman of the year honors while fellow defense prospect in the same league Tyson Barrie arguably looked even better. Bradley Malone is a fine low ceiling prospect who did well in college and could possibly step into the league next season. Gabriel Landeskog should step into the league as well and could be playing scoring minutes in a short amount of time. There is a fine group of names here, but not enough great ones, and not a ton of depth either.

23. Tampa Bay Lightning: Rolling the dice on Brett Connolly last draft and taking several top Russian prospects in the 2011 draft has helped somewhat stabilize this system. Richard Panik was inconsistent in the OHL, Carter Ashton looks like a good checker as opposed to a scorer, while Mark Barberio took a step forward in the AHL.

24. Montreal Canadiens: The Habs had one of the worst systems in hockey a few months ago, but getting Alexei Emelin to become an NHL commit from Russia and drafting Nathan Beaulieu has helped bring Montreal out of the tail-end of these rankings. Danny Kristo and especially 2010 first round pick Jarred Tinordi did not look good at all this year, while Aaron Palushaj showed solid progression and could possibly score at the next level.

25. Pittsburgh Penguins: Beau Bennett showed flashes of his top-end skill in college, but looks more like a project than a top prospect. Simon Despres is a very toolsy defender who took a step forward this year, but I'm not sold on him being NHL-ready as of yet. Getting Joe Morrow was a nice pick-up on a top-end offensive talent and helps fill out a decent defensive core between him, Despres, Bortuzzo and others. Eric Tangradi hasn't looked quite as impressive as one who would have hoped, and previous high expectations of him may have to be tempered.

26. Vancouver Canucks: The two cornerstones of this system—Cody Hodgson and Jordan Schroeder—were both significant disappointments in the AHL and while there is still reason to believe in them, the degree of that belief took a serious dip this year.

27. Calgary Flames: Losing elite prospect Tim Erixon was devastating to this system, but significant progress from Max Reinhart and Chris Breen somewhat helps salvage a system that was heading for disaster.

28. Dallas Stars: Reilly Smith had a fine breakout season in the CCHA, but with 2010 top pick Jack Campbell falling flat in the OHL and Scott Glennie looking more like a third line player than a top-six player has given cause for concern about where this system is going.

29. Winnipeg Jets: Paul Postma has a fair amount of above-average offensive abilities, although the other side of the ice is still a work in progress for him and I was not a fan of how high the Jets went after Scheifele. The system has decent depth, but there certainly isn't a ton of upside here.

30. San Jose Sharks: Dealing Charlie Coyle took a very poor pipeline and left it barren. There are some lower-tier prospects here, but it's hard to see significant future pieces coming from this system as of now.

If you have any questions about these rankings or anything mentioned here, feel free to contact me at cpronman@hockeyprospectus.com or via twitter @coreypronman.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Front Office Focus (07/07)
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Top 10 Prospects (07/06)
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Premium Article Top 10 Prospects (07/11)
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Premium Article Howe and Why (07/09)

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